5 Common Business Questions and What You Should Be Asking Instead

5 Common Business Questions And What You Should Be Asking Instead

These are the business questions I get asked everywhere I go. Are they yours? (Photo by Armosa Studios)

These are the business questions I get asked everywhere I go. Are they yours? (Photo by Armosa Studios)

How much time have you spent learning the ins & outs of online business?

Go ahead. Take a stab at it.

10 hours? 100 hours? 1,000 hours? More?

This is not a post about how you need to put in your 10,000 hours to finally be a success.

It’s a post about how all that knowledge can’t answer the really important questions that will actually propel your business forward.

You see, after our last launch of Quiet Power Strategy: The Foundation, we did some research. Many of the people who said they were interested didn’t join us for 2 main reasons:

  1. They had already taken a lot of courses, had tons of knowledge, and were trying to apply that before they took any other courses.
  2. They weren’t sure if it would work for their specific business.

I totally get both of those objections. On the surface, they make a lot of sense. Maybe you’ve run into similar objections for your own products?

But if you dig a little deeper, I believe there is a fundamental problem that brings these concerns to the surface.

What is it?

People are asking the wrong kinds of questions and looking for the wrong kind of information.

If you fall into the first objection territory, it means you’ve been focused on gathering information to create your tasks lists for running your business. You believe the more information you have on running your business, the more effective you’ll be.

If you fall into the second objection territory, it means you’re looking for a specific way to make your business work. You believe that a solution that’s tailored made for your unique structure, industry, or proclivities exists and that when you find it everything will fall into place. Correct information, correct next steps.

Information can’t save you or your business unless it has a strategy behind it.

Now, that’s not to say information isn’t powerful. But information can only be powerful when it is applied toward achieving a specific goal.

What I see is a whole lot of business owners going around trying to execute on what they’ve learned with no plan or strategy. So it fails. So they go back for more information—that proverbial missing piece.

And, you guessed it, a nasty cycle is formed. One where you’re spending all your money and time acquiring new information that is hypothetically useful but ill-matched to your strategy or lack thereof.

Here’s what one of my business thinking mentors, Nilofer Merchant, had to say on a similar subject:

“Perhaps people fixate on execution (‘doing what’s required’) instead of finishing up strategy (‘choosing the direction’) because it’s easier to see progress during execution than during strategy formation and development.”

Does that sound about right?

You keep going back for information because information tends to give you a relatively tidy to-do list. You complete the tasks and that means you’re hopefully doing something right.

It is not nearly so neat and tidy to sit with big questions about the direction of your business, how you’ll achieve your goals, and how you’ll compete in the marketplace.

I know, I’ve spent the last 2 months in this place. It’s messy and hard. It really isn’t any easier for the pros, other than we have better tools and processes.

But you need to. It’s the difference between short-term success and long-term frustration and long-term success and short-term frustration.

To demonstrate how business owners that find long-term success ask different questions, I’ve made a list of 5 common questions. Then, I’ve provided an alternative question and guidelines for wrestling with the answers.

That way you get double your money back on this blog post! You get your question answered plus a better question to ask so you can make better use of the information you have.

Ready to get started? Here we go.

What do I need to do to spread the word about my business?

If I wanted a lot of cheap clicks to my blog, I could make you a list of 30 ways to spread the word about your business. I could list every social media platform, I could throw in some local marketing tactics for good measure, and then I could share some advanced maneuvers.

And, if you were overwhelmed, slightly confused, and wondering how you were going to find the time for all that at the end of the post, you’d be in good company.

Instead of asking What, try asking How.

How do you want to connect with the right people?

Forget about learning specific tactics for awhile and consider the type of relationship you want to have with your clients. Think about how you want them to feel. Factor in how you’re best able to help them get results.

Then write down a description of what that connection looks like.

I want to create long-term relationships with smart business owners who value independence, thinking for themselves, and prioritizing long-term success. I want to connect with them in ways that get them thinking and leading instead of following.

That’s how I would describe the way I want to connect with my right people (you in?). Since I know that, I don’t waste time learning about marketing tactics that don’t fit that description. The things I do to “spread the word” about my business and what I have to offer are very limited (that’s good!) because of that description so I can focus on just those few things.

Any time a new tactic comes along that everyone’s buzzing about, I can quickly make a decision about whether it fits that description or not.

What should I sell?

Well, if you’ve been paying attention to anything lately you know that the answer is an online course, right? Wrong.

