How to Find Success In a Crowded Market: Fix What’s Broken for the People You Care About

How to launch a product in a crowded market

I always chuckle when people tell me their market is “really crowded” and for that reason, they’re a special case when it comes to marketing or business development.

What market is not really crowded in the 21st century?

I mean, we now have competing toilet sprays to keep people from knowing you’re going #2 while you’re at your significant other’s house.

A crowded market often means more opportunity, not less opportunity.

First, if a market is crowded it means that there is plenty of demand. There are loads of people who want to buy.

Second, if a market is crowded there are lots of straightforward, non-ninja ways to figure out what needs still aren’t being met.

And it’s this second piece of the puzzle that I want to focus on today.

You can develop a product in a crowded market and become a key player…

…if you focus on what’s “broken” about the other solutions on the market for the people you care about most.

Take Emily McDowell’s blockbuster success.

Emily noticed that, despite Valentine’s Day being a multi-billion dollar industry, none of the greeting cards she could find matched the relationships that she and her friends were really in.

Those greeting cards were “broken” for people like Emily (and probably for people like you, too).

The solution?

Make a greeting card that was laser-focused on that kind of relationship.

1500 orders in 1 week with zero marketing on her part…

…and the idea was proven.

I did the same thing earlier this year when I decided that I’d have enough of “online courses” but not enough of virtual training and created our Virtual Planning Retreats.

Online courses weren’t getting the results customers wanted (or that I wanted) because of the very way they were structured–so I “fixed it.”

I thought about the specific people I care the most about (you) and I created the Virtual Planning Retreat to “fix” the online course experience for you.

(By the way, the next one is February 22-23 and if you’d like to see if it’s for you, I’ve got a 4-video training series that walks you through the big reasons you’re not making the money you’d like to be right now.)

Last week, I talked with both Joanna Wiebe and Nathalie Lussier who have both launched software products in crowded spaces and they echoed the same strategy:

Find out what’s broken for the specific people you care about and fix it.

Don’t worry that your product is one of many in a crowded market, if it’s designed with for a customer who isn’t satisfied with the existing options–no matter how many there might be–you’ll have a winner on your hands.

Think about your own market:

What do you hear about being “broken?”

What do your customers have to “make work” for them?

What disappoints them about existing options?

The answers to those questions could be the key to your next blockbuster offer.

 

Building Relationships & Communities to Fuel Your Business with Justin Shiels

Building Relationships and Communities to Fuel Your Business with Justin Shiels on Profit. Power. Pursuit. with Tara Gentile

When it comes to networking, I’m a little intense. I’ve actually reserved every Wednesday at 3pm for a meeting with a close friend or a new stranger who I’m interested in meeting. So I literally email, Facebook, or Instagram someone who I think is doing something interesting.

— Justin Shiels, marketer, speaker, and community builder

This week’s Profit. Power. Pursuit. guest is Justin Shiels the founder of This Creative Lab and Curious Tribe. Justin has over 9 years experience in communications, marketing, and graphic design. He uses his passion for community and his hometown of New Orleans to fuel his work. In 2014 Justin cofounded Venture Pop, a conference for creative entrepreneurs.

Justin and I talk about the power of nurturing relationships, the specific tactics he uses to connect with new people, and his value of diversity in building creative communities.

A Simple Networking Tactic Even You Can Use Every Day

Aside from his weekly standing meetings to get to know new people, Justin also recommends a networking tactic (oy, that sounds so cold and impersonal for such a friendly thing) for staying in touch with the people he meets. I’ve been trying to implement this networking tactic myself all year–and it’s panned out beautifully.

The process is simple: 

If you read something, see something, hear something, or think something that reminds you of someone you know, let them know. Don’t let the thought pass and wonder why you haven’t talked to them in forever.

Drop them an email, text them, post on their Facebook wall…

…heck, pick up the phone and call them!

Share the thought, article, or video that made you think of them and tell them why. That’s it!

These small gestures–whether you actually reconnect with the person or not–puts you (and your business, mission, movement, ideas, etc…) back on the top-of-mind for the person you just thought of.

It’s a little thing that can have big results.

Take Action Now

In fact, why not give it a try right now.

Who do you know who is a natural relationship-builder? An authentic networker? A consummate community-wrangler? 

