A little over a year ago, I noticed my next guest for the Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast, Dorie Clark, start working a systematic content strategy. Of course, that’s not really something of note in the digital marketing space: anytime someone has something to promote or starts a new venture, you’ll see their name start popping up everywhere.
But Dorie was different. Dorie was writing for sites like Harvard Business Review, not the typical online business or digital marketing blogs. I watched her topics slowly get more focused, the messages get cleaner.
I got more and more excited to see someone from the ranks of top business schools use methods I was so familiar with.
It didn’t surprise me at all, then, to find out that Dorie had been placing “little bets,” a term coined by Peter Sims, in order to see what topics would grow her audience, generate the seed of a book, and position her as a thought leader. I talked with Dorie about this plan and how it has resulted in not one but 2 books published with major houses.
Dorie also more than doubled her email list in the last year—of course, I asked her all about that, too.
To find out how Dorie Clark turned little bets into book deals, content strategy into a massive email list, and the odd academic pursuit that she and I both have in common listen to her interview on Profit. Power. Pursuit.
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Stop waiting for people to come to you.
That’s the #1 thing you should change.
I didn’t even make you wait for the big pay off. That’s how important this is. I want you to repeat this to yourself over and over again until it sinks in:
Stop waiting for people to come to you.
The problem here is that there is one fundamental misconception about social media and content marketing that all not-quite-really-successful business owners suffer from:
The misconception is that all this content you’re creating and those connections you’re making will make people bang down your door to buy things from you.
Sure, every so often that happens.
But more often, I hear stories of people with big platforms and almost zero revenue. Or, I hear stories from people who are diligently keeping up with every social media platform and still not seeing any returns. Or, I hear stories from bloggers who write and write and write and don’t make sales.
It’s a waiting game. And it’s not very much fun to play.
Business owners that succeed go out and find the right people: the right customers, the right clients, the right influencers, the right partners.
It’s not a mindless hustle. It’s a thoughtful, intentional quest for influence, impact, and income.
Have you been waiting for your turn at success?
Maybe you keep writing blog posts and distributing them to your audience, but you never give your calls to action the main stage treatment they deserve.
Maybe you diligently respond to mentions on social media but never approach the people you’ve connected with to connect them to an offer you’re making.
Maybe you retweet, share, or quote your favorite influencers hoping they’ll notice you but never send them a note and say thanks for what they do.
Today, do 1 of these three things:
1) Send out an email to your audience and ask for the sale. That’s it. Ask them to coach with you, buy from your shop, invest in one of your programs. Tell them how their lives will be different because of it—and then ask.
2) Make a list of 10 people you’ve connected with on social media (or during in-person networking) that you’d like to work with. Write a quick, personal note to them inviting them to work with you.
3) Send an email to an influencer you admire and say thanks. Seek out their email address—but if you can’t find it, don’t let a contact form or general support email stop you. Send it—I would bet money your influencer gets it.
I’ll be writing more about how to plan to change your business to get more of the results you’re looking for next year. In the meantime, check out these posts if you missed them:
— Why you have a hard time making action plans & sticking to them
— 5 resolutions to bring about your next business breakthrough
When I talked to Sue Bryce for the Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast, I wanted to find out how someone so open, vulnerable, and approachable could also be so confident and self-assured. Sue doesn’t just have presence and poise—she has a conviction about the value of her work that borders on bravado in the best possible way.
Sue has no qualms telling women, “I will take the best photograph of you that you’ve ever seen.”
Can you say that about your work? Do you?
There are so many creative and idea-driven business owners who love their work, delight in their ideas, but don’t have that conviction. It shows in the way they talk about what they do, market what they offer, approach sales conversations, and price their wares.
Sue says, “People who devalue money devalue themselves.”
And, I think the reverse can be said as well. People who devalue themselves devalue money. If you find yourself constantly cursing the need to sell, if you find yourself regularly decrying the almighty dollar, you might want to reconsider what you think about yourself.
When you find deep-rooted confidence in your work and in yourself, you can come into a much easier relationship with money. Sue does a lot of hard work on herself and her personal growth to facilitate that relationship. And that, I found, seems to be the connection between her openness and vulnerability and her unwavering confidence. It’s a beautiful combination.
Listen to Sue Bryce’s interview on the Profit. Power. Pursuit podcast and subscribe to receive new episodes automatically.
Why do some businesses seem to “tip” over and over again while others never quite seem to break through? I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure that out.
Often their businesses look identical on the outside. Many times, the difference boils down to a misunderstanding about what’s going on beneath the surface and how they engineer the success they achieve.