No one can tell you what to sell. What’s worse is that if you’re focused on the “what” of what you’re selling, it means you’ve likely lost focus of the “who” of who you’re selling to.

Great, innovative, cult-status products (like the ones you want to create, right?) aren’t born from blueprints. They’re a process of careful design and evolution.

Design starts with knowing what the people you’re designing for what to accomplish. It doesn’t start with a form in mind.

So again, the better question to ask is not a What question, it’s a How question.

How could my customers get the best results?

We like to say: function before format. You need to know how the product is going to work, what it’s going to do before you can determine the form for delivering that result.

One of the things our clients want to do is navigate business transitions and bust through ceilings (revenue, energetic, operational, etc…) in their businesses. Often that means creating a plan for doubling their revenue, transitioning to an agency model, or building leveraged-income products.

Lately, I’ve been focused on how we could do this more easily, more conveniently, and more inexpensively for our clients. I’ve also been thinking about how traditional course delivery has failed them in this area.

Answering the question, “How could my customers get the best results?” has allowed me to pioneer a brand-new model and format for our signature program. The details aren’t quite ready yet—but if you want to know more about it, you can sign up here.

This is where real innovation is born. Not just innovation for innovation’s sake—innovation for business sake. Innovation that is people-focused and prioritizes function before format sells extremely well.

If you want to know what to sell, the only person you can ask is yourself.

Who should I hire?

I get it: you’re overworked and out of energy. If I could just tell you who to hire, then maybe you’d be less overworked and have a little more energy.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a very good question, either.

In this case, Who is masquerading as our What, but the How question is still the real answer.

How could others create value for my business & my customers?

Lately, I’ve been focused on getting my clients who are building teams to forget delegation. Seriously!

Okay, delegation certainly has a role and there is always something on your plate that could be done better by someone else. However, delegation is a super base level tactic when it comes to getting help growing your business.

If you really want dynamic team members who contribute to the growth of your business—people who add to your bottom line instead of just your expenses—you need to think in terms of value contribution.

People who create value for your business don’t just do the things you’re already doing. They create better experiences for customers, they solve problems for customers, they enhance customers’ ability to get results.

In my business, my whole team is creating value for our customers outside of what I delegate to them. For instance, I hired Breanne Dyck to consult on operations last year. By creating more robust onboarding systems, smart systems for delivery content, and better ways to track user behavior, we’re able to create better customer experiences.

That’s also decreased the percentage of people who need help from our support team—which is essential to our ability to scale.

Instead of thinking of what role you should hire for, consider how you could enhance your customer experiences and business capabilities.

What technology should I use?

Last week I did a webinar with LeadPages—they create software that makes it easy to grow your list—and next month I’m hosting a webinar with ConvertKit. I love apps and technology and I’m lucky to have friends who develop it.

But that means I hear this question quite often.

Here’s how to change this What question into a How question.

How can I use technology to create the best experience & results for the people I want to work with?

The reason this question works so well is because the answer is essentially a shopping guide for the technology that’s going to work best for you.

Let me give you an example: I was a devoted MailChimp user for years. All the years, really. I knew I had outgrown them but I didn’t leave because I loved them so much. (I still recommend them for many business owners, by the way.)

As my email list grew and grew, it became harder and harder to manage to send the right campaigns to the right people. The question, “How could I use technology to create the best experience for my readers?” became ever more important.

The answer to the question is that if I could use technology to better understand what my audience wanted to read, what problems they were facing, and what offers they might be most interested in, I could create an amazing experience for them.

So when Nathan Barry called me up to talk about ConvertKit and explained how he designed the software to do exactly that, I was hooked.

It took time to set up and I’m still getting the hang of creating those experiences. But, I love it!

Focus on how technology could improve experiences or results for your customers (and you too!). And then go looking for something that does specifically that. You don’t need to compare what everyone else is using—the best solution for you might be something you’ve never heard of.

What content should I create?

Alright, last question. You want to know what to put in your blog posts, emails, podcasts, videos, and Facebook updates to get more attention and more sales.

Again, totally understandable. Content marketing is super important, right?

Unfortunately, there’s no prescription for content. If you look at the prescription content that’s out there, it’s super boring. You don’t want to bore your customers into buying from you, do you?

Someone somewhere recently was talking about the difference between content marketing with information and content marketing with insight. Oh, how I wish I remembered who it was so I could properly credit them.

For the people I often work with, I’d throw in another category: content marketing with inspiration.

For business purposes, insight will when over information or inspiration any day. Information is a commodity. Charlie Gilkey said at the Quiet Power Strategy Summit: “If you try to sell information, Wikipedia will win every time.” Inspiration is increasingly a commodity as well.