Let them know what Justin’s interview made you think of them. Tell them how much you appreciate their curiosity, friendliness, and openness.

Love this episode? Subscribe on iTunes and while you’re there, leave us a review, too! It helps us reach more smart & ambitious small business owners like you.

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5 Ways to Improve Your New Year Business Plans: Inspired by Listener Questions

5 Ways to Improve Your New Year Business Plans on Profit. Power. Pursuit. with Tara Gentile

Transcript, edited for reading:

It’s that time of year!  Time to make your business plans for the new year.

It’s time to assess what’s worked in your business this year and make plans to make more money, take more time off, and grow your influence in the market next year. 

Now, if you’re like me, you’ll be taking time away from the inner workings of your business over the next eight weeks to make those plans.  In this special episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., I’ve got five ways you can improve on your plans. 

Now, that’s no matter what planning system or strategy you’re planning to use.  Plus, these tips have all been inspired by listener questions. 

You ready?  Here we go.

The first question comes from Aerie North, who you can find at Skillshare.com/AerieNorth. 

She says, “I’m never 100% sure if adding a new product or service to my business will confuse my existing clients.  I’m an artist and art teacher, and as an art teacher, I know how to create in many mediums.  I sell art prints and coloring books online, and I also make crochet sculptures for art galleries.  I’d like to add teaching crochet sculptures in my online classroom, but I already have several different art modalities represented in my online classroom.  Will adding new and different types of art classes turn off my existing students?

This is a really great question, and it’s something that I hear from listeners and readers no matter what market they’re in.  Aerie is in art and art education, but of course, I hear very similar questions from life coaches and designers and photographers, consultants, all types of businesses, and this is also a really common question at this time of the year.

Because the end of the year or even the beginning of the next poses some really special challenges for business owners, and the most insidious of those challenges is, of course, the temptation to try new things, whether that’s new products or new list-building tactics, new messages, new packages.

And… I get it…

Trying new things is fun, it’s exciting, and it could be a huge opportunity, which is exactly what Aerie is wondering about: is this a big opportunity, or is it potentially a distraction or worse?  Because any time you add something new, it could be great, or it could completely dilute what’s already working. 

As Mike Michalowicz says in The Pumpkin Plan, there is always a “direct correlation between diluted focus and a diluted bank account. 

That’s pretty clear, and I completely agree with Mike on this, and I’m sure that you’ve probably experienced this in the past as well.  Or you might be able to look at your business right now, and say, “Oh, yeah, my diluted bank account is coming from my diluted focus,” and so we want to avoid this when we’re planning for the new year. 

So the first way that you can improve your new year business plans is to double down on your positioning. 

1. Double Down on Your Positioning

Now, what’s positioning?  Before I get into the rest of the answer to this question, let’s talk a little bit about what I mean specifically by positioning. 

Positioning is where your business sits in the market.  It’s the stories that your customers tell about your business.  It’s the message that you put out.  It’s how you do what you do differently.  It’s the price you set, it’s the packages or offers that you make, it’s how you show up in the market, and all those things come together to give you your positioning.  In other words, where you sit in the market. 

Now, if you’re tempted to start something new, to add to your offerings, expand your audience, take a step back.  Does what you’re creating reinforce your brand?  The story it tells about your customers, the value you have to offer, or does it dilute your focus? 

Now, for Aerie, that means taking a look at how she wants to be positioned in the market, what she wants to be known for, how she wants her customers to talk or think about her business, and what message she wants to lead with, and then determine if those new classes will reinforce that positioning or dilute it.  And the key here really is in the answers to those specific questions, and I’ll come back to that in just a minute. 

But Aeries’s positioning may not be based on the particular art method she’s teaching.  It might be based on the particular value she’s offering through art, or maybe it’s based on who she’s helping her customers become. 

Her positioning could be based on lots of different things, not necessarily the modality or the method in which she’s teaching, and that’s so important here, because to know whether it’s a distraction or not, to know whether it’s confusing or not, to know whether it’s going to interrupt what’s already working and dilute her focus when it comes to her brand, we need to know what that specific positioning is.  We need to know where it comes from and what she wants it to be, and so that here really is the key, because until she knows exactly what that positioning is, she can’t know for sure whether she’ll confuse customers with a new offering and slow the growth of her business. 

