How Listening More Than Promoting Buys You More Time

How much time do you spend promoting your business? You’re on Facebook telling your friends that course you’ve been waiting for is finally ready. You’re at the local networking event hustling for a new client. You’re writing blog posts every week and hoping people click from post to buy now button.

Promoting your business can feel like a full-time job.

And even with all the time you spend on it, you still want more! More tactics for building your list, more techniques for getting seen on Facebook, more ideas for putting your business in front of your ideal clients.

As a small (or micro, or large) business owner, marketing truly is one of the most important aspects of running your business. But promotion is not.

Promotion—content or communication, paid or free, that’s express purpose is announcing your product to the right people—is the absolute smallest part of marketing.

What’s the biggest part of marketing? Listening.

Listening is powerful: why great marketers are great listeners

Listening is powerful. When you’re truly attuned to the people you want to serve, you see how what’s most important to them is actually the key to connecting them to what you’re selling.

That’s why I’ve always made listening and observing such a priority on social media and at in-person events. I’m not just listening for opportunities to pitch myself—in fact, it’s the furthest thing from my mind.

I listen for what people’s goals are, what they’re struggling with, what they might be confused about, and all the things they’re trying to accomplish (whether it’s a good idea or not).

What I know about you, for instance, is that you’re really stuck on promoting your business. You hate being self-promotional, but most of the time your promotional posts are all about you or your offer—not about your clients. You don’t like it but you don’t know what to do different.

I also know that no matter how much I suggest testing a product before you bring it to market or finding the natural sense of urgency behind what you’re offering, you’ll come back for more tips on promoting your business.

It makes sense. Promoting what you’re selling seems like the shortest route to making money.

Except it’s not.

The shortest route to making money—the one that puts tons of time back into your schedule—is listening for what’s most important to people and giving them what they want.

How? Here’s the gist:

1) You observe their present reality.

You take the time to listen and observe. You take much more into account than just the messages or updates that seem have something to do with your business.

You listen for where they’re stuck, what their values are, and how their life unfolds on a daily basis. You figure out what they really want to accomplish—big or small.

2) You respond to their need.

You come up with a product idea that helps them accomplish whatever it is that’s important to them. It could be something incredibly simple (impulse buy) or something far more complex. But your product idea is a direct response to what they want.

3) You present them with a message that resonates.

You don’t tell them that new course is ready. You don’t tell them you’ve got 3 openings this month. You don’t get all excited about your new service and humble brag your way through a few Facebook posts.

You don’t waste time shouting from the roof tops about what you’ve made and why it’s awesome.

You talk to people about what matters to them (their relationship, the way they feel when they wake up, the deadline that’s looming over their head, etc…). You get specific because you know them so well (see Step 1).

People can’t help but get sucked in. They’re sucked in not because you’re selling them something or trying to convince them to buy, buy, buy but because you know them so well and have created something just for them.

That’s marketing.

That’s what works.

And it’s also what feels good.

If you’re feeling sucked in right now, it’s because I’ve spent the last 7 years trying to master those 3 simple steps. Of course, it’s not easy. I still mess up. But I have a feeling I’ve hit the nail on the head with this one.

If you’re ready to buy yourself some time, stop promoting your business, and start creating resonance, I’ve written a new mini-book just for you.

It’s called The Observation Engine and it turns those 3 simple steps into a whole system for taking the guesswork out of marketing (and sales, and product development.)

Click here to buy the multimedia pack (it’s just $4.99) or click here to buy the Kindle version directly from Amazon (it’s just $2.99).

It’s Time to Go Corporate

Does the idea of “going corporate” make you cringe? “Being corporate,” “going corporate,” and “working for corporate” have been slurs for small business owners and independently-minded workers for at least 30 years.

Maybe you’ve felt exploited by corporate greed. Maybe you’ve felt the man condescending to you.

Or maybe you just started your business to do something different a different way.

It’s time to reclaim corporate.

It's time to reclaim going corporate.

What does “corporate” really mean? Well, the root of the word (corporare) means to form into a body. It’s been used to describe communities coming together to govern themselves and it’s been used to describe people of faith coming together to worship.

When it comes to business, going corporate means to create a body of systems: policies, models, frameworks, procedures. Going corporate means being organized, knowing how things work, and intentionally choosing to operate in a way that gets results.

Too many micro and small business owners choose to make it up as they go.

They’re fighting the need to set their marketing, product development, outsourcing, client intake, or sales into systems because they fear those systems create rigidity. But systems and frameworks don’t create rigidity, they give you a clear space to play and create in.

Going corporate gives you the ability to be more creative and take more risks.

