Consistency Builds Brands, Complacency Destroys Them: Inside a Recent Experiment

Consistency propels brands. Complacency destroys them.

Photo by Jessica Hill Photography

 

I’ve now been offering the same business coaching program & methodology for over 3.5 years. We’ve iterated & improved the program every time we launch it. We even changed the name once.

But the program and message have remained consistent.

This spring, we had our best program launch ever. It also fell far below my expectations based on our preliminary data.

When we surveyed potential clients who had not signed up, we got the usual answers–but more than anything else, people told us they were tired of taking courses they didn’t use.

When I originally created the Quiet Power Strategy program, I had this objection in mind. I wanted to create something that wasn’t a course and was more akin to 1:1 coaching but helped you create a wider entrepreneurial network at the same time.

But that selling point had gotten lost as the program scaled, the market was flooded with courses, and our audience grew.

I wanted to remain consistent because I believe in the power of the QPS work to solve your business challenges–but I also knew it was time to change things up, to get creative.

I needed to change things up to keep our work relevant, forward-focused, and supremely useful.

So I got really specific with that core objection:

  • Why aren’t people using the courses they buy? (They’re not making time.)
  • Why aren’t people getting results? (They’re not completing the courses.)
  • Why aren’t they executing? (The course teaches but it doesn’t help them plan. It’s focused on lessons, not implementation.)
  • Why are people feeling so burnt out on learning and even their own businesses? (Courses try to solve surface level problems, not core challenges.)

Then I rebuilt our offer to combat each of these objections:

  • What if you had to make time for the program you purchased?
  • What if the format of the program made it easy to complete?
  • What if the program ended with a customized plan in your hand?
  • What if the program was designed to dig deep into the core problems of a business?

What would it look like to fulfill all of those constraints on the program?

I took my initial concept to my mastermind groups: a 2-day virtual planning retreat that took a group of clients through the process from start-to-finish, with support and coaching from me along the way.

They loved it.

We talked about how to make it even better and then I set the first experiment in motion.

Last week, we ran that experiment.

20 clients worked with me for a total of 16 hours over 2 days. We went through the entire process from start to finish. The energy, peer support, and depth of work were astonishing.

We finished Day 2 with 100% completion by our participants.

Inside the Quiet Power Strategy Virtual Planning Retreat

Inside our 2-day Quiet Power Strategy Virtual Planning Retreat — that’s my buddy Tanya Geisler laying down wisdom about the Impostor Complex!

 

The feedback has been effusive:

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While it’s too early to know for sure, I have a feeling we’ll see more results for more members of this cohort than we’ve ever seen before.

I’m not telling you about this so that you want to join us for the next Virtual Planning Retreat–though I’ve got more on that soon.

I’m telling you this because, when things are “working,” we wait to change course until we’re forced to change course. 

We grow complacent about our strategy because it’s what always worked.

Consistency does propel brands.

But complacency can ruin brands–even if you’ve grown complacent around something great.

If you’re feeling any part of your business or life constrict around you, there’s a good chance that making a fundamental change could pump new life into the whole endeavor.

This doesn’t mean you change something on a whim, it doesn’t mean you adjust course because you’re bored, it doesn’t mean you do something different because the shiny object over there is calling to you.

Change it, intentionally, when it’s no longer serving you or your customers.

Use creative constraints to discover a new opportunity.

Engineer a new path forward.

In this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., Jennifer Lee gave us an example of necessary change, too. She’s no longer running her popular video summits and she talked about why and how she made that change. Click here to listen or read the interview.

And, if this whole 2-day virtual planning retreat idea sounds pretty cool, click here to learn more about it and sign up to get information on the next enrollment. When you do, we’ll also send you some exclusive free training opportunities.

Don’t Make This Crucial Branding Mistake In The Name of Growth

Wanna make more money? Do something new! Right?

Wrong.

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.

More doesn't mean better when it comes to your brand or business model.

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?

5 Common Business Questions and What You Should Be Asking Instead

5 Common Business Questions And What You Should Be Asking Instead

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

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

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

Go ahead. Take a stab at it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does that sound about right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ready to get started? Here we go.

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

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

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

Instead of asking What, try asking How.

How do you want to connect with the right people?

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

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

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

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

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

What should I sell?

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

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

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

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

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

How could my customers get the best results?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who should I hire?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What technology should I use?

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

But that means I hear this question quite often.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What content should I create?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you do that? Answer this better question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You down?