So for Aerie and for everyone listening, you need to be able to answer these three questions:

First, when people talk about your business, what do you want them to say? 

This question’s really important because we tend to think about positioning as something that’s sort of inherited, it’s something that is done to us, it’s a place that we are put in the market, but positioning isn’t like that. 

We get to choose where we’re positioned, how we’re positioned in the market in regards both to our own business and in relation to other people’s businesses, so you get to decide what you want people to say about your business by the types of offers that you put out, by the messages that you use, by the types of marketing that you engage in, the prices that you set, all of those different pieces there tell a story that lets you position your business specifically.  So you’ve got to be able to answer that question to know whether a new offer or a new tactic is going to help you or hurt you.

The second question is what’s different about what you’re offering than what others are offering? 

Positioning isn’t just based on your business, it’s based on your business in relation to the rest of the market, in relation to other businesses. 

Now, I know the temptation here is to kind of fall into some, you know, competition spiral, where you worry about what other people are doing, but this is really an opportunity to take control of that, to break yourself out of that competition downward spiral, and instead, really focus on what you can do to actively position your business relative to other businesses, and to do that, you do have to be paying attention. 

You’ve got to look at what other people are doing so you can do things differently.

Then the third question is what story does your business tell about your customers? 

What story does your business tell about your customers?  A lot of times, with branding and with marketing, you’re focused on the story that you want to tell.  Your story.  The story of your business.  Why you do what you do, how you got here, what kind of interesting things have happened in your life or your work experience that have led you to this place, but that is the least important part of the story that your business is telling. 

The most important part of the story your business is telling is the story where your customers are the hero.  The part where your customers are the star.  So your business has to actively tell a story where your customers get to be the hero, and the clearer you are about that story, the more upfront you are about with that story, the more it affects your positioning, and the clearer your positioning becomes.  So with every decision you make about the next year, make sure you’re reinforcing those answers, and then doubling down on your positioning.

Aerie, for you, that could mean that those new classes go one way or the other, but you won’t be able to figure that out until you have the answers to those three questions.

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Now, our next question comes from Jody Riddick of JustJodieLeigh.com. 

She asks, “How do you get the most out of mastermind?” 

Now, I love this question, and it leads me to the second way you can improve your business plans for the new year, which is to get support from diverse sources. 

2. Get Support From Diverse Sources

I named 2016 the Year of the Mastermind for me, and it’s proven to be an extremely helpful strategy.  I have taken part in three different masterminds over the course of this year, you know, where I am a participant, and I’ve also led two different masterminds over the course of this year, where I’m working with clients in a mastermind group, and I have seen and felt the power of masterminds firsthand all year long. 

I can tell you in also watching what is so powerful about masterminds that there are three ways that people most often go wrong with masterminds, and there are then three ways, of course, that you can improve on what your past experience with masterminds might have been. 

So the first thing is that people seek out mastermind partners who are kind of going at the same pace they are, which might be slow to non-existent, and so the first way that you can get the most out of a mastermind is to actually…

Seek out people who are moving at a faster pace than you. 

You want the people that you’re masterminding with, as a business owner, to actually push you, to challenge you, to inspire you to get a little more uncomfortable, to do things a little more outside of your comfort zone, and really use that to propel your business forward.  So that might mean that you have to introduce yourself to some new people to put a really effective mastermind together.  Or it might mean you need to revisit some contacts that have gone stale, because those people have been moving at a faster pace than you’ve been.

This also means that you’ve got to be willing to say no to masterminding with people who could hold you back, and I know that that is something that gives people butterflies in their stomach, it makes them feel bad, and I know, I’ve totally been there, too, but this is something that really will make or break your mastermind experience. 

So as you are building a mastermind for next year, and I really, really hope that you do, do seek out people who are moving at a faster pace, who are trying new things, who are setting bigger goals than you, and I think very, very quickly, you’ll find that you’re getting more and more out of those interactions.

The second thing that people do wrong with masterminds is that they put together groups of people with very similar businesses, people who run in the same circles as they do, and of course, you can fix this one simply by…

Putting together a mastermind with people who have different types of businesses from yours, and people who run and move in different circles of influence from you. 

