I started my entrepreneurial journey when an interesting blog post was enough to get you attention…
…a well-crafted tweet could start a long-term working relationship with a partner, and a podcast — well, people still didn’t quite know what to do with those.
Needless to say, social media, blogging, and podcasting have changed a lot in the last 8 and a half years I’ve been in business.
Email marketing has changed a lot too. Sending weekly email used to feel like a lot but now, if you’re not sending several times a week, your emails are probably getting lost in the sea of other emails your subscribers are getting.
The fact is “what works” has changed.
In fact, for many business owners I know, it seems nothing works anymore.
If you’re feeling like you’re working hard to share your business with people who care but you just aren’t getting anywhere, it can be debilitating. After all, how can you put any effort toward the work you really want to do if you can even get people to pay attention?
After months or years of perceived invisibility, you’re likely to give up altogether.
This summer, I was speaking with Lisa Robbin Young, founder of Ark Entertainment Media, about this and she said, “When people say nothing is working, what they’re really talking about is tactics.” I couldn’t agree more.
Tactically, the marketing landscape is going through a sea change.
Power is consolidating among a few key platforms. Those platforms — your distribution channels for marketing — control how content is shared, who you can connect with, and what gets seen. Without a reliable way to spread the word about what you’re putting out into the world, even the media you own has less value to you as a business owner.
It might seem, at this point, that the situation is dire.
There is still a huge opportunity today for independent businesses like yours.People are hungry to buy from companies that represent their values, make them feel things other than rage or fear, and create meaningful or innovative offers.
Yours is one of those companies.
So then how do you reach the people who are so hungry to buy from you?
It’s certainly not by trying to make an end run around the Facebook algorithm, outsmart the bots on Twitter, or plaster your marketing messages all over the latest copy of Snapchat.
Forget looking for the magic marketing tactic that’s going to turn your business around and start getting real about what your marketing needs to do for you.
1.) Market one person at a time.
Maybe you got the idea that social media was going to help you reach hundreds or thousands of people at once. Maybe you thought that you could create “some content” and suddenly the masses would see, like, and share it so that you wouldn’t have to actually talk to anyone about your business.
I’ll admit, there was a time when this was partially true. That time is not now.
Marketing is, and has always been, the pursuit of reaching one person at a time with something they desire or need — be it content, a product, or a conversation.
Forget figuring out how to broadcast to more people (yes, one day your Facebook reach will become zero) and start figuring out how to connect withthe exact right person who needs what you offer next.
You may very well still find them on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter — but you won’t find them by shouting out into the ether.
Next step: make a list.
I have my clients make lists of 10, 20, or 30 people they want to buy what they’re selling. Then they find ways of reaching those people one at a time.They might email, they might message them on Facebook, they might even — perish the thought — pick up the phone.
This genuine, personal attempt at connection almost always results in thousands of dollars in sales, fans for life, and a huge sigh of relief when they realize they never have to “launch” again.
2.) Focus on what you’re most enthusiastic about.
Your level of enthusiasm is a huge indicator in your likelihood of success when it comes to marketing.
Of course, since many business owners tell themselves they hate marketing, this is a big problem. Those folks aren’t going to be very enthusiastic. They’re the ones constantly trying to find that magic marketing tactic and their enthusiasm dips every time the latest fab falls flat.
Luckily for you, you can turn your enthusiasm into an unfair advantage.
Dacher Keltner, author of The Power Paradox, wrote, “Groups give us power when we are enthusiastic, speak up, make bold assertions, and express an interest in others.” He also says that enthusiasm was the strongest predictor ofsustained social power in the groups he studied. Feel free to substitute“group” with “market” or “community” here.
If you want to build earn attention and power for your business, you’re going to have to show some enthusiasm!
Next step: make another list. This time, list out 10–20 ideas or topics youvehemently disagree with in your market. Then, list out 5–10 aspects or features of your product or service that you’re incredibly passionate about.Finally, list out 5–10 misconceptions your potential customers make and how your offer turns them around.
You now have a huge list of things you can speak or write enthusiastically about. Try creating emails, blog posts, podcast episodes, or videos from this list. Try speaking to local groups about something on the list. Try bringing up list items in your next sales call.