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

5 Resolutions to Bring About Your Next Business Breakthrough

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?  

  5 Resolutions to Bring About Your Next Business Breakthrough

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!

How to Build the Next Phase of Your Business When This One is Paying the Bills

At some point, you decide to make a change. Deciding to change the way your business delivers value or the type of services that your business offers isn’t the hard part.

The hard part is deciding when to stop what you’re doing now.

How do you plan for the next phase of your business when this one is paying the bills

 

What you’re doing now pays the bills. It’s safe. It’s (fairly) comfortable. People expect it. It’s shaped the way people see your business and how they think of you as a leader.

Even as you start to envision what’s next, it seems like all outside forces are pushing you to double-down on what you’ve got.

This is a problem that many of our clients face and a question I regularly ask myself: How do you build the next phase of your business while you’re working the current phase?

Business model innovation is a key activity of any business.

Okay, that’s jargony. Evolving, adapting, and optimizing the way your business creates, delivers, and exchanges value (i.e. transformation and results) is something you need to do on a regular basis.

That means testing prices, adjusting sales messaging, and iterating on existing products. But it can also mean sweeping change in the what your business offers or how it offers it.

The prospect of this is often exciting.

The reality of making it happen can be terrifying and paralyzing.

When something is working, it’s incredibly difficult to find the motivation—let alone the time—to change it. But change it you must.

Stagnation simply isn’t an option.

If you want to move from 1:1 coaching to group programs, at some point, you need to stop offering 1:1 coaching. If you want to move from physical products to digital products, at some point you need to stop offering physical products. If you want to move from small retreats to large conferences, at some point, you need to stop offering small retreats.

There are two main ways I work with clients on this big change—both of which I use myself in steering my own company.

Option 1: Shadow Offers

If the work you do is paying the bills, but you want to stop doing it, stop marketing it. The good news is that just because you stop marketing it doesn’t mean you have to stop getting paid for it.

Last year, Whitney Hess, a leader in the user experience field, worked with me to back off of her corporate gigs and add more coaching (both individual and group) to her business model. She stopped marketing her corporate consulting and started positioning her business for these new coaching offers. After a taking a few months off at the beginning of 2014, she put the plan into overdrive taking on enough corporate clients to pay the bills while welcoming a whole cohort of coaching clients. That led to her best year yet.

Often the businesses that employ this technique are getting their clients on a referral basis. Their happy former clients are sending them eager new clients, regardless of their sales pages or outside lead generation strategies. That means those sales pages can come down and their lead gen activities can stop while the revenue keeps flowing—right up until they decide to say “no” to it.

Once you take down the offers and stop actively marketing them, they become what I call “shadow offers.” They’re a part (even a big part) of the way your business generates revenue—but they’re not in the light anymore. Your business isn’t defined by them.

Often, the hardest part of making a change in your business model is teaching people a new way to see your business. By employing shadow offers, you can start the process of repositioning your business much sooner without damaging your revenue stream too early.

Option 2: Progressive Business Model Planning

In Quiet Power Strategy, one of the highlights of the program is creating a Business Model Plan. It’s not just the framework for how the business creates, delivers, and exchanges value, it’s a plan for how it will do so when all the right pieces fall into place.

However, even a forward-looking business model plan isn’t the solution for some business owners and the changes they want to make. In this case, we make 2 plans.

The first plan is a framework for how the business will create, deliver, and exchange value in the interim. It’s generally heavy on the offers that are currently generating the most revenue and incorporates an offer or two that indicates the direction the business is heading. It allows the business owner to see how she can start making decisions that support her future positioning without jeopardizing the safety of her current revenue streams.

The second plan is a framework for how the business will create, deliver, and exchange value in the future (often 12-18 months out). This is the goal plan. It reflects the projected changes when they are complete.

Moving between the first plan and the second plan isn’t like flipping a switch. It’s progressive and incremental.

We set milestones (number of sales, dollars in savings, etc…) that signal the time to make a single change from one plan to the next. Eventually, the enough milestones occur that the business model is transformed from the original plan to the new plan.

This is always how my business has evolved its model. I make a plan with a smaller change first, then make a plan for what it will look like eventually. Then, I set milestones and benchmarks for when those bigger changes will be made. That’s allowed me to transition my brand multiple times while leading my audience toward the next set of offers I’ll make.

Is it time to make a change in your business model? If that question makes you think, I guarantee the answer is yes.

Both of these options allow you to mitigate risk as you move from one business model to the next. Which one is right for you?