So you guys don’t all want to have the same mentors.  You don’t want to all have the same influencers.  You don’t want to all be reading the same blogs or listening to the same podcasts.  You want to put together a mastermind group of people who are getting information and ideas and inspiration from different sources, and you want to put together a mastermind group of people who are operating different businesses than yours.  Or at the very least, operating their business very differently from yours. 

The problem with putting together kind of a really homogenous mastermind group is that there’s a lot of confirmation bias that happens there, and you end up kind of doubling down on strategies that are just what you’re already doing.  They’re already the things that don’t seem really to quite be working, but if instead, you know, if you’re a life coach and you mastermind with a photographer and a website designer and a B2B business consultant, you’re going to see opportunities in what they’re doing that you would have never considered as part of your kind of life coach-y business brain way of thinking. 

It’s not that things in the life coach business sphere are bad or that things in the photography business sphere are bad or that things in the B2B consulting space is bad, it’s just that there is more creative ideas out there, if only you would break out of your sphere of influence and into someone else’s, and masterminds are perfect for this. 

You’re going to find out what’s working in other industries, you’re going to find out what’s working in other business models, and you’re going to be able to get creative about what to do with that in your own business simply because you’re not going to be so close to that idea, so close to that tactic, so close to that strategy that you can only think in terms of what you’ve already done or what’s already worked or what you already know.  So that’s the second thing that you can do to get the most out of a mastermind.

Another reason masterminds go wrong is because they’re unstructured.  If you want to get more out of your mastermind group next year…

Use a structure. 

Make sure there is an agenda to every meeting.  Prepare for each meeting.  Know what you’re going to share. 

In most of my masterminds, it’s some variation on a very simple structure, and I have Jaime Masters from The Eventual Millionaire Podcast to thank for this in a couple of different forms, but in most of my mastermind groups, the structure is simply having a round-robin group share at the beginning.  That can be around challenges, it can be around victories, it can be around what you accomplished over the last week productivity-wise, and then spending the rest of the time focused on one person or one issue or one goal in the group. 

And simply by breaking up time like that, everyone gets heard, everyone has an opportunity to speak up, to share something, and then everyone also has the opportunity to focus on just one thing, and this really has been the difference between, again, mastermind groups that make it and mastermind groups that get broken. 

So make sure you’re using a structure, and it’s going to feel a little weird at first.  It’s going to feel awkward, I promise you that, so just be prepared for it.  If you’re the person kind of imposing the structure on your group, it will feel strange, but that strangeness will wear off over time as people just come to know what the expectation is week in and week out, and that structure, again, will give everyone a chance to kind of relax and focus and get the most out of the mastermind group.

But above all of those things, regardless of what’s going to work for you, or you know, what you’re want to take or leave from what I just offered there, I do hope that you set a goal to create and meet with a mastermind group next year, whether that’s monthly or biweekly or weekly.  Most of my groups meet weekly, and I highly recommend it.  Even if not everyone can meet each, you know, week in and week out, that’s okay, but that weekly structure, it keeps the pace moving.  It keeps people on topic.  It means there’s less catch-up time every time you meet, and so I find that weekly frequency really, really helpful.

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Our next listener question comes from Leslie at MischaLee Jewelry.  She says, “How do you manage your time when there are a lot of really different business tasks that have to be done?  I feel pulled in so many directions sometimes.” 

Of course, the answer to this question is the third way you can improve your business planning for the new year, and that is to know your top priority at any given time. 

3. Know Your Top Priority At Any Given Time

Now, one of the biggest benefits of planning ahead, whether it’s for the month, the quarter, or the year, is that it becomes easier to spot your top priorities. 

These priorities will show themselves as specific goals.  So if you look, at your next year’s plans or your next quarter’s plans, you’ll see some specific goals, hopefully, that you’ve set for yourself.  The more specific, the easier it will be to know what’s important for you and your team to be focused on. 

But underlying your specific goals, the things that are really important to you at any given time, there’s going to be three currents.  Think of them as ocean currents, so no matter what direction your ship is traveling in, you’ll get influenced by the current that you are currently in.  You need to take that current into account, and adjust for it as you go.