You can’t possibly hope to recreate a business’s success by recreating what you see at the surface level. You’ve got to dig in and figure out what else is happening.
In this post, I’d like to reveal some of the actions that are causing big business breakthroughs for the entrepreneurs you’re admiring and how you can apply them for yourself as New Business Year’s resolutions—now, or anytime throughout the year.
If you’re trying to engineer a tipping point or breakthrough in your business right now, you’re not alone. It probably goes without saying, but everyone I work with is in that situation: they’re ready for change. They’re tipping from part-time to full-time, one-to-one sales to leveraged sales, paying the bills to creating wealth, going at it alone to growing a team, moving from one business model to another to generate exponentially more revenue.
They each tell me, “I know what got me here won’t get me where I want to go.” And, I wholeheartedly agree.
What tipping point are you at? What breakthrough do you want to engineer for your business in the next year? Maybe you’re ready to break through to a new revenue threshold. You’re ready to hire a new team member. You’re ready to expand operations or roll out new offers. You’ve got growth on your mind and you’re busy putting the pieces into place to make that happen.
Here’s what is going on behind-the-scenes of the businesses that are constantly making it happen. What can you incorporate into your next plan?
1.) Put boots on the ground and find new customers.
It might seem like your next revenue breakthrough is just a traffic-building tactic away. You’re probably regularly on the look out for new ways to get more eyeballs on your blog posts, Facebook page, or sales letters. Maybe you’re looking at running Facebook ads, or the finer points of JV webinars, or constantly building new welcome gifts to entice people to your email list.
But the most effective community builders and salespeople know that nothing beats putting boots on the ground to find new customers. Literally. They’re at conferences, hosting events, picking up the phone, and meeting with prospects.
It might be slow going but the results are staggering. These people land bigger gigs, sign better contracts, and create strong relationships with influencers that put them in front of hundreds or thousands of more customers in the end.
2.) Set prices based on goals and hard data.
Sales solves most business problems. Except, when it doesn’t. Sales can’t get you to your next business breakthrough if the prices of your products or services just make things worse every time you sell something.
Breakthrough business owners use hard data to set their prices. And, they set prices based on what they want, instead of what they have.
How do they do it? They figure out how much it costs to run the business they want (not the one they have) and they figure out how much it costs to live the life they want (not the one they have).
Then they break it down. How much can they reasonably sell? What does that knowledge lead to in terms of price points? Where do those price points lead you in terms of positioning? To have a big breakthrough, you need to think of price as a way to reach all of your goals—not just revenue.
Price tells a story that can position your brand, woo the right customers, and lead to big life changes.
3.) Decide to spend more.
I’m all for finding the leanest, meanest way to make your business run. But I’m so tired of hearing business owners always looking for a free solution to their problems.
You see, free solutions have a cost. Every time someone dials your conference line and hears, “Service provided by Free Conference Call,” they make a judgement about your business. Every time you can’t use an important feature of an app because you’re not paying for it, it costs you effectiveness and functionality.
You’ll never hit a breakthrough that makes you feel comfortable spending more. It’s a decision you make that you are worth it, your customers are worth it, and your business is worth it. This kind of worth doesn’t come from revenue—it comes from intense focus on what the vision of what you’re creating.
4) Don’t try so hard.
Business breakthroughs rarely come from working harder. In fact, working harder can make your breakthrough far more difficult to achieve. Why? Because innovation doesn’t come from working harder, it comes from creative constraints.
Whenever you feel yourself pushing to make something happen, take a step back and reevaluate. What’s really going on?
- Is there a skill you’ve avoided learning?
- Do you need help from someone more experienced?
- Is your current business model holding you back from earning more?
- Is there a fatal flaw in your plan?
- Are you avoiding the temporary discomfort of growth by relying on what you know (working harder)?
If working harder is your usual MO, put new constraints in place by answering these questions. Give yourself a limited number of clients to reach your revenue goal (price accordingly). Learn a new skill (stop spinning your wheels). Connect with a mentor (stop trying to figure it out yourself).
5) Take advantage of a solid support network.
Stop trying to grow your business in isolation. Stop waiting for others to catch up. Stop cultivating relationships that feel safe. There is no more pressing time to break out of your comfort zone than when it comes to building your support network.
You need to connect with people who intimidate you, use different methods, and work in different industries. You need people in your corner who are making things happen at the same—or faster—pace as you are. Sometimes, you need to pay money to establish these relationships quickly. That’s okay.