Your enthusiasm will go a long way toward connecting you and your company to the right people.
3.) Show, don’t tell.
Your potential customers are more skeptical than they’ve ever been — and with good reason.
They’re really not interested in reading, hearing, or watching something that explains something they’ve heard a million times before — but never seen results from.
Nor do they want to hear how your product is the best, most innovative, or most fun ever created.
They need to see it. They want a demonstration. They want to be shown what’s on the inside, how it works, and why it works.
If your product is really different, they want to see that difference in fine detail — right alongside the things they’ve tried before.
And yes, “show, don’t tell” applies to service-based businesses as well as product-based businesses.
Next step: Get creative, get transparent, and be willing to put your offer side-by-side with other offers to show off the differences. Create a video, slideshow, infographic, or checklist that actually shows what’s truly unique and special about what you’re offering.
What’s working is nothing new.
The strategy and tactics you’ll need to successfully market your business are not being developed in a posh office in Silicon Valley right now. They’regrassroots, person-to-person, authentic, transparent actions that have always worked to grow businesses.
Those actions–like picking up the phone or speaking in front of a group of local community members–might make your heart race the way posting 10 times a day to Facebook does not but they’re infinitely more effective.
Whether you’re just getting started and wondering how to find your first 100 email subscribers or you have thousands of people in your audience and no clue how to re-engage them in this brave new world, the answer lies in these 3 keys: market one person at a time, focus on what you’re most enthusiastic about, and show don’t tell.
Wanna make more money? Do something new! Right?
It’s tempting to think that putting out another new product, repackaging your services in another cool way, or adding yet another new social media platform to your bevy of options will help you rake in more cash.
9 times out of 10, this is completely false.
The #1 branding mistake I see business owners making when it comes to their brands (and their business models) is thinking more equals better.
“More” most often means diluted.
22 Immutable Laws of Branding by Al Ries & Laura Ries
Another product people just don’t quite get, another form of content they don’t feel the need to keep up with, another message that doesn’t quite hit home.
What if you put all your energy into staking a claim on just 1 thing?
1 product, 1 service, 1 form of content, 1 message…
You might turn a small initial success into a $2.5m product.
You might publish a book that keeps the speaking gigs rolling in year after year.
Or, you might launch a podcast that skyrockets to the top of the charts and commands higher sponsorship fees than podcasts with larger audiences like this week’s Profit. Power. Pursuit. guest, Kathleen Shannon, did.
You’ll definitely have a stronger, more recognizable, and more profitable brand than you did before.
The key to a stronger brand, a bigger pay day, and more credibility in your market isn’t more, it’s more focused and more consistency.
What are you going to edit out of your brand or business today for the sake of focusing on the 1 thing that will get you where you want to go?
It’s almost half-way through the year and that means it’s a great time to take a minute to figure out if you’re where you wanted to be when you set your business goals back in December or January.
What were you thinking when you read that sentence?
- Uh, I didn’t set goals for 2015. I just take things as they come.
- Yes, sure am on track! Thanks for asking.
- No, things aren’t turning out the way I planned.
Regardless of how you answered, it’s time to set your course of action for the next 6 months (because who wants to be working hard in December?).
“Uh, I didn’t set business goals for 2015.”
Look, I get it. In Myers-Briggs, I’m an INTP and P stands for “not gonna plan ahead for anything I don’t have to.”
I used to resist planning ahead, setting long-term goals, and committing to a course of action. I could create small victories on the fly—what more could I want?
Turns out, I wanted a lot more. If you’re resistant to set long-term goals or commit to a long-term course of action but you still have ambition informing your vision, I hate to break it to you but it’s time to make a change. You don’t have to over-plan, but you want to action with a particular destination in mind.
Your Next Question: Where do you want to be a year from now? Where do you want your business to be a year from now? What’s it going to take to get there?
Setting your destination helps to set your strategy.
“Yes, sure am on track!”
Congratulations! So am I. I’m exactly where I planned to be. And now that I’m here, I’ve been able to adjust my plan to reach a stretch goal I had in mind but couldn’t quite see the path to.