Now, the first current is bringing in revenue… 

and this is maybe the current that most of us are in most of the time, and it’s also the most powerful current, because if you don’t feel like you have this taken care of, if you don’t know where the money is coming from, you really can’t focus on anything else.  Most specific goals can serve this current, which is a really good thing. 

If this is where you’re going to be a lot of the time, you need to know how any of your specific goals can help you bring in revenue so that you’re going in the direction that you want to be going in. 

So if you’re building your list, make sure you’re making offers to new people who join your community, making money off of that specific goal of growing your audience. 

If you’re aiming for a book deal, make sure you know what that advance from the publisher needs to be to keep your business running, so you know that when you sign that contract, there’s going to be an amount of money coming in that leaves you comfortable, that leaves you, again, steering that ship in the right direction. 

If you’re growing your team as your specific goal, make sure that you know how each new team member will allow for new revenue to come in.  So again, each time you hire, you’re not feeling like, ech, that expense of paying them every week or every month, instead, you’re saying, ooh, I get to bring in this new team member, and they’re going to bring in this many thousands of dollars to my bottom line every month.  That’s a much better way to look at that, and it’s going to keep you a lot more focused.

Now, the second current is building your base or filling your pipeline…

and you can’t ever really ignore the need to know where your next lead is coming from, but sometimes, this is the biggest priority. 

Maybe things have tapered off, or you know that you really need to accelerate building your audience, filling your pipeline in order to get to that next place that you want to be in your business.  Now, again, if this is a need for your business right now, or you know that it will be sometime over the next three, six, or twelve months, look at how you can leverage specific goals.  Maybe like a big launch, a speaking gig, or a media campaign to grow your audience and fill your pipeline.  Look at the things that you want to accomplish next year, and figure out how you can use them to steer your business in this current of building your base.

The third current is optimizing internal systems. 

Now, as my good friend, Natasha Vorompiova from SystemsRock.com would tell you, every business has systems.  It’s just that some of us pay attention to those systems, and some of us don’t, and so at any given time, you might feel a priority in your business for focusing and paying more attention to those internal systems.  Your specific goals can be used to focus on optimizing these systems.  Making them work smoother, delegating more of their pieces, or codifying them as part of your operations. 

So if you want to know how to manage your time, know what your priority is right now by knowing what specific goal you’re working toward and how the current you’re in is affecting how you approach that goal. 

Just about any goal that you see in your plans over the next three, six, or twelve months can be leveraged within one of those three currents, so that you’re not feeling conflicted, but instead, you are moving in the direction you want to be moving in.  So instead of balancing, you know, going after that book deal and bringing in money, you see how those two things can work together.  Or instead of, you know, managing a big launch and having that conflict with optimizing internal systems, you can see how those two things work together.

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Now, the next question, and this is a very popular one, is from Kay at The Happiness Detective.  She says, “How can I improve my sales technique?  I have the shop, I have the products, I’m out there promoting the best I can, but so far, only crickets.” 

Now, the answer to this one, is the fourth way, of course, that you can improve your business plans for the new year, and that is to separate your marketing plans from your sales plans. 

4. Separate Your Marketing Plans From Your Sales Plans

Separate your marketing plans from your sales plans.  I want you to make sure that you have campaigns in place that serve two different, though related, purposes. 

One, building awareness of your business and your brand, and two, converting sales. 

Way too often, especially in online business circles, but this is pretty much in every business circle, I see these two objectives overlapping, and it makes each of them less effective.  So if you’re overlapping building awareness with converting sales, you’re probably not building as much awareness as you’d like to be doing, and you’re probably converting sales less than you would like to be doing, and no small business owner wants to be in that situation. 

We want to know that our base, our audience is growing all the time at a pace that’s going to allow us to grow our revenue, too, and of course, we want to know that the sales are coming in.  We want to know when they’re coming in, and so this is kind of a, maybe a counterintuitive against trend recommendation, but based on what I see going on in the small business marketplace right now, I want to encourage you to, on some level, separate your marketing plans from your sales plans, and that means that you are focused on, you know, whatever blog post is going out, whatever podcast episode is going out, whatever emails you’re sending, whatever list-building campaigns you’re engaged in, you know what the main goal is. 

Is the goal of this tactic or strategy to build awareness about your brand?  To grow your base?  To build your audience?  Or is it to convert people who know about you into buyers?  Which is it? 