Other times, you need to make serious investments of time. That’s okay, too. Relationship-building has a cost. But the return on investment is incredible.
Stop waiting for people to come to you and start building a network that catapults your business forward. No matter how you choose to set resolutions (or not) for the new year, integrate these ideas and watch them transform your business.
Now, I’d like to hear from you. What’s your big business goal for the next 12 months? Click here and tell me—and please be specific!
For as much as you love the idea of figuring out how to do business your way, you also want a clear-cut action plan. You sense that someone else has come along and figured out the best way to launch a program, turn a service into a product, or build a compelling brand, and you want to know the 1-2-3 step plan for making that happen.
But you’re also not naive. You know there’s no cookie cutter action plan that just works for everyone. So you try to create your own.
And you still come up short. You take action only to find yourself back in the weeds and confused about priorities.
Why does that happen?
I’ve been thinking about this problem quite a bit. I want to figure out why it is so easy for me to turn an idea into effective action and so difficult for so many other people.
Here’s my current hypothesis:
Your action plans fail because they assume your goals require linear action. You try to create a set of steps to follow instead of a strategic map that incorporates all areas of your business.
Once you’ve passed the startup stage of your business, all of your execution has to be integrated action instead of linear action.
Linear action is “first I do this, then I do that, then I’ll do the next thing.” Integrated action means knowing that when you act on one thing, it affects many other parts of your business. One simple action can create a chain reaction of necessary actions.
To get the most out of any plan, you need to account for how you’ll manage those chain reactions. Some, you’ll act on immediately. Those are the things that best support your strategy and help you create the most amount of leverage. Others, you’ll intentionally put on the back burner. You can’t do everything right away.
You also need to know your overall strategy for each area of your business so that once you realize a chain reaction is occurring in that area, you can act with intention in line with your strategy.
Here’s what that looks like in my business:
I’ve started a complete restructuring plan for 2016. It includes changing the format and scope of the foundational Quiet Power Strategy™ program, adding additional outcome-oriented programs, and building multiple channels for new members to join our community.
I started by planning out the first 6 months of the year on giant calendars. This was linear action planning. Now I can see when I will start promoting, launching, selling, and delivering our new programs.
However, if that’s all I would do, my plan would fail.
Now that I have a basic structure for my 2016 plan, I need to rework many other parts of my business. I’ve decided to rebrand our membership community and incorporate it into Quiet Power Strategy™; I’ve decided to move from Mailchimp (sad face, still love ‘em!) to ConvertKit; I’ve created a plan for identifying, segmenting, and nurturing new members based on their interests so that we can connect them to the right offers.
Each one of those things (and the many other decisions and systems involved) warrants its own linear action plan. But again, without integrating that into the overall plan, those action plans are worthless.
If you try to reduce your action plans to linear action, you’ll always (and I mean, always) come up short. A formula—even one of your own creation—is just never good enough. One step in that formula will always lead to another chain reaction of steps.
This is also why it feels like you’re regularly biting off more than you can chew. Once you get started on a good plan, it quickly spirals out of control because you realize just how much more there is to do.
One way I’ve found to effectively combat this problem is to pre-mortem my plans. A pre-mortem is essentially a way to reverse engineer your problem-solving and incorporate it into your action plan to begin with. When you do a pre-mortem, pretend your plan has utterly failed—the patient is dead on the table—then list any and all reasonable factors that could have contributed to its failure.
Once you have that list, countermeasures need to be integrated into your action plan. Now, you have an integrated action plan.
As you turn your focus to the next phase of your business, pay special attention to the chain reactions that necessarily occur because of the decisions you make. Create plans that anticipate and incorporate these chain reactions so that you’re not left in a lurch with your action planning.
I love idea-driven businesses. They’re not just solving problems, they’re not just serving people, they’re not just putting cool products out into the world.
Idea-driven businesses are fueled by the pursuit of change.
Their innovation is born from a deep desire to change the way people think about themselves, their businesses, their homes, their careers, their wardrobes, their families, etc…
Idea-driven businesses come in all shapes and sizes. Some create physical products, others offer services, still more offer education or training.
I’ve been working primarily with idea-driven businesses for about the last 5 years. I’ve encountered them at all stages and have created systems for tackling the biggest problems they face. So with this article, I want to shed light on the different stages of idea-driven business and what problems each stage entails so that you have a better idea of where your idea-driven business is and where it’s headed.
I’ve included a description of each stage, the biggest difficulty the business faces in each, what happens during the transition from one stage to the next, and, finally, the inflection point that changes the transition from eventual to intentional.