If you’re right where you want to be, it can be extremely helpful to look a little farther down the field. Maybe you were hoping to kick a field goal at the end of this drive and instead, you’re in position to go for the touch down.
Do you know the course of action you’ll need to get there? Do you have the tools or planning processes in place to make that happen?
Your Next Question: What decisions will help you reach your stretch goal? Is it time to hire some one new? Raise prices? Offer something that’s been on your mind? Cut away deadweight from your business?
Strategy is all about decision-making and you’re in a great place to do it.
“No, things aren’t turning out the way I planned.”
I’ve been there. I’ve created great plans only to have certain variables not go my way.
One of our Quiet Power Strategy™ clients, Jennifer Racioppi, who helps high-performing women create the personal fortitude they need to put in the work, talks a lot about resilience. Resilience is the ability to change course when the going gets tough. It’s the quality you need to spring back up when you get pushed over.
Resilience is hard work.
But it’s so worth it.
If things aren’t going to plan halfway through the year, it’s time to make a commitment to yourself, your business, and your customers to reexamine the plan and adjust it based on the new information you have.
Your Next Question: What course corrections do you need to make?
Whether you haven’t had time to finish the project you thought you could, whether deals didn’t close as easily as you thought they should, whether all your pitching for media mentions and guest posts as fallen flat, you’ve got new data to work with. Take what you’ve learned and change course.
No matter how you answered…
No matter how you answered, it’s probably time to get some support in reaching your business goals. I’ll be opening pre-registration for the Fall session of Quiet Power Strategy (my hands-on business coaching program) in a couple of weeks. It might be exactly what you need to get where you’re going.
Of course, you can find support lots of place: colleagues, friends, mentors, and team members. Just don’t try to go it alone, okay?
You don’t get where you’re going (whether you’ve just decided where that is, you’re picking out a stretch goal, or whether you’re changing course) without help.
You grab a name tag, a glass of white wine (thank goodness for wine), and scan the room for someone you know. It’s filled with women in smart dresses and men in layered sweater-shirt combos. The light is manageable but low.
Really, the fact that you turned up at this shindig without a fallback buddy is kind of crazy. All you can see in the room is small huddles of people vacillating between laughing politely and furrowing their brows, well, politely.
Finally, you spot another lone wolf. You slowly start walking toward her and nervously ask her a question. You make polite smalltalk until one of the initiated invades your little duo of sanctuary.
You try to move on to another group, another conversation, another opportunity. Each time you make your approach the butterflies in your tummy turn into bees. They buzz up to your head. Your brain is overcome by the swarm. Sooner than later, you bail.
You just put yourself through something akin to hell and don’t even have a business card to show for it, let alone a real connection with someone knew who can help you book a new client or land a new account.
Maybe this isn’t your worst-case business-building scenario (it is mine). Maybe yours is sales calls or speaking gigs or email marketing. Maybe you love being funny but hate the expectation to perform. Maybe you love diving deep but hate holding someone’s hand.
Business tends to create opportunities to take action that make you feel uncomfortable, disquieted.
Worse, business can put you in a position where you think you need to do things that are painful, unprincipled, or sleazy.
Even when you reject the worst of those things (really, don’t do anything that makes you feel sleazy), you succumb to good advice, solid plans, and tried-and-true formulas that just don’t sit right with you.
Case in point: “If high-powered entrepreneurs go to networking events, surely I should to. That’s just a good plan.”
I’m going to let the cat out of the bag early: you don’t need to do anything in your business that isn’t aligned with your personal values or guiding principles.
But you knew that.
You’re not one to compromise your beliefs, your values, or your principles. It’s part of what got you into business in the first place.
What you probably don’t know is that there is a strategic way to develop a plan of action that is aligned with your personal values and guiding principles. There’s a strategic way to allow what makes you most effective and compelling turn into tactics and then results.
In other words, when you’re clear on the strategy, you can reverse engineer the tactics that are going to work best for you. Better, you can innovate new ones that put you light years ahead of the rest of the market. It’s not a matter of finding the right guru, formula, or expert; it’s a matter of becoming your own expert.