Now, I’m not going to say across the board that campaigns can’t do both, but if you find yourself struggling in this area, I think this is one of the most effective things that you can do, and I think that that’s where most of our listeners find themselves in, and even if you’re finding that you are marketing well and you are selling well, I think that drawing attention to this and looking at these two different opportunities can help you do even better with that as well. 

Any time you are marketing and selling, or promoting as Kay said, for your business, make sure that you know whether you are focused on building your audience or converting your audience into buyers. 

Now, the biggest opportunity here is really to give other people an opportunity and a reason to say yes right now whenever you’re looking for sales.  It’s really hard to do that when you’re focused on building your audience.  Building your audience gets people excited, it gets people engaged, it gets people sharing, it gets people commenting, liking, opening emails, clicking on things, right?  But it doesn’t generally get people buying. 

The kind of mechanisms at play there are pretty different. 

When you want to shift gears and focus on sales, when you want to get people to buy, you really have to be focused on giving people a reason to say yes right now, and so that means first and foremost giving them a clear call to action. 

You’re not just posting pictures of the work that you create, you’re not just talking about the service that you offer, but you’re actually asking them to buy.  You’re asking them to set up an initial consultation.  You’re asking them to register now for a workshop.  Make that call to action really, really clear, and then back that call to action up with natural urgency. 

Natural urgency is simply the answer to why buying now is more important to your customers, or potential customers, than putting off, and why it’s important now has to do with them.  It’s a situation that’s happening in their life.  It’s a way that they feel.  It’s a goal that they’re working toward.  It’s a problem that they keep bumping into.  An obstacle that they can’t overcome.  So think about what that is.  Be as specific as possible, create that call to action, then back it up with that piece of natural urgency.  If you can do that, and at the same time, separate out those things that are just there to build awareness, just there to build your audience, I think you’re going to get a much better return on your time and your energy when it comes to sales.

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Now, the final way that you can improve on your plans for next year is inspired by my friend Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin from The Gaia Project for Women’s Leadership. 

She says, “Talk to me about how to handle the emotional transition from solo to CEO.  Releasing task responsibility, delegating without fear has been my challenge for about the last six months,” and I know a lot of our listeners are in a very similar position here. 

So the fifth and final way that you can improve on your business plans for the next year is to make a plan to step back while letting your business grow. 

5. Make a Plan to Step Back While Letting Your Business Grow

Now, a lot of people are going to put delegation and team-building on their new year business plans, but it’s not enough to just hire people to ease your workload.  As my friend, Peter Lang, from the Uhuru Network marketing agency, told me in regards to myself and my own business, you have to offload responsibility, too.

This is where so many small business owners go wrong, myself included, from time to time. 

Now, when I say responsibility, I don’t mean the responsibility for whether a task has been done properly.  Whether the blog post gets uploaded, whether Facebook posts go out on time, whether the customer service emails get answered, etc.  What I mean is responsibility for important indicators in the business, important metrics, the things that really make our businesses tick. 

In other words, if you’re really looking to step into your CEO role and give yourself some space in your business, you need to be able to say, “I have a marketing person who does more than post to social media and plan my email marketing.  They’re in charge of making sure my subscriber count goes up month by month.  They’re also in charge of insuring our conversion rates during launches maintain a certain benchmark.” 

Or maybe for your business, you need to be able to say, “I have a customer service manager who isn’t just in charge of answering email.  She also looks for ways to improve our net promoter score and owns our customer retention efforts.” 

See the difference there?  It’s not just about the individual tasks that need to get done, getting individual activities off of your plate as you delegate.  It’s also about delegating a higher level of responsibility.  Responsibility for something that is key to the way the business runs. 

In the first example, it was about conversion rates and subscriber counts.  In the second example, it was about net promotor score and customer retention. 

Now, when you plan for that type of team management, you’re not just offloading tasks.  You’re not allowing yourself to continue to be the bottleneck for decision-making and strategy. 

You’re actually creating a team that knows how to create value for your organization, and they actually have the space and capability and responsibility to do that, even without your direction.  That then allows you to step back and still watch your business grow.  And so to that end, for next year, don’t just plan to make changes in your team.  Don’t just plan to add new team members or delegate tasks that should have been delegated a long time ago. 

