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Why I Insist On Contracts With My Clients

I’ve been consulting with business owners for many, many years and there was a time when I did not use contracts or agreements. I never felt the need to inject a formal and legal aspect to the work I had proposed and so a handshake seemed like the way to go.

consulting contract

photo credit: NobMouse via photopin cc

A few years ago I changed my tune completely on contracts and not because I got burned or felt the need to create something legally binding.

What changed was my view of what a contract could stand for and perhaps my definition of the word contract in general.

In my mind, particularly in the coaching, consulting and professional services world, a client relationship must be a mutually beneficial one if it’s going to work. In other words, both parties have to come to the relationship fully prepared to do their part if the most value is to be realized.

Now, what that mutual participation looks like differs for every business, but in my experience if a clear expectation and understanding of what that looks like is missing, trouble is not far away.

Think about past client work that didn’t go as well as it could. Usually what occurred was miscommunication or a misunderstanding of expectations.

Quite often we are so happy to get the work we don’t have the authentic conversation that needs to be had upfront. It’s so much harder to go back and recreate expectations once the work has begun.

So, back to the idea of a contract

I now use contracts with every engagement. I don’t use them, however, to create some legally binding agreement, I use them as a tool to communicate expectations, needs and wants for both parties.

Of course I want to be paid as agreed and that’s part of the contract, but I write these contracts in very plain language after careful discussion with the client about what we both need to do. The document is more of a social contract than a legal one.

I know my more legal minded readers may take issue with the casual nature of my use of contract. For what I’m describing I could easily use the term agreement and communicate the same thing, but here’s why I intentionally choose the word contract.

A valid contract needs to be entered into with the consent of both parties and it needs to spell out clearly the value exchanged by both parties. I don’t necessarily view my contract with a client as any more binding than an agreement, but I do find that the use of the concept raises the level of commitment from both parties.

I use the tool to spell out what kind of access and information I need from the client to do the work, the objectives and deliverables I am responsible for and they are responsible for, the level of support and communication I need from the client and their staff, the time table for getting together and finishing the work, the way results will be measured, how feedback will be given and of course how payment will be made.

The contract is drawn directly from the conversations we have in preparation for doing the work. The objectives are often outlined and prepared by the client through a collaborative approach, as are the goals and metrics.

I have found that this conversation is the best way to measure the client’s actual level of commitment to the work I’m being asked to do.

This approach to drawing up our ultimate contract is one of most important aspects of getting a project started right. In fact, this conversation has led to agreeing not to work together as well and that’s another powerful reason to make it an essential process.

I’ve wrestled with many names for this process but the term contract keeps coming back as the best use. The level of commitment it expresses, from both parties, sets the table for meeting and exceeding expressed expectations and guiding projects back on track when one or both parties fails to perform.

The #1 Reason You Feel Like a Failure and What To Do About It Today

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Noah St. John – Enjoy!

Naturally, every business owner wants their business to grow. When you’re trying to change anything about your business, or your life for that matter—whether you want to gain more customers, increase profits, improve your health, or whatever result you’re looking for—what you’re really trying to do is create a new reality for yourself.

Let’s illustrate that by saying that you want to go from your current reality to a new reality.

The funny thing about reality, though, is that all reality is perceived reality.  Here’s what’s really happening when you’re trying to grow your business or change your life…

1. Right now, you are living in what I call your Current Perceived Reality (CPR). In your CPR, you have what you have, you know what you know, you do what you do, and you are what you are.  This is your Current Perceived Reality—and to you, it is reality. It is your own little universe.

2. What you want is to be someplace else. That “someplace else” is what I call your New Desired Reality (NDR). In this case, you want to grow your business. But it could just as easily mean you want to change your health, your weight, your finances, your relationships, your sphere of influence, or any number of other things.

3. Between your CPR and your NDR lies what I call your Belief Gap: the space between where you perceive you are right now (your CPR) and what it will be like when you arrive “someplace else” (your NDR).

Here’s a picture to illustrate what I’m talking about…

Noah St John

photo credit: Noah St. John

How big is your Belief Gap? That depends on how long you’ve been in your CPR, how hard you think it will be to get to your NDR, how many of your friends and employees tell you, “It’s impossible,” when you tell them your dreams; and so on.

Bottom line? Your business may be failing because you haven’t bridged your Belief Gap for the results you want and are working so hard for.