So your imperative for content marketing is to provide insight into your potential customers’ challenges or goals.

How do you do that? Answer this better question.

How can I provide insight into my customers’ situation so that they become more prepared to buy?

Sure, I might be stretching it a bit on the How part here, but you get the idea.

An example of this is in action is this very blog post. I could easily have written this post with a number of resources (my own or others) with the “answers” to the 5 most common business questions. It would have gotten links and traffic.

But instead, I wanted to shed some light on why these questions don’t help you grow your business, how they keep you stuck and dependent on others.

Because I want to connect with smart, independent folks (see Better Question #1), it’s important for me to show you that distinction. If you love this post, there’s a good chance we’d work well together and that you’d dig my methodology for thinking about and planning for your business.

If you don’t dig it, you probably aren’t reading this far. I’m totally okay with that.

If you’d prefer answers to all the What questions, there are plenty of people who will sell that to you. I won’t. Sure, I’ll give you some options and I’ll tell you what I think but I’d much rather help you think through the problem for yourself. I want to help you make independent, strategic decisions about where your business is headed.

You down?

Click the Facebook post below to share this article with other smart, savvy, independent business owners you know.

Bad Marketing: Why You Should Think Twice About Hosting a Telesummit or Accepting an Invitation to Speak

Bad Marketing: Why You Should Think Twice About Hosting a Telesummit or Accepting an Invitation to Speak

This is a post about telesummits. But really, it’s a post about bad marketing and what you need to consider to avoid bad marketing either damaging your reputation as a business owner or wasting your time.

In case you’re not familiar with the telesummit concept, the outward appearance is similar to an in-person summit or conference: 15-30 expert speakers share their story and expertise on a particular topic with the audience.

You’ve likely signed up for one of these virtual events in the past.

What you might not realize is what often happens with these events in the organizational phase. Nearly every day, my assistant or I receive a pitch to speak at one of these events. The email often looks something like this (an actual email I recently received but with all identifying details changed):

THE INVITATION

Dear Tara,

I am pleased to invite you to serve as a guest speaker in our next online summit: “Live Your Best Life and Build a Super Successful Business.”

This online summit will feature over 25 Bold Life Experts, who will be sharing their inspirational guidance in pre-recorded video interviews. We invite you to share your story in one of these eye-opening 30 minute pieces.

Our incredible host Joy Coachperson is a sought-after Leadership Coach who teaches clients how to thrive in their personal and professional lives, regardless of their current circumstances. As a mother of four young children, a wife, an entrepreneur, and a coach, Joy knows firsthand how to support women and couples as they maneuver through life’s many challenges. Through her knowledge and experience, Joy has provided hundreds of individuals with the tools to become stronger, happier and more successful than ever! Joy’s mission is to get people out of the destructive habit of “just getting by”, and to teach them actionable ways to manifest prosperous home and business lives with ease.

The intention and focus of this summit is to guide individuals in discovering the foundation of their Bold Life, in the face of life’s many internal and external challenges. We are looking for practical and actionable advice that guides viewers in establishing their daily success rhythm by following proven formulas, and retaining the tools needed to stay on track when problems arise.

Topics to be Discussed:

● Personal Leadership
● Thriving as a Choice
● Support Systems
● Habits and Scheduling
● Success Strategies
● Staying Committed
● Creating A Legacy

Is this Online Summit a good fit for you? We’re looking for:
● Passionate speakers who currently serve or would like to expand their audience of small business owners, authors, entrepreneurs, and individuals looking to pursue their passion and desired legacy
● Presenters who have a mailing list audience above 5k.
● Individuals committed to publicizing this life-changing event with at least one solo email and one newsletter blurb

Ready to help us change lives? If this Online Summit sounds like something you’d enjoy being part of, please respond to me at your earliest convenience, as spaces fill up quickly!

Kindly,
Sara
Director of Marketing & Events

PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THIS

pinterest_badmarketingNotice a few things: the summit has no clear or measurable objective, no clear angle or point of view to differentiate this from any other event, and the host has no fact-checkable credentials. I’ll explain why this is all highly problematic no matter what type of marketing you’re doing.

But first, notice a few more things:

1) There is a check to make sure I’m a good fit for the conference—meaning they haven’t properly vetted me as a speaker in the first place. They’re using a spray and pray method of recruiting partners.