I also want you to plan for time off.  Plan for time off such that your business continues to grow.  Plan for time off in your quarterly or annual plans, and don’t allow yourself to make this time that the whole business is taking off. 

This isn’t just time that you can afford to step away because the business doesn’t need to grow during that time.  Make this time that the company is growing without you, and if you can delegate that level of responsibility, if you can assign that level of responsibility and let people take charge of those important indicators, those important metrics for your business, the important strategy-level decisions, you’re going to be able to do just that.

So again, let’s go over those five ways that you can improve on your business plans for next year so that you can get the most out of what is a beautiful new opportunity, which is starting fresh, whether that’s in January or April or July or September.  You can start over again with your business at any time of the year.

The first way you can improve on your plans is to double down on your positioning, making sure that every decision you make for your business reinforces the story that you want to tell about your business and its relationship to the rest of the market. 

The second way you can improve on your plans is to get support from diverse sources.  Put together a mastermind group. Seek out people who are moving at the same or faster pace to you.  Seek out people who have different types of businesses, and use a structure to make sure that those meetings are as productive as possible.

The third way you can improve on your plans for next year is to know your top priority at any given time.  Know both what your specific goal is for any week, month, quarter, or for the year, and at the same time, pay attention to the current of your business.  Do you need to bring in revenue?  Do you need to build your base?  Do you need to optimize your internal systems?  And allow your specific goal to become leverage for getting those things done as well.

Fourth, separate your marketing plans from your sales plans, and in doing so, make sure that when you are actually selling, you’re making a clear call to action, and you’re giving people a good reason, an urgent reason to say, “Yes,” right now.

And finally, make a plan to step back and let your business grow.  So as you’re looking at opportunities to build your team in your business plans for the next year, use it also as an opportunity to give people responsibility over important indicators and metrics in your business, so that you really can step away and continue to see the business grow without you.

Want me to answer your busines question in an upcoming epside? Leave a comment here or–better yet–use your phone or computer to record yourself asking your question (plus who you are, what you do, and where we can find you online) and email the file to podcast@taragentile.com.

Subscribe to Profit. Power. Pursuit. on iTunes and, if you loved this episode, leave us a review and let us know!

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How I Book & Prepare for Public Speaking Gigs

How I Book & Prepare for Speaking Gigs

Some of my fondest memories from high school and college are of being on stage with the jazz band performing.

I love taking an audience for a ride with rhythm, melody, dynamics.

When you get it right, you can feel the energy in the room shift with the music.

Needless to say, performing music in school got me hooked on performing period.

Once my business started humming, I knew that performing–in the form of public speaking–would be a big part of my goal. Over the last few years, I’ve worked hard to become known as a speaker, learn the craft, and hone my skills.

Now, I have the privilege of getting paid well for it and getting to do it often.

Whether speaking on stage is a part of your goal or whether you realize public speaking (webinars, presentations, meetings…) is a key part of any business owner’s success, you’ll want to invest your time and energy in getting it right.

One of the best things I’ve ever invested in when it comes to speaking (other than working with this week’s Profit. Power. Pursuit. guest, Michelle Mazur) has been seeking out pro speakers and finding out about their process.

So I thought I’d take you behind the scenes of my own process, from booking gigs, to negotiating fees, to planning my talks. Ready? Let’s go.

The Inquiry

I have a speaking page on my site that highlights that I’m available. There’s a form on that page for meeting or event planners to submit an inquiry.

However, most of my gigs don’t come because of that page, even if they come through that page. Instead, my speaking gigs generally come from personal contacts (even if a few degrees removed) or because an event organizer has seen or heard me speak elsewhere.

When we receive an inquiry, the first thing I do is investigate the event as best I can and start considering the audience. The audience determines pretty much every other step of the process—including negotiating my fee.

The Negotiation

Once an inquiry comes in, I normally need to share my speaking fee. While this used to cause me tons of stress, now it’s pretty matter-of-fact. I share my fee and if it’s an audience that I’d really like to get in front of, I might even suggest some alternatives to matching my fee.

The conversation about my fee is often mixed with the conversation about what I’ll present, and I consider this a part of the negotiation too.