Here are four ways to start bridging your Belief Gap starting today…

1. Use AFFORMATIONS

No, that’s not a typo. Afformations are a new technology of the mind that immediately changes your subconscious thought patterns from negative to positive. Afformations use your brain’s “embedded presupposition factor” to change your unconscious assumptions about what you can and can’t do (see #3 below).

Using Afformations has helped thousands of business owners bridge their Belief Gap and add millions in new revenues while working less and having more time off.

2. Ask yourself what you really want.

It’s true: You can’t get where you’re going if you don’t know where that is. Ask yourself, “If time or money were no object, what would I love to be, do, or have?” If the answer doesn’t frighten you a little, you may not be asking big enough!

3. Challenge your assumptions.

You are continually forming assumptions about life and your relationship to it. The problem is, many business owners assume negative things like It’s too hard or If I haven’t done it by now, I’ll probably never do it.

If these are your unconscious assumptions, your actions will be tentative, fearful, and anticipating failure—and your results will be less than desirable.

Just because you’ve failed in the past does not make you a “failure”. The simple fact that you’re reading this right now means that you are far stronger than you think.

4. Take out your head trash.

Most business owners are constantly focused on what they don’t have and who they are not. I call this your head trash.

Imagine if every negative thought you had ever had was a piece of trash in your home. Now imagine that you never took out the trash. Your home would be pretty disgusting, wouldn’t it?

Take out your head trash and you’ll find that it’s a lot easier to breathe—literally!

Bottom line: Use Afformations, take out your head trash, and watch your business—and your life—change in amazing ways.

 

1Noah-St-John-Head-Shot-High-ResNoah St. John is famous for inventing Afformations® and creating customized strategies for fast-growing companies and leading organizations around the world. His sought-after advice is known as the “secret sauce” for creating superstar performance.

Noah’s engaging and down-to-earth speaking style always gets high marks from audiences. As the leading authority on how to eliminate limiting beliefs, Noah delivers speeches, seminars, and mastermind programs that have been called “mandatory for anyone who wants to succeed in business.”

Get $500 worth of “The World’s Greatest Abundance Training” FREE when you get The Book of Afformations at www.AfformationsBook.com/more.

The 3 Keys to Success

Enjoy this guest post from Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Joe Costantino.

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photo credit: seeveeaar via photopin cc

What separates the good from the great in any endeavor?

What allows one athlete to compete at a consistently high level for many years, while another, who may appear on the surface to possess great talent isn’t able to achieve even close to the same level of success?

Why do some kids go on to achieve very high levels of success in academics, sports and careers, while others never quite get there?

Why are some coaches, consultants and professional service providers able to operate their businesses at a very high level, making a very good living and living the life they imagined when they went into their own businesses, while others languish, never quite ‘figuring it out’?

I don’t think that success in any endeavor can be explained ONLY by intelligence, hard work, luck or ‘good’ genes. Obviously some or all of these factors do help, but there is something else that separates the top 5% of the people from the rest.

I have coached youth athletics for many years, trained hundreds of coaches, consultants, sales professionals and professional service providers in how to grow and improve their businesses and I have identified what I believe are the three most common (or maybe not so common) traits in the most successful:

  1. Commitment
  2. Action
  3. Persistence

But, I truly believe that the best of the best not only use this approach, but they understand that implementing all three of these behaviors together and in this exact sequence is required to bring them success. Let me repeat this thought. The most successful people I have ever met, whether it is a kid trying to learn how to play the game of baseball, a mother trying to raise fully functional children or a business owner trying to operate a successful business, all these folks seem to understand, whether it is consciously or unconsciously, that in order to achieve greatness, they need to follow the sequence of COMMITMENT, ACTION and PERSISTENCE in order to achieve remarkable results.

Once you understand these are the three things that will lead you to success, then you need to develop a laser-beam focus to outlining what your vision is and what you are trying to achieve (commitment); then developing the proper success factors to get you there (action) and finally developing the ‘fire in the belly’ attitude to keep at it until success is realized. (persistence)

In my next post, I will go into greater detail defining commitment, action and persistence and more importantly the ‘how’ to develop the proper mindset and habits to achieving greater success.

Remember, you have the power to change your business and your life with commitment, action and persistence.

Think differently to achieve amazing results.