Let’s go back to the example of the networking event. This is a nightmare scenario for me. It’s not as bad as it used to be but it’s still really bad.
I want to connect with people. I love finding kindred spirits and people who want to help me fulfill my vision. But walking up to people at a networking event is not a condition for success for me.
I’ve had to ask myself whether I needed to push myself to accomplish this “should” of business or whether I could find a different way to connect with people.
This is a core question on Quiet Power Strategy™: How do you want to connect with others?
Too often, we focus on how we should connect with others. Or we fixate on what will work best to connect with others based on what’s working for other people.
All the shoulds and best practices in the world aren’t helpful if they’re not helpful, effective, efficient, and fulfilling to you and your business.
When I coach clients through developing their business strategy, I ask them:
- How have you best connected with others in the past?
- What conditions do you need to really create a connection with someone?
- What kinds of conversations lead to lasting relationships?
- What kinds of people are you looking to meet?
- When do you feel most persuasive or compelling?
Then, we create a plan that creates those conditions, sets them up to meet those kind of people, and helps the feel more persuasive and compelling.
For me, that means space to think about how to approach someone, time to consider my responses, the ability to research people first, and clear expectations for behavior. I’m an introvert, can you tell? That means that I’ve relied heavily on Twitter to connect with others. That’s lead to speaking engagements at Etsy headquarters, CreativeLive, and Pioneer Nation, among others. It’s also lead to relationships with bestselling authors like Chris Guillebeau, Sally Hogshead, and Nilofer Merchant. I can say with confidence that trying to networking-event my way to those connections would have failed miserably. I’m just not suited for it. And that’s okay.
This kind of strategic workaround works for any area of your business that’s feeling especially uncomfortable (or, worse, sleazy). Step back and look for way around. It doesn’t mean you’re copping out if you don’t take the hard road, it means you’re smart.
That said, you can’t just ignore the hard road; you need a strategic plan to get the results you want without having to do the things you don’t want to do.
That’s what my new book is all about. It’s coming out on February 10 but in the meantime, you can pick up a special sneak preview by clicking here.
How are you feeling about your business as the year starts to come to a close? Maybe you’re right where you want to be. But maybe you thought you’d be closer to a particular milestone or in better shape financially.
The time to review your business and plan for next year is now and yet, that can be extremely difficult when you’re feeling frustrated, stuck, or even feeling shame about where you’ve ended up. How can you engage the peace and gratitude you need to set your strategy and make a plan for next year so that you end up in a better position 12 months from now?
You’re not alone.
First, know that you’re not alone. Whether you’re just starting out, just hit the Microbusiness Earning Plateau, or whether you’ve been around the entrepreneurial block a hundred times, there are plenty of other people experiencing what you’re experiencing. It might help to set up some private chats with a few business owners in your network that you’re close to. You can mutually debrief with honesty and avoid the trap of sugar-coating on social media. Whether your friend is in the same position as you are or not doesn’t really matter since we’ve all experienced ups and downs on this path.
Revisit what worked.
Second, revisit what worked–no matter how small it might be. Make a list of victories: an interview, a great client, a fabulous testimonial, a met deadline. Look for patterns. What do the things that worked have in common? Maybe you used a particular personal strength or followed your gut instead of convention. Maybe it was the kind of client or a way you set up your workflow. Dig down and figure out why things worked, not simply what worked.
Revisit what didn’t work.
Third, do the same thing for what didn’t work. Yes, it will be painful but you’ll end up with more helpful information for the next round.
Run your numbers.
Next, run your numbers. I can’t stress this enough. Don’t hide from your numbers. When the end of what felt like my worst year yet rolled around, I ran my numbers and discovered that I had generated as much revenue as the year previous when I felt on top of the world. My business hadn’t grown but that was because I was reconfiguring my business model and repositioning my business, not because I was “bad.”
Ideally, you should be running your numbers at least monthly and reviewing them with someone who can help you interpret the information. But when you’ve been down on yourself or your business, it’s likely you’ve been putting off this task. Take this time to hit the reset button and commit to a better pattern for next year.