STAGE 1: STARTUP
A startup is defined as a business that is trying to figure out how it will make money, reach a growing number of customers, and build the systems it needs for continuous optimization.
Yes, this normally comes with the trappings of venture capital, hip offices in an expensive city, and fancy parties. But it absolutely doesn’t have to.
At the heart of whether a business is a startup or not is 1 core activity: learning.
Think about when you started your business: did you know what product or service offers would work? Did you know the best way for you to find customers? Did you know what you even wanted your business to look like at maturity? No.
You were learning. You were learning how you could reliably make money; you were learning how you should connect with the right people; and, you were learning how to do those things more efficiently so you didn’t lose your mind (hopefully).
This is the Startup Stage of idea-driven business. At this stage, the idea may not even be articulated. It could be more of an ethos or personal philosophy in the back of your mind. You don’t know the value of it yet—and how could you?
You’re simply figuring out how you can make money, reach the right people, and do things more efficiently as you go in an effort to create positive change for people. You start doing the work, put up a website, and learn how your work is most useful.
BIGGEST DIFFICULTY: Finding people to offer your product or service to so you can learn.
THE TRANSITION: As your business starts to enter the transition to the next stage, you find yourself reasonably confident about what will sell and what won’t. You have a hazy understanding of where you can find new customers when you need them. You’re paying the bills but it’s not always easy. You’re excited about your business but the reality of how you will make it grow seems incredibly daunting.
INFLECTION POINT: You realize that nothing will change unless your business changes. Your business can’t grow without a significant adjustment to the way it creates, delivers, and exchanges value.
STAGE 2: GROWTH
The Growth Stage begins when you don’t just repeat what’s worked in the past but truly understand why it’s worked. When you know why certain products, tactics, or messages have worked, you can engineer new products, tactics, or messages based on that same principle.
Now, you begin to take control of the growth of your idea-driven business. It’s intentional expansion—not the unintentional explosion that often leads to collapse.
In the Growth Stage, you might need a waiting list or to get some production assistance. Things are still tight but you’re starting to see how they could work out—and you sense wiggle room might be just around the corner.
BIGGEST DIFFICULTY: Finding ways to serve more people without burning out.
TRANSITION: Here is where your idea starts to emerge. You discovered it hiding underneath the unique way you offer your work and you’ve started to talk about it. That idea has helped your business growth gain traction and momentum.
INFLECTION POINT: You realize you’re spinning your wheels on growth. There’s little point in reaching more people because your business doesn’t have a way to serve them. Because there’s little point, you’re not doing what you need to do to reach more people. Revenue growth stalls—even if reach does not.
STAGE 3: LEVERAGE
The Leverage Stage begins when you use your idea as a way to do more with less work. Your idea becomes the heart & soul of your message, offers, brand, and business model. Your business is known for its unique perspective. Your business has stopped trying to be everything to everyone.
Idea-driven businesses don’t always scale as they grow—but to reach a level of ease, they must find leverage.
Focus is the key to leverage. You focus on 1 message. You focus on 1 growth channel. You focus on 1 offer. You focus on 1 customer. It’s counterintuitive to get more specific and add more constraints to your business to create leverage—but it’s key.
BIGGEST DIFFICULTY: Clearly and concisely describing what you offer to appeal to the right people at the right time.
TRANSITION: As your business starts to enter the transition to the next stage, you sense that all that focus will allow your business to expand if only you can create the systems and get the help that will allow that to happen.
INFLECTION POINT: You see a pattern among your customers that point to additional ways you could be serving them. All you need is a way to make it happen—and you could significantly increase your revenue per customer.
STAGE 4: MICROENTERPRISE
The microenterprise is the startup all grown up. It’s lean, mean, and changing the world.
And you, as its owner, are not burnt out. You’re enjoying the freedom, control, independence, and influence that you imagined when you started this whole thing. You’re working your systems, optimizing regularly, and letting your growth machine do most of the work.
You have a team to support you and your ideas. You’re not responsible for every email, decision, or sale. You have time to think, be creative, and enjoy being an executive.
BIGGEST DIFFICULTY: Knowing when to disrupt your own systems or process.
Orienting your business to the stage that you’re in helps you anticipate pitfalls, plan proactively, and discern your next steps. Plus, when you know what stage you’re in, you know you’re not alone. The frustrations you feel and the goals that you have put you in the company of other smart idea people who are making things happen.
Building a business is a journey–enjoy the ride.