Writing & publishing books–for sale–has been my marketing secret weapon for the last 5 years.
But I can hear you saying now: What the heck am I going to write a book about?
(Even if you’re not, you’re probably wondering how to turn your idea into something really engaging and effective for your readers.)
I’ve got an easy exercise you can use to figure it out.
Now, what if you’re not writing a book? This technique works great for any big marketing project you want to embark on (a free course, video series, conference, etc…).
How to Choose Your Idea
Imagine sitting down with the top podcaster, journalist, or writer in your space. They’re really interested in what you do and how it’s different from the rest of the field.
They’d like to know more and you’re excited to answer their questions.
Write down the 5 questions you’d most like to be asked in an interview about what you do in your business.
Then, answer those questions.
Once you’re done, look for the ideas or insights in your answers that separate you from the rest of your space.
Also, look for the things you feel most passionate about, the rants & raves you have about the problem you solve (as my friend Dr. Michelle Mazur would say).
Choose one. Select a differentiator, a rant, or a rave from your interview.
That, my friend, is the topic for your book (or any big marketing project).
Want more? Watch the video clip above or listen to this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. where I jam on what publishing books has done for my business and how self-publishing has changed since I was a bookstore manager.
Then, mark your calendars for my FREE class on writing & publishing your first (or next) book on CreativeLive.
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?
If you’re like most of the small business owner members I run into at CoCommercial, you’ve no doubt spent countless hours to learn marketing, service delivery, product development, customer service, operations, and management. There’s also a good chance you’ve spent thousands of dollars on this training, too.
And still, you have questions about how to grow, run, and manage your small business.
What I’ve learned over the last 10 years of watching small business owners learn and grow, is that the questions that persist are the ones that only you can answer.
The missing piece is rarely a “how to” but instead a conscious, intentional, strategic decision that only you can make.
Unfortunately, most small business owners–maybe you, too–are still missing information to make that decision. They’ve invested their time and money into how-tos instead of the boots-on-the-ground experience that makes choosing a path (and sticking to it) much easier.
Once I realized where so many small business owners were going wrong with their training and support, I set about trying to solve the problem. Instead of contributing to the deluge of how-tos and blueprints for success, my company started to build a platform where members could easily and affordably access that boots-on-the-ground experience so that they could answer their business questions for themselves.
Now that we have hundreds of small business owners utilizing that platform on a daily basis, I can see even more clearly where small business owners go wrong with the questions they seek answers too:
- They’re gathering how-tos and information to make the ultimate “to do” list for running their business. The more information they have, the more action they can take to make it work.
- They’re still seeking a formula, blueprint, or framework for success… even if they know that none exists. They’re–understandably–attracted to the idea that someone has already figured it out and they just need to recreate that success.
Either way, small business owners end up fixating on what doing the right thing instead of defining what the “right thing” is in the first place. Nilofer Merchant, a brilliant thinker on innovation and business strategy, put it this way:
“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.”
Sound about right?
You keep going back for information because information tends to give you a relatively tidy to-do list. You ask questions that fill up your task 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. Of course, taking the time to do just that is the difference between short-term success and long-term frustration… and long-term success and short-term frustration.
Below, you’ll find 5 of the business questions I see most often plus a different question to ask so that can get the information you need to make the best decision for your own business.
Which launch formula should I use to sell my product?
Every digital marketer has their own formula of emails, ads, webinars, and free content that add up to a sold-out campaign. The truth is that they all work–and it’s easy to get overwhelmed at the options.
Of course, while they all have the potential to work, none of them are right for your business if you don’t first know who you’re selling to, why they want to buy, and how your product solves their problem.
That’s why these launch formulas so often fail, even when they’re executed well. Any effective sales process starts by defining the most foundational elements of the buyer’s journey–not by laying out a magical mix of emails and video content.
Instead of asking Which, try asking How.
How do you want to connect with the right people?
Forget about learning specific tactics for a while 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.
Most small business owners actually want to develop very human, rich relationships with their customers or clients. They don’t want people to feel like cogs in a marketing machine. Even when they’re selling at scale, they want to maintain a sense of connection and personal caring.
Creating a sales campaign that captures this isn’t hard–and it doesn’t start with a formula. Plus, there are businesses marketing like this all around you! Watch how they’re nurturing relationships, crafting two-way conversations, and elevating their brands instead of following someone else’s formula–or better yet, ask them how they do it.
How do I build an online course?
Most small business gurus would like you to know that building an online course will solve all your problems. So the next logical step must be learning how to create one, right?