The other reason people fear going corporate is that corporations have a reputation for hurting people. They create systems for the purpose of profit instead of for the purpose of taking care of people.

It’s like that old adage: Systems don’t hurt people, people hurt people.

There are plenty of corporations run by people who care who create systems that are efficient, effective, profitable, and people-driven. If you care about people, your systems can too.

And, just like systems and frameworks allow for more creativity, systems and frameworks also allow you to take better care of people. When people know what you expect of them, they feel more comfortable and better able to do what they need and want to do.

If you’ve been resisting going corporate with your business, it’s time to rethink your fears. There’s a whole new world waiting for you, your business, and your customers when you make the decision to strategically and intentionally run your business.


You’re Wasting Precious Time Paying Attention to the Wrong Things

So you want to grow your business. You start tracking new Facebook likes, new email subscribers, and your website traffic. You discover how to move the needle on each and do more and more of the activities that create growth in these metrics.

It takes a lot of time. You’re posting to Facebook 5 times a day—which takes creative energy to come up with posts, reading time to share others posts, and productive time to tear yourself away from the onslaught of other people’s posts. You’re looking for new ways to gain email subscribers—hosting webinars, planning joint ventures, hosting telesummits, setting ad campaigns. You’re writing more blog posts, adding pillar content pages, and optimizing the SEO on your site.

The metrics you’re paying attention to are constantly pulling you away from time with clients. But you’re growing your business!

Or are you?

You're wasting precious time paying attention to the wrong things

Are you paying attention to the right things? What have those new Facebook likes, email subscribers, or website visitors gotten you? Have they brought in new revenue? (Do you even have a way to tell?) Have they streamlined your production? Have they helped you develop new opportunities?

Most likely, no.

And if they have, they’ve only entrenched you further into the business you have instead of helping you grow the business you want.

Now, I’m not at all opposed to new Facebook likes, email subscribers, or website visitors. Those are 3 metrics I track myself.

However, I don’t spend time on those metrics until I’ve actually gone about the business of working on my business.

You see, building your Facebook page, growing your list, and buoying your website traffic isn’t working on your business. Marketing your business is an “in” your business kind of activity. And if it’s the only thing you’re making time for, it’s not going to do you a lot of a good in the long-term. Unless you’ve got the right systems, strategy, and development plan set up, it’s not buying you any more time, money, or sanity.

Let me say that again: Promoting your business isn’t buying you any more time, money, or sanity.

You might have noticed that. You might have realized posting more on Facebook—even sending more emails, one of my personal favorite activities—isn’t improving your quality of life.

But if your metrics of growth are all things that lead to more time spent on marketing, you’re wasting time and not creating the kind of systems that lead to true growth, true profit, and true sanity. And I write this as someone who loves marketing with a burning passion.

You’re paying attention to the wrong things.

And it’s costing you time (not to mention money and energy, too).

So what should you be paying attention to?


You Don’t Need Another Cheerleader

You’ve done the work. You’re confident in yourself, your ideas, and what you have to offer.

You might even be starting to believe your own hype (and frankly, I don’t think that’s a bad thing).

You don’t need another cheerleader for your business. You need someone with the chops to guide your decision-making. You need someone who can challenge your assumptions and point you toward the truth. You need someone who has ideas that break through the noise.

This is why I do what I do. This is why I don’t create personal development programs masquerading as business development. This is why my team is full of people who are doing the work every single day. This is why I’ve spent years putting together a methodology and training people how to use it.

Quiet Power Strategy Team

Quiet Power Strategy Team Meeting: Suzi Istvan, Natasha Vorompiova, Jen Vertanen, Brigitte Lyons, Breanne Dyck in non-coordinated gesture of deep thought

This was the subject of an all-hands on deck Quiet Power Strategy team meeting a couple of weeks ago. We talked about how important it is that we’re more than cheerleaders for our clients. They come to us because we’ve got the chops. We’re direct. We’re ruthless. We’re ambitious.

Why? Because that’s what you need. Whether you’re a client, a trainee, a member, a viewer, or a reader, you need more than a cheerleader.

I don’t want to be your cheerleader. I don’t want my program to be your pep rally. I don’t want you to read this blog because you need a visit from the t-shirt cannon.

I want to sit with you in the situation room and hash out possible scenarios for making it through—and prevailing—in the long fight. I want to challenge your assumptions, orient you to new insights, and help you lead yourself to the results you want. I want to tell it like it is—and tell you what’s possible.

I want to do the math. I want to crunch the numbers. I want to look for a Plan B, C, D, and E you can get excited about.

