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 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:
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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?