2) Speakers are only qualified if their lists are already over 5,000 subscribers meaning that the organizers care more about reach than quality content. Melissa Dinwiddie recently wrote about this.

3) Speakers are required to promote the event to their list in both an exclusive email and a mention (2 emails total) meaning that the event organizer isn’t sure that the event merits promotion without obligating the participants. More on this in a bit.

All of these things are red flags for a marketer. Yet, these invitations persist. So I’m going to break down exactly what is problematic about each of them so that you can either green light your own telesummit or create your own marketing system and avoid the problems.

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR OWN MARKETING FIRST

Always have a clear & measurable objective.

The bar you set for product development should be the same bar you set for marketing—especially content marketing. People should know what they can expect from engaging your content and how it will help them transform something about their life or business.

This cannot be vague. It cannot be hyperbolic. If you want it to be effective (you do), it needs to be incredibly specific and measurable. People need to be able to know when the objective is reached.

A promise to help you live your dream life or “crush it” in business is not a promise that can be kept. It’s not a good value proposition. It cannot be measured. And, it’s not believable because no set of 25 speakers can help you go from “getting by” to thriving.

For any content marketing you create, make a list of specific things that people will be able to do or change because of what you’re creating. Make them as tangible as possible. Be careful with anything that has to do with beliefs or personal identity because people don’t believe those things can be changed overnight and it damages your value proposition.

Always have a clear and differentiated angle.

As I said, I receive nearly identical pitches almost every day. There is no way for me to know why I should do this event instead of countless others promising the same thing.

Before you create any marketing, ask yourself how you will use that piece of marketing to differentiate yourself and connect with the specific people you want to serve. It could be a matter of style or attitude (for instance, I could have an entirely Tina Fey-themed event). Or, it could be a matter of your objective, specific niche, or customer base.

But give us something to sink our teeth into!

Tell us something real about you as the creator.

You can absolutely market your business effectively even if you’re just starting out or don’t have much visibility in the marketplace. All you need to do is tell us something real.

Sure, it’s fairly easy to establish credibility if your business has been featured in Fast Company and Inc. But you can also establish credibility through a well-told personal story, meaty client testimonial, or previous background/experience. You don’t need to exaggerate or mislead, just tell show us a piece of who you really are.

Taking these 3 things into account will improve any kind of marketing you do for your business, whether it’s a telesummit, podcast, blog, or webinar.

HOW IS THIS GOOD FOR ME AGAIN?

Yet, there’s more I want to unpack on this issue.

I decided to write this post after I received the above pitch and posted on Facebook that I was ready to start replying to these pitches with my speaking fee instead of a flat “no.” (Many of these pitches come via my speaking contact form which requests that you share your budget for the event.)

The post caught fire and I heard from people on all sides on the “telesummit debate,” though most of my circle shared my frustration and encouraged me to follow-through with requesting a speaking fee.

You see, I have never—to the best of my knowledge—received a paying customer from one of these events. Never once has someone said to me, “I found you through so-and-so’s virtual summit!”

However, 2 of my top client sources have quite a bit in common with telesummits.

My top client source is speaking at conferences. It’s one of the reasons I’m on the road so much (I’m writing this from an airplane–I’ll be on another tomorrow). While I used to speak free of charge, with few exceptions, I no longer do. I charge a significant fee that aligns with the value I provide to the event experience, the promotion that’s expected of me (although that’s usually not much), and the time it will take in my schedule.

I get paid and I get clients. That’s good for business.

Another top client source for me is podcast interviews. I’m generally happy to give anyone an interview as long as time permits. I don’t care much about audience size, angle, or experience. I like the conversations and it’s easy.

I’m also happy to share these interviews with my audience because they don’t have to do anything more than click a button to listen. Though promotion is rarely encouraged.

I have had clients come directly from podcast interviews because they allow me to speak directly to a particular audience and share a different side of my message.

THE ENERGY DIFFERENTIAL

As Elizabeth Potts Weinstein put it on my original Facebook post, the energy differential between these 3 things is incredibly different despite them essentially offering the same thing: access to experts, their stories, and their information.

Conferences require a few days of travel and time off work. But I’m front and center on stage and I’m compensated fairly well. Plus, my company gets clients.

Podcasts require nothing more than about an hour of my time. I get a nice asset to share directly with my audience and all they have to do is click to hear it.

But with a telesummit, the event organizers often want 30 minutes of my time to pitch the event to me on the phone, an hour of my time to record the interview, guaranteed social media promotion, and emails to my community. They often want me to write my own interview questions or prepare a talk.