Before you read another feel-good business article or spend money on another inspiration course, ask yourself if what you need is another fight song or a serious look at the playbook.

Price is About So Much More Than Cost

Think about the last thing you “splurged” on: Why did you buy it? How did it make you feel? What story did it tell you? What story did it tell about you? What part of your values or personality did it confirm?

When it comes to the things we care about, we rarely make decisions based on price. Price might be a factor but it isn’t the make or break detail we worry it is as designers, idea people, and business owners.

If you create things that you want people to care about, you have to use price as an opportunity to tell a story not just pay your costs or your salary.

Price is about so much more than cost.

Price isn’t just what ends up on the tag. Price isn’t the only thing that determines whether something is affordable or too expensive. Price isn’t even the determining factor in whether someone decides to buy something or not.

Getting the price right for your products and services is important. But if you’re basing your prices solely on how much it costs you to create, how big or small it is, how complex or simple it is, how much you’d like it to be affordable, or what assumptions you’ve made about how much people are willing to spend, you’re missing the pricing boat.

I’m often asked for rules of thumb when it comes to pricing. Beyond a few calculations, an imperative to price for profit, and gentle urging to analyze the market, I don’t have any. There is no magic formula for getting to the right price for your new product or service.

There is, however, an awful lot of strategic work you can do to determine whether your pricing strategy is going to succeed or fail. You need to know who you want to have buying your product and what they expect to pay for something like it. You need to know what problem you’re solving and how resolution of that problem can be quantified. You need to know who your customers aspire to be and what community they want to fit in with. You need to know how you want your business to be positioned and how it is already perceived.

And beyond knowing all of that, you need to choose. Most pricing struggles come down to trying to be too many things to too many different kinds of people (kind of a universal life problem, isn’t it?). Of course, if your whole business is a little wishy washy, you’re going to have problems pricing.

Use price as a way to make a statement about the strategic direction of your business and then follow-through with every other aspect of your business. You’ll feel more confident about what you charge—and so will your customers.


P.S. Makers & designers: I’m teaching a very special 1-day workshop on CreativeLive called Pricing Your Craft. You can watch live, FREE, on August 17: RSVP here for some extra special bonus materials including my exclusive Cash Flow Plan. Don’t miss it!

Use What You Want, Not What You Have, As Your Baseline

Just because you don’t get a paycheck anymore doesn’t mean you can’t get stuck living paycheck-to-paycheck. In fact, your whole business can get caught operating paycheck-to-paycheck.

When you’re in the never-quite-enough cycle, no matter how much you want to grow your business and no matter how hard you’re willing to work, business growth can feel impossible. You’re always a little short on the money you need to invest in a sweet new design, a rockstar employee, or the applications that can make running your business easier. You’re also just a little short on the time you need to evolve your business model, leverage your services, and grow your platform.

I’ve tried to figure out what separates those who make the leap from never-quite-enoughness to abundance and growth with their businesses. And here’s what I’ve discovered:

You have to use what you want, not what you have, as your baseline.
Use what you want, not what you have, as your baseline.

That means you don’t figure out how to replace your day job salary, you make a plan to make 20% more. You don’t figure out how to get enough clients, you make a plan to have a waiting list. You don’t figure out what you need to price your offers at to pay yourself, you plan a pricing strategy that builds in profit.

That means part of planning for your business is getting clear on what you want:

  • Enough income and extra profit to take the summer off?
  • A team of talented co-conspirators who can help you serve your clients?
  • A website that truly represents the personality and quality of your business?
  • Tools that make your life easier?

If you want to take the summer off, make sure your plan has your business generating enough revenue in January-May, September-December. That changes the way you launch offers, plan partnerships, and schedule marketing activities.

If you want a team (or to grow your existing one), make sure your plan includes a pricing strategy that pays them. Put that extra labor budget into savings and you’ll have a cushion that makes you feel comfortable expanding.

If you want a new website, stop trying to piecemeal your solutions (i.e. spending unnecessary money) and find the credit you need to get one. Then make sure your plan includes how you’ll harness that website to payback the credit as quickly as possible.

If you want tools that make your life easier, make sure your plan makes it clear exactly what they need to do for you. That changes what you look for in new solutions so that you’re only investing in the ones that do what you need them to do.

Setting goals and stretching your comfort zone pays both strategic and tactical dividends. When you know what you want, you can make the business strategy decisions that help you get there. If you’re always focused on maintaining the status quo, you’ll be stuck there.

P.S. If you’re a maker or designer trying to get ahead in your own business, check out my Pricing Your Craft workshop on CreativeLive on August 17th. You can watch totally FREE while it’s live: RSVP here.