Identify a big win.
The penultimate step is identifying what would be a big win–right now. It’s never too late to grab a big win. Think about what you really want to create, how you want to connect with your customers, and what metrics are most important to you (for instance, are you more interested in adding 100 new subscribers to your list or bringing in an extra $2000?). Then decide on that big win. Create a plan to make that happen as quickly and easily as possible. Forget doing things “right” and just figure out how to make it happen. Skip the bells and whistles and go straight to what is going to make that big win tick.
Last week I was talking with my friend Brooke, an herbalist and founder of Love Warrior Gardens, and she identified that adding 10 new customers to her Community Supported Herbalism program would be a big win for her and help her end the year in a great position. We brainstormed several easy-to-implement sales tactics that could make that happen. The next step was as simple as writing an email or asking some friends to share her business with their friends.
Making that kind of concentrated push toward a goal at the end of the year can not only put more money in your bank account but can also provide really positive momentum you can carry into the next year.
Make your plan.
Finally make a plan for next year. You’re not going to get yourself out of a hole by flying by the seat of your pants. You need to know your end goal (where you want to be 12 months from now), what personal strengths you’re going to leverage to get there, and how you’ll break down the year piece by piece to get there. Sure, you may need to pivot once or several times throughout the year. But how much more confident will you feel having an initial plan for how the year will flow?
If you need help planning, I have a free Revenue Planning guide that breaks it down into 4 easy steps. You’ll review this year, chart out your sales cycles for next year, plan the revenue you want to generate for each month of the next year, and then conduct a pre-mortem for each sales cycle to mitigate the chances of things going south.
Remember, every business has ups and downs. Even if you’re not where you wanted to be at this point in the year, it doesn’t mean you’re not poised to do great things–and soon. Take time to find the peace and gratitude that will guide you through the end of this year and on to the next. Then make a plan to make it happen.
No doubt, you’ve been asked, “What would you do if money was no object?” I don’t love that question for a what-kind-of-business-should-you-start question, but it certainly has its place.
But when growth is the answer, I think you need a different question. And that question is an unusual one for microbusiness owners who generally have full inboxes, overloaded schedules, and stressed out mindsets.
What would you create if time was no object?
This is a better question than the “money” question because money will always be an object. It’s a key metric for being in business. No, it doesn’t have to be your only metric of success, but if your business isn’t at least measuring the bottom line, it’s not a business.
The time question begs you to consider how you’re holding yourself back right now.
It can seem like the best answer is always to “do it yourself” in the micro business world:
- I can figure that out.
- I’ll give that a try.
- I can work on that next week.
But business isn’t really about doing it yourself. It’s about—as my friend and the founder of Maker’s Nation Isaac Watson said this weekend—“doing it together.” You can create exponentially more value with a team than you can on your own.
Planning to build a team isn’t about leaving your microbusiness behind. It’s not about giving up freedom or flexibility. In fact, it’s about gaining more of it.
Your ideas shouldn’t be a burden to you.
You should be able to envision ideas as big as you want them to be.
But you can’t do that if time is always a constraint.
…not when it’s so easy to get more time. You can buy more time for as little as $5-10 per hour. You can shortcut idea development by bouncing ideas off of other people. You can pull together bigger projects with less hassle than you thought possible.
The good news?
You don’t have to start by forking over money today.
You don’t even have to interview anyone or write a job description.
You just need to ask yourself, “What would I be creating today if time was no object?”
Letting yourself think about what you really want to build, the product you really want to design, the problem you really want to solve and how you’d take it all to market puts you in the right position to attract quality team members, better understand the role you play in your business, and create plans that launch your business into the future.
Example? Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin, founder of 40% and Rising, the world’s first organization for breadwinning women. When Elizabeth shared the idea with me this summer, it was just a seed. But because she was open to consider how she could distribute the workload of her huge vision, that seed is sprouting and she’s got incredible people lined up as Charter Members, even as the team is still solidifying and before the organization has even launch officially.
Microbusiness should be a way to do more with less. But, unfortunately, it’s often used as an excuse to create something smaller, do less, and impact fewer.
So. What would you create if time was no object?