THE OPPORTUNITY DIFFERENTIAL

The energetic differential is not the only thing that separates these different methods for delivering a similar product. There is also an opportunity differential.

For me, a speaking gig at an in-person conference almost always results in a top-level client (without selling from the stage—which I never do). That means my speaking fee can easily be matched or 10x-ed in terms of return on investment. All I have to do is literally show up, deliver my talk, and meet with people for whom it resonated. Plus, I often get a credibility boost from the conference itself (I’m speaking at Digital Commerce Summit—from the folks behind Copyblogger—this Fall and I know I’m going to see a bump from that).

That’s a lot of opportunity. It’s great marketing.

With podcasts, it’s completely hit or miss. Sometimes a podcaster has a super engaged audience that is just perfect for my work. Other times, they don’t. The opportunity doesn’t always pan out, but I haven’t squandered any opportunity either. I’d say I come out on top most of the time and I’ve never regretted doing a podcast interview. Plus, podcast interviews are where I hone new messaging and work on my talking points. They’ve been a huge boost to my personal skill set.

It’s often good marketing. It’s never bad marketing.

With a telesummit, as I said, I’ve never connected with anyone in such a way that I’ve earned a new client. If it happens with podcasts and not with telesummits, that tells me something about the very nature of those events (as opposed to something going on with me).

WHY REQUIRED EMAIL PROMOTION IS BAD FOR YOUR BUSINESS—EVEN IF IT FEELS GOOD

The reason for this, as I see it, is that the required email promotion creates a cycle of low-quality audience churn. In other words, the very nature of the required email promotion means that once you’re on one telesummit list as a subscriber, you get notified of more and more telesummits. That means those subscribers are being bombarded with 20-30 hours of free or low-cost content, probably on a monthly or bimonthly basis.

People who realize that’s not valuable to them unsubscribe. Those who do don’t have the time or capacity to purchase a program or product. They feel ashamed of themselves for not living up to the hyperbolic promises of event organizers and they wait to actually invest in quality help until they’ve “implemented” what they think they’ve learned.

This is not a good prospect.

Those prospects are getting recycled around the telesummit circuit and sold a bill of goods.

The email lists of organizers (and I’m sure some guests) get inflated with leads that will probably never convert. A smaller, high-quality set of leads will earn more revenue than an inflated email list full of low-quality prospects any day (ask my bookkeepers).

Every time a business owner emails her list about a telesummit, that’s an opportunity where she could have shared a valuable offer to people who already know, like, and trust her. More than that, it’s potentially squandering a hard-won reputation and replacing it with fluff.

THE REAL MAGIC OF INFLUENCE MARKETING

Required email promotion also fails to take into account the real magic of influence marketing. In fact, it highlights the very difference between true marketing and just promotion. Influence marketing is earned. To have an influencer champion you, you need to earn it.

Sometimes that happens without you knowing it because they’re reading and loving your blog or listening intently to your podcast. Other times it happens because you’ve offered them something of great value, probably multiple times. When someone champions you, your message, or your company it comes with deep respect and trust. It doesn’t happen overnight and it certainly doesn’t happen because of a clause in a speaking agreement.

Requiring someone to promote your event is hollow. I receive requests for telesummits with required promotion from people I do not know or have never heard of. They might be amazing—but how would I know? One quick information phone call isn’t going to give me the peace of mind that I need to trust them with my list. Even a good interview isn’t enough for me to know that the rest of what they have to offer is high-quality.

As business owners, we all need people to champion us. We need a network of folks who are willing to share our work with people who trust them. But you have to work hard to earn it.

OKAY, SAVE YOUR NASTY EMAILS. I DON’T MEAN EVERYBODY.

Now, I don’t mean to throw every telesummit or virtual event under the bus. I’ve participated in some truly excellent ones where this is absolutely not the case. One such event was Natalie MacNeil’s Conquer Summit. Social Media Examiner puts on an excellent event. One of my clients, Shawn Tuttle, put on a quality event at the end of last year, as did Monique Head.

The businesses generating massive amounts of revenue from virtual events are not following the blueprint that’s being sold to thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs. And the ones that are are the ones selling that blueprint (quite literally).

Businesses that host high-quality events and profit from them create good marketing and follow the points I listed above. They choose speakers specifically for the message they’ll bring and the way they’ll improve the experience of the event. They treat those speakers like valued members of the team—not a commodity to be traded. They consider their participants and how they can make the event as useful and easy to engage as possible.