28.thumbnailJoe Costantino is the founder of Business Marketing Success, Inc. and is President and Managing Partner of Duct Tape Marketing Coaching, LLC. Joe Costantino help coaches, consultants, and independent business professionals turn their professional expertise into money, magnificence and meaning. He does this by packaging their expertise, properly positioning them in the marketplace and utilizing the best tools to attract more qualified leads and turning those leads into paying clients.

X-rated – Surprising Coaching Lessons from the X-Men

It is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is James T. Noble – Enjoy!

USA Wolverine postage stampHow many times have you heard the question “If you could have any single superpower – what would it be?”

It’s a tricky decision, but personally I’d go for telepathy. . . just imagine how lucrative that could be in business!

Second on my list though has got to be one of Wolverine’s skills – he’s just so cool. Not only is he pretty much indestructible and therefore immortal, he’s also got the knife claws. Amazing.

We all want to be heroes, and the good news is there are more parallels than you might think – even in the world of coaching. All we need to do is look to Wolverine and his mutant buddies for guidance, it’s amazing what they’ve got to teach us… when they’re not too busy saving the world…

Choose wisely

Just like Professor-X v Magneto – the right coach to choose is not clear cut. The two mutant powers that be actually share more or less the same goal (a world where mutants are accepted members of society who can live without fear) and it’s only their philosophy for how to achieve it that differs. Xavier wants to achieve this through gentle integration, tolerance and the education of ‘normal’ humans. Magneto on the other hand wields an aggressive approach – seeking to annihilate humans who threaten his fellow mutants.

Same goal… VERY different outlook.

You know yourself best, so trust your instincts when deciding whether or not a coach truly understands who you are and what you need. The right coach for you should share your fundamental ethics, have a compatible approach to business and a coaching style that suits you.  It is vital to choose a coach you can trust with whom you have rapport – and beware of those (like Magneto) who will judge you and try to turn you into a version of their own selves…

What to look for: Proof. Look for real testimonials and referrals from real clients as the opinion of those similar to you is the most valuable way to assess a coach. If possible contact previous clients to ascertain the methods and coaching styles your prospective coach uses. Make sure your coach has experience in your area and speaks your language.

Get as much intel as you can before making your decision – you are trusting your coach with your money, your time, your business and your reputation, so you must choose wisely.

Stay true to yourself

Wolverine took a long time to trust Professor-X – and even when he eventually did, he still remained powerfully and independently passionate about his motives, choices and actions. This made him a hard nut to crack, but it also won him respect from his mentor and his X-men peers.

Likewise Xavier’s calm and supportive yet firm and wise guidance won the respect of Wolverine, and their relationship developed over time to help Wolverine go from strength to strength. They worked well together because they had a good ‘fit’. Professor-X knew not to demand or push or dictate, and he never tried to change the fundamentals of who Wolverine was – he simply pointed him in the right direction and encouraged him to think differently and expand his horizons.

The takeaway: Your business is YOUR business, so stay in control and never lose sight of your vision. An effective coach will empower and guide you but never take charge – instead they will help you discover for yourself what you need and want and create an action plan to achieve that. However this doesn’t mean that they should be a pushover. The right coach will challenge you and your assumptions to help you recognize the behaviours holding you back so you can change them for the better.

Mutation is hard. Business is hard.  Having your very own Professor-X on your side can be the difference between failure and success. Now more than ever, entrepreneurs need to be strong enough to ask for help to gain a competitive advantage. The coach’s role is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that you already have and to know when to jump in and provide direction when you get off track.

Remember that YOU are in charge of your own destiny and only you have the power to change it – so embrace adventure and take action like the superhero you are

James T. NobleJames T. Noble makes small businesses bigger. He’s worked with some of the world’s largest brands and companies to market their products and services online – including Disney, Microsoft, 20th Century Fox, Virgin, Coca Cola, MTV and many others. Find out more and read business growth tips at http://www.JamesTNoble.com 

SEO Consulting in 2013: What the Pros Know that You Don’t

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Chris Warden. – Enjoy!

SEO

photo credit: SEOPlanter via photopin cc

SEO is changing, and for the most part, the life of an SEO consultant is getting better. Gone are the days of open keyword data and mass link buying, but we’ve been lucky to gain a few things too. Most notably, we’ve gained the ability to justify the cost of good SEO and shown that a good SEO consultant is worth the additional expense in easy to understand terms and ideas such as ROI and lifetime value.