Sorry, building an online course is probably not the answer to your problems. In fact, there’s a high likelihood that creating a course is only going to cause you new problems.
Creating and marketing an online course can dramatically change the positioning of your brand, the market you’re trying to serve, and the relationship you have with the people who already trust you. Before you even think about an online course as a next step, there’s a much more important question you need to ask about what to sell…
How could my customers get the best results?
I 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.
When you start with a preconceived notion of what the final product needs to look like, you miss out on opportunities to innovate, differentiate, and stand out. Plus, your customers miss out on their best bet for getting the results they’re really looking for.
Instead of following someone else’s business model playbook, talk to people in your field and find out what’s working for them. Talk to others in adjacent fields who deliver their products or services in unique ways. Talk to people whose businesses look nothing like yours but with whom you share customer bases.
Gather information on what gets the best results and create something original from there.
How do I hire a Virtual Assistant?
You’re overworked and out of energy… and everyone is touting the virtues of hiring a virtual assistant. It’s tempting to think that hiring a VA could help you win back time, money, and sanity.
And, it could. But it might be a much better move to hire team members who can contribute value to your business in much more specific ways.
I see plenty of small business owners hire a Virtual Assistant with high hopes, only to realize they don’t know what their new assistant is supposed to do. They haven’t thought about the help they need or how someone else could actually create value for their business.
These small business owners often end up paying top dollar for data entry because that’s the only thing they can think to delegate.
That’s why it’s much more effective to start with a different question:
How could others create value for my business & my customers?
Small business owners most often think about hiring help as a process of delegation. They hand off what could be done by someone else and hold on to the things that “only they” can do.
What happens in practice is that the notion that there is work that only the owner can do is reinforced. Instead of seizing the opportunity to create systems and scale, the same old bad habits persist. The short-term gain of getting some help is quickly overcome by the long-term hassle by having to manage someone who can only do the basics.
When you consider how others might contribute and create more value for your business, you’re really thinking long-term. These are the kind people and roles that can actually replace you in your business. They find new ways to support your customers, sell your products, and manage your operations.
Now, this might seem like a dream scenario–in other words, that it’s only possible in your dreams! That’s why it’s really important to talk through this question with people who have already accomplished this. You don’t know who you should hire first (or next) until you’ve seen how others have actually freed themselves from their business.
What tool should I use for my email list?
I love technology. I love how many digital tools we have to run our small businesses today.
Heck, most of us wouldn’t be entrepreneurs in the first place if it wasn’t for the copious amount of tools that make it possible!
That all said, deciding what tools to use can be overwhelming. At CoCommercial, we often see members asking for recommendations for software and apps.
Luckily, most people don’t just spit out their tool-of-choice in response. They dig a little deeper and ask questions that get to the answer of this 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 that 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.
How do I use my podcast/blog/YouTube channel to sell more?
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. There’s no formula to tell you exactly what to write or talk about that will get you more customers.
But you can learn how to anticipate what content will move more people toward buying if you consider how they buy and what insight they need to take action.
How is my customer already shopping and where can I meet them where they’re at with content?
If you haven’t stopped to consider how your customer actually goes about buying, you’re probably missing a big opportunity for your podcast, blog, or YouTube channel.
Most small business owners work hard to get customers to buy the way the business wants them to buy but fail to take into account how the customer is already shopping. Are your customers searching on Google? Are they asking for referrals? Are they signing up for demos?
There’s a good chance your customer is already well aware of their problem (on one level or another) and in the market for a solution. The sooner you can make your podcast, blog, or YouTube channel intersect with that search, the sooner you can make a sale.
The good news is that there is plenty of information to be had here. You can talk to other business owners in similar fields or with similar customer bases to find out how their customers learned about their offers and made a purchase. You can pay attention to your own buying habits and learn from your process. And, you can talk to your own past customers to see what process they used to decide to buy from you.
Find the right business questions.
Maybe I addressed a question that’s been on your mind in this post and maybe I didn’t. But hopefully, you see that for every question that is bound to add 67 to-dos to your task list, there’s a better question that streamlines your tasks and clarifies your strategy.
You won’t find the answers to these questions on Google. But you can find them in the space you make for strategic thinking and the conversations you have with other small business owners.
If you could use more space for strategic thinking and rich conversations with business owners who have been there, done that, check out CoCommercial. We’re making it easy for small business owners to work together to answer questions like these and to overcome daily challenges, solve big problems, and achieve even bigger goals. Click here to learn more about CoCommercial.
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):
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!
Director of Marketing & Events
PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THIS
Notice 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.