Creating massive events that generate low-quality leads for the purpose of growing your list by thousands is bad marketing. It’s not good for the event organizer (you could get a higher ROI on something else). It’s not good for the guests (they lose out on energy and opportunity). It’s not good for the participants (they’re sold a vague promise and unpredictable quality).

THE PERSISTENT SEDUCTION OF THE TELESUMMIT MODEL

Now, I would like to finish this screed with a bit of reflection on why I see telesummits (and much bad marketing) as so seductive.

Telesummits are seductive because they promise an easy path to the veneer of success. Look at me with these fancy guests. Look how I can afford to give this all to you for free. Look at my giant email list. No one actually says this (thank goodness) but it’s implied by the very nature of the event whether the organizer realizes it or not.

There is a massive disconnect between what makes many business owners feel good about themselves (famous speakers, loads of subscribers) and what actually makes a business work (paying customers or clients who get results). Telesummits prioritize vanity metrics over true metrics and that never ever pays off.

Yes, knowing internet famous people, being generous with content, and having a big list is all great.

But…

Only if it leads to real results. And by real results, I do mean money in the bank. I also mean lives transformed.

I believe that most people embark on these events because they think that a network, generosity, and tons of emails lead directly to that true business success. They don’t. There are loads of systems that need to be in place (from sales to product development, to customer support, to business model, to project management) to make that happen.

If you really want to avoid bad marketing (and you should, you need to know what metrics actually lead to results for you. If it’s list size, make sure you’re tracking earnings per lead too so that you know if the quality of your leads goes down. If it’s your network, make sure you know the people you count as being part of it would actually answer the phone if you called. If it’s generosity, make sure that people are actually using what you give them and getting results from it.

You can’t be seduced by vanity metrics for too long if you keep your eye on your real metrics. You’ll know your actions (whether it’s speaking at a telesummit, spending tons of time on Facebook to get more likes, or refreshing your page views) are paying off or not.

Finally, telesummits are seductive because they have the specter of community and collaboration. Much of what is attractive to business for so many is building what they do not have: a group of people who care about the same thing as them and working together to bring more of that into the world.

Telesummits are successful with that on some level. However, in most cases, it’s fleeting, shallow, and unproductive. Except when great care is given (and when people throw away the blueprint), the audience isn’t a community, it’s a bunch of email addresses in a CSV file. The speakers aren’t a collaborative network, they’re a disjointed smattering of pseudo-experts who were chosen for promotional purposes.

By all means, find ways to create community and collaboration in your business but make sure it’s deep, real, and truly valuable. Be generous and specific with what you have to offer. Court influencers and earn their respect. Treat your audience as you would want to be treated. Tie all of that to real metrics.

If what you decide to create is a telesummit, that’ll be good marketing.

Hi, I’m Tara Gentile. I help idea people love business so they can earn the customers, cash, and influence they crave. I’m the founder of Quiet Power Strategy®, a company specializing in hands-on training and support for idea-driven business owners. I’m the author of several books on money and entrepreneurship.

My work has been featured on Fast Company, Forbes, and Inc. I’m a bestselling instructor on CreativeLive and I speak all over the world on money, entrepreneurship, and marketing.

You can get access to my complete resource library plus my entrepreneurial support community, FREE, for 10 days. Click here to request your invitation.

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.

Our Successes All Look Different: How to Recognize Yours

The other day, I was scrolling through a friend’s wall on Facebook looking for a post. I noticed that, in fact, most of the posts weren’t from her but were other people posting on her wall celebrating this or sharing that. I thought, “Wow, all those wall posts are signs of just how influential she is. Maybe I need to work harder so that I be that influential too.”

See what happened there? I allowed a positive metric of one person’s success tell me I’m not as successful as I’d like to be (or as successful as she is).

I had a similar conversation with a couple clients recently, too. They were concerned that their communities didn’t act the same way a competitor’s community acted and worried that was affecting the performance of their businesses.

When we see disparities like this, our natural inclination is to find fault with ourselves. Self-judgement is the reflex.

What if, instead, you saw this as a result of your personal strategic decisions? What if you decided to express your own results as Key Performance Indicators of your core strategy and then seek additional ways to manifest those results?

For my business, effusive posts on my Facebook wall might be fun but they don’t really reflect the way the awesome people who read my blog or work with me would naturally respond to my work because of conscious choices I’ve made in my strategy. Instead, they write emails, Tweet me, or invest 3 days time to watch me on CreativeLive. For the clients I mentioned above, their own awesome people respond to their work by making taking serious action toward their goals and sharing much more privately.