As in all walks of life, it seems that the pros are always one step ahead of the amateurs and the hobbyists. What separates the pros from the amateurs in 2013 isn’t going to be a self-proclaimed “expert” title in their bio on LinkedIn. In 2013 it’s all about strong content and quantitative analysis to determine what’s effective and what isn’t.

Here’s what’s really important in 2013, and beyond.

Content is king. Really, we mean it this time.

Google has been telling us for years that content was king. Somewhere deep down inside, I think they really meant it.

SEO experts knew that content was important, but the only benefit to good content over bad content was the potential to get it shared, thus building more links in the process. Other than that, content was content. If it were indeed king, it was the king of a place we’ve never heard of.

Now, Google has shown the world that it means business. The “new” search results are going to favor brands – whether personal or corporate – to low-quality, niche-specific, here today gone tomorrow websites or those that just build massive amounts of low-quality content (I’m looking at you eHow) in order to spam the search listings with as many of their indexed pages as possible.

Maybe content was king all along, and Google just found the right algorithm change to weed out most of the bad content by sending it to the depths of the search results. Or maybe Google held on to the idea for far too long that links were absolutely the most important tool in SEO; even though what they really wanted was good and relevant content, even though they didn’t have a quantitative way to measure what good content and bad content looked like (other than human review). We’ll never know.

What we do know is that bad content is a thing of the past, at least if you plan to build a site that generates a decent amount of organic search engine traffic.

Backlinks are losing ground to stronger rankings metrics.

Backlinks are still the most important metric when it comes to ranking a site, but they’re quickly losing ground to other – more modern – metrics such as social indicators, citations, and instances of co-occurrence. In short, SEO is becoming more and more similar to PR every day.

Pro tip: If you’re a PR guy (or girl) it might be time to add a bit of SEO knowledge to your repertoire before you’re completely obsolete.

Content doesn’t mean blogging (necessarily).

Every SEO consultant or person who happens to rely on content in order to drive traffic, leads or sales dies a little inside when we talk about content with clients only to hear about how they’re “already blogging.”

Content is writing. Content is also video, podcasting, design (infographics, presentations, etc.), and social media posting. There are quite literally dozens of ways to produce content and writing it in  a blog is certainly not the only way. Depending on your business, it might not even be the most effective way.

In essence, content is a way to express thoughts or ideas to other people. Writing is but one of may forms of content, and it is certainly something you should educate your clients to understand.

Integrated strategies are the new one trick pony.

In the last few years, the Internet marketing community has grown very segmented. With the rise of segmentation within our industry, we’ve come to rely on several one trick ponies – or people who specialize in just one thing – to get the job done.

The future is made for the strong generalist within all of us. SEO in general is switching from building backlinks, analyzing keywords and optimizing pages to an all-encompassing medium focused on everything from social media strategy to content production.

SEO consultants of the future don’t necessarily have to be good at everything, but they certainly need to be aware that SEO is more than linking and optimization, which is largely what the past generation of SEO revolved around. The good SEOs of the future understand that SEO is a mix of research, optimization, link & citation building, content production, social media and data mining. SEO can’t stand on its own anymore. To succeed in the future, you have to understand the importance of integrated marketing strategies and how to implement them for your clients.

There’s no better time to be (or hire) a great writer.

Anyone who calls himself an SEO consultant – or SEO expert – knows 2013 is the year of the writer, thus making it the year of content. We’ve been building to this point for quite some time, but the time has finally arrived where the best writers – or those that know how to find and retain the best writers – are going to leap frog over the outsourced link builders and the automated software. In short, this is the year the SEO consultant that plays by the rules is really going to shine.

For the first time in the history of search engines, we’re starting to see sites with established and authoritative writers ranked better than those that aren’t as high on the food chain. For example, Rand Fishkin is always going to have better ranking content on the subject of SEO than me, no matter how good I am at SEO. The reason for this is due to the perceived authority (deservedly so) that Rand has achieved within the SEO community.

The same goes for your business, or your clients. Better writers are beginning to show greater returns on investment than the $25 articles from no-name writers we’ve been purchasing from freelancers for the last decade.

It’s time to really dive in and learn all you can about producing great content, or to find someone who can. Good content runs in the range from $75 – $350+ for a blog post, but those that are producing the best content are those that are going to be rewarded with the links, shares, and recognition within the industry.

Cheap content is dead and gone.

There is no more room for shortcuts.

Automation software and overseas employees used to rule the SEO game.

Those days are gone. SEO is now an art form that needs micro managing and near constant supervision.

When your clients ask, can you tell them with 100-percent confidence that nothing is going on that is going to get them penalized by Google? Of course you can’t. And if you can’t be sure that you are providing value to your clients, you shouldn’t be in this business in the first place.

Conclusion

Good SEO consultants are constantly on top of the changes that happen (seemingly daily) within the industry. The main thing that separates a good SEO from a bad one is education. Educate yourself, and stay on top of trends in order to provide your client with the most bang for their buck and you’ll stay relevant no matter what changes the SEO world faces in the future.

Warden_HeadShotChris Warden is a seasoned entrepreneur and CEO. Starting his entrepreneurial career at age 19, he has performed in numerous capacities owning and managing both offline and online companies. Chris now serves as CEO of Spread Effect, a leading content marketing and publishing company. He is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) and often writes on topics of content marketing, SEO, and business development. He’s passionate about building and mentoring world-class teams and loves to chat with like-minded individuals. You can connect with Chris via Linkedin, Twitter – @ChrisWarden_SE, or Google+.

The Simple Truth That Everyone With a Coach Understands

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Robert D. Smith – Enjoy!

Coaches and Consultants

Image Credit: marcello99

After over 30 years in the artist management business, I’ve come to learn something about the difference between successful artists—whether they’re authors, speakers, singers, musicians, etc.—and unsuccessful artists.

The successful ones know a little secret that applies to much more than just artists and stage personalities. It applies to you, both in your personal and professional lives, regardless of the nature of your business.

Are you ready to hear it?

The brand cannot manage itself.

Why? Because the brand is blinded by its gifts. Not in a selfish way, but in a way that begs for guidance on how to maximize its gift’s value.

This applies to you because, no matter what you do (even if you do nothing), you are a brand. You give a feeling, a perception, to those around you. There are certain talents and gifts you possess, and nothing will serve them better than a trusted, outside perspective.

I’m talking about a coach.

Do You Need to Hire a Coach?

I’ll make this one easy for you by slightly rephrasing the response. You do NOT need to hire a coach if:

  • You do not want to advance your life
  • You do not have a dream
  • You do not want more
  • You are fully satisfied with your lot in life
  • You have already found your life’s purpose and feel you have accomplished it and are done

However, if you DO want more—to give more, be more, reach more people with what you are doing, it is imperative to have a coach, to get another person’s take on what you are doing.

You need to be able to see beyond the tunnel vision that we all have around the things we are doing.

At the very least, you need another person to be able to ask you the outstanding questions you have not thought of yet. And that’s what a good coach can do.

How to Find a Good Coach

There are certain qualities that you absolutely must be aware of and seek out when looking for the right coach. Exceptions are possible for every rule, but these are good general rules of thumb to help you on your search.

  1. Most likely, you don’t know them. Your friends are probably not going to make good coaches. That’s not to say you should never seek their counsel if you respect their opinions. However, the reality is that most friends are just too darn polite. And polite is something you do not need.
  2. You need honesty. Actually, what you need is a degree beyond honesty. It’s a kick in the butt, a 2×4 upside the head. You need someone who can look you in the eye and say, “What you are saying is not true.” If they can’t challenge your thinking, they’re not up for the job.
  3. They can be more affordable than you might think. Many people instantly brush off the idea of hiring a coach by telling themselves it’s just too expensive. That’s like saying a car is too expensive. Well, what kind of car? You can pay anywhere from $500 to $500,000 and get a car that runs. Coaches are the same way. There is a broad range of what is available to you.

The best part is that you don’t have to pay a ton to find a quality coach. There are plenty out there who do a great job and are still on the lower end of the price range.

Take some time and do the research. Most likely, you’ll be able to take coaches for test drives before you commit to anything. I’ve yet to find one who doesn’t do a free coaching call of at least 15-20 minutes to see if you’re gelling.

If you’re ready to take your brand, your business, your life to the next level, a coach can give you the map it will take to get there. Identify what you think are your needs, do the research, find the right person, and move forward with massive action.

It takes tunnel-vision-like focus to become great at something. A coach gives you the chance to keep that focus while also gaining access to the 10,000-foot view. Are you ready to see it?

Robert D Smith HeadshotRobert D. Smith is the author of 20,000 Days and Counting, a crash course in living every day with maximum purpose and intensity. He also writes on entrepreneurship, personal growth, and more at TheRobertD.com.