We all have different ways to “move the needle” on our businesses and each of those methods has different corresponding effects. One person’s strategic decisions create different outward effects than another person’s. What’s more, those strategic decisions (her Quiet Power) are unique to that individual and her business. What works for me won’t work for you. What works for Marie Forleo won’t work for me. What works for Facebook won’t work for Marie Forleo. And as a result, our successes all look different.

Plenty of people will try to sell you one-size-fits-all tactics and give you can’t-lose metrics to follow, but the truth is that there is no correct solution save the one that is most effective for you and your business.

Your business strategy should be dictated by What You Want to Create and How You Want to Connect. The decisions you make in those two areas dictate Who Your Business Attracts and How They Respond. Understanding the interplay between these areas helps you stay out of the weeds and out in front of your business. Instead of making reactive decisions or action plans, you make proactive ones because you’re guided by metrics and indicators that are actually relevant to your own personal strategy.

You should choose who you’re going to pursue and how you’re going to measure their response based on what’s actually going to create results for you.

Look at the unique people your business attracts and how they respond to your business:

  • What strategic decisions have you made that attract those people to your business and influence how they respond to it?
  • What indicators of success can you extract from how your people respond?
  • What reactions would show you that you’re on the right path?
  • What responses or methods of response could you use to track your effectiveness?

You might find that Facebook shares fit both your strategic decisions and the direction you want to take next year. Or you might decide that email subscriptions are where it’s at and you want to do everything you can to have your people respond by subscribing. You might choose purchases as an indicator of effectiveness and work to understand how your strategy influences the way your awesome people choose to buy.

As you look to the coming year, choose one indicator to monitor closely. Experiment with your marketing and sales efforts to see how you can affect that indicator. Then pay special attention to how you can use that indicator to reach your business goals.

How Wedge15 Used The Living Room Strategy to Make an Impact and Make Money Fast, Too

Your goal is simple: take your big idea to market.

But do you ever feel overwhelmed with the idea of putting your ideas, your aesthetics, even a career’s worth of expertise into a product or service offering? For many, it can be paralyzing. Instead of figuring out how to make money fast, you’re stuck on a mental hamster wheel that may or may not pay any kind of dividend down the road.

Couple that with the images of content marketers, startup founders, and idea people crushing it with big launches, fancy websites, and [potentially] crazy price tags; it only makes it worse. You want to do your ideas justice. You want to pay your bills. And, if you’re anything like me, you feel your competitive spirit starting to morph from helpful to harmful.

How to Use the Living Room Strategy to Make Money Fast

The good news is that big ideas don’t start big. They start small. Their creators tap into the essence of the idea—the very reason people need it to begin with—and create the minimum.

Creating the bare minimum is a great way to make money fast in a way that’s sustainable, honest, and strategic.

Businesses you know and love started this way. Think Facebook, Dropbox, Google, DailyWorth, Mailchimp … the list could go on and on. They turned the a simple “make money fast” strategy into big impact and long-term revenue growth.

Yet, time and again, we try to do better and go big right out of the gate.

During my last CreativeLive workshop, I introduced the idea of the Living Room Strategy. In other words, you don’t need to fill a stadium full of customers with your new idea for it to be a success, for it to impact all the right people. You can start by filling a Living Room.

Even better, filling a Living Room first can give you the experience, feedback, and stories you need to fill that stadium when you’re ready. The Living Room Strategy is the process by which you make the first set of invitations to your idea, host your intimate dinner party of an idea, and then gather feedback on how to make it better next time.

After my CreativeLive workshop, Gloria Roheim McRae put the idea to the test. Gloria had a decade-long global career but left her last position in 2010 to launch her entrepreneurial journey in digital strategy. In 2013, she and her husband merged their businesses to become Wedge15 Inc. and enjoyed great success. They’ve served hundreds of clients individually, self-published a best-selling book, and been featured throughout the media.

But they still faced familiar dilemmas when it came to taking their ideas to scale:

  • When do you create the content?
  • How do you ensure it sells?
  • How much time and energy do you need to put into marketing it?
  • How do you push your next big thing to live up to the reputation of your tried and true big thing?

Inspired by what she saw on CreativeLive and with fellow Living Room Strategy user Marie Poulin, Gloria constructed a plan. She says, “we created a landing page, a wait list and mentioned we would launch in October 2014. Our intention was to sell out the BETA program at half price to help us pilot the full priced program with customer feedback and reviews in 2015.” She acted fast and with focus. Gloria and her husband Ricardo honed in on what values would shape the program (“intimate and interactive”) and decided to do things very differently than they’d done them in the past.

Here’s a sample of what they did:

  • Didn’t wait to be done creating the program but instead let the program grow around the participants. Gloria says, “You made it look easy and fun, and it was.”
  • Focused on personalizing the launch to a small wait list instead of generalizing their marketing to their full list.
  • Invited prospects to a free in-person private dinner event to find out what their pains were, in their own words.
  • Tailored the program to exactly meet their pain points where they were instead of trying to push them 10 steps ahead.
  • Wrote their sales copy using customer-centered pain points instead of expert-centered ideas of what’s going wrong and what they need to fix.
  • Highlighted their own expert’s perspective to formulate a clear statement of value (their hypothesis).
  • Delivered great content that gave their wait list a taste of their offer but didn’t try to sell it.
  • Opened applications at the end of their series of content.
  • Reviewed applicants and only those that we thought would be an ideal fit were sent the registration link to pay and secure their spots.
  • Followed-up individually with successful candidates to keep the momentum going and confirm the sale.
  • Maintained the energy of the initial invitation period through a variety of content marketing and posted until the very last minute.

In the end, Wedge15 had a $7200 Beta launch that sold out their Branding School program. They were able to welcome a small group of the perfect customers into their “living room” for an intimate and interactive experience of great material, tailor made for them.

Maybe this example applies directly to you in your business right now. Or maybe you’re considering a new service offering and wondering how you can get the first 5 clients to try it out before you unleash the offer to all of your prospects. Or maybe you’re thinking about a new collection of home goods for your textile business and wondering how you can ensure the first 10 wholesale orders to recoup the initial expense of production.

The same concepts apply. Start small with the very essence of the idea and the core values that influence how you want to deliver it. Know who you want to invite to purchase, who you want to create for. Devise a way for those people to find out about the offer—personal invitations work great—and then create a way for them to RSVP with a yes.

She says that without this approach, “I would have let the process defeat me and delayed launching again until things ‘felt perfect.’” Instead, Gloria’s customers are enjoying the benefit of her knowledge, experience, and brilliant ideas. And now Gloria is primed for a much bigger launch the next time around—if she wants to make it bigger.

Have you been letting the process defeat you? Have you delayed taking your idea to market because of a fear of everything you have to do to “crush it?” Do you fear that making money fast now could hurt your chances of making good money down the road?

It doesn’t have to be this way. Follow Gloria’s example. Or, join me in Kick Start Labs where you can find the official Living Room Strategy training & workbook, plus plenty of other training for maximizing your business with minimal effort.

Kick Start Labs is where creative entrepreneurs go for training, support, and a good kick in the business pants. Click here to learn more.

 

 

Why You Should Put Your Product In Exactly the Right Hands

Lately, I’ve found myself using a phrase I haven’t used in years: hand selling. Back in my days at America’s former second largest bookseller, hand selling was my favorite thing.

In bookselling, hand selling is making a recommendation to a customer based on her description of what she’s looking for. Literary vampire fiction? Funny but informative non-fiction by a journalist? Gothic books about books and the people who love them? I had you covered.

I read Publisher’s Weekly religiously. I poured over displays. I read advance copies. I did everything I could to have an answer when a customer asked me for a book. And if I didn’t know the right book for her, I would know the team member who would.

Why? Because there was no greater joy than connecting the right person with the right book.

How Hand Selling Can Improve Your Online Business

That’s it: knowing that what I put into that person’s hands was exactly what they needed for their next reading fix.

It would make my day.

Now, why am I thinking about hand selling again after so long?

There’s a misconception in the online space that customers will (or need to) come to you. Yes, inbound marketing is a beautiful thing but it’s not the only thing. Especially with markets and conversations as crowded—and loud—as they are.

Sometimes, you need to put your solution in the hands of the right people. That can not only make your goals, but make their days.

When is hand selling the right solution for your business?

  • When you’re offering a “beta” or Minimum Viable Product version of an offer
  • When you’re branching into new territory either with your offerings or your market
  • When you’re feeling sure of your value but unsure of your drawing in your right prospects
  • When your network is a goldmine of potential clients

The truth is that it’s not always feasible to expect that your existing audience will supply the necessary numbers to make your product idea work. You might have to look elsewhere. And that will probably require making individual offers, supplying personalized insights, and looking for specific problems your new offer can solve.

Put your product in the hands of the people who need it most. Make their day. And feel good about it—even if that means selling your work one book at a time.