It’s in my best interest to both use one of my core presentations and to present a talk that has the most potential for piquing the interest of audience members to purchase from my business. Of course, the event organizer often has something else in mind entirely!

I negotiate the topic balancing what they want with what is in my best interests. Sometimes that might mean designing something new but often it means tweaking what I have to best meet their needs.

I’ve accumulated about 200 hours of potential talks (thanks for 6 classes with CreativeLive and plenty of webinars) over the last 3 years.

The Research

Once I’ve spoken with the event organizer and negotiated both my fee and the topic, I’ll do some more research. I try to gauge the tone and format of the event, as well as look for key audience questions or problems.

My goal isn’t to say what I want to say. My goal is to say what I want to say such that it answers a specific question or problem for the audience—just as I would with a product or service package.

I’ll try to find folks who have been to the event before, engage with an event community, or just poke around the website for the event or event founder to see conversations with real people in the audience.

The Introduction

Over the last year, my goal has been to nail the introduction of any talk I give. That means not getting up on stage and introducing myself, telling people what I do, or asking how everyone’s doing.

You can tell a pro from an amateur by the way they start their talk.

I like to get the audience engaged & laughing in the first 2-3 sentences. So I spend a good bit of time finding that one punchy line I can land to set myself up.

For the talk that I’m giving in Denver this week, the second sentence of my talk is, “We were shocked to learn that Sean…[insert dramatic pause] is an extrovert.” Trust me, that’ll get some laughs.

I’ll actually write out the full introduction so that I feel good about the narrative flow, since storytelling is not a strong suit of mine but writing is.

The Slide Deck

Once I’ve outlined the rest of the talk, citing an example and an action item for each point I’m making, I’ll start the slide deck.

I keep my slides simple with lots of big text and interesting images. While bullet points can help a sales page or blog post become more readable, they’re often messy, messy, messy in a slide deck. I avoid them except when I’m actually listing things out.

The Transitions

One of the reasons I never finished my music degree (I’m 1 class and a few private trombone lessons shy) is that I’m terrible at practicing. So, I don’t spend hours in front of the mirror running through my presentation.

I start by running through the presentation once for timing.

Then, I carefully rehearse the introduction. If I nail that, I know the rest will go smoothly.

Then, I focus on rehearsing transitions. Again, if I can nail each transition, I know I can easily get through the minutes in between.

I isolate the 2-3 slides around each place in the presentation where I change points. I’ll run through how to make the pivot from point to point several times.

The Conclusion

The conclusion has often been a sticking point for me. Many of my talks in the past have ended with, “Well, that’s it. Thanks!” as I sheepishly walk off stage. Even if I gave an outstanding talk, that ending damages the overall effect.

I’ll practice the last thought of the talk… and practice stopping there even more.

Day Of

I’m writing to you on the way to my next gig and, already, I’m thinking about my routine for tomorrow morning. I always wake up early and use that quiet time to settle my mind and do a final run through of the introduction, transitions, and conclusions.

Once I’m at the venue, I’ll find the green room as quickly as possible and get settled. I need “introvert time” without surprise interruptions or personal introductions for at least 30 minutes before a talk or I don’t feel ready.

Then I get miked and head to the stage.

Once it’s over, I love talking with people. In fact, it’s one of the easiest times for me to connect with new people because it’s like we’ve been chatting for the last hour (my presentation!). I feel in my element and completely comfortable continuing the conversation.

I’ve honed much of this process thanks to working with Dr. Michelle Mazur, my guest this week on Profit. Power. Pursuit. Her Speak for Impact methodology has made it so much easier to prepare for talks, find stories and examples to use, and feel confident that I’m going to hit a home run every time.

To hear how Michelle uses public speaking in her own business, from negotiation to preparation to getting paid, make sure you listen to our interview:

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Photo above by Jessica Hill Photography

Use Public Speaking to Grow Your Business with Dr. Michelle Mazur

ppp_michellemazur

At some point, you have to make the decision to assume the identity of speaker, instead of just playing at it.

— Dr. Michelle Mazur

Tara:  Welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit.  I’m your host, Tara Gentile, and together with my friends at CreativeLive, we talk to powerhouse small business owners about the nitty gritty details of running their business, making money, and pursuing what’s most important to them.  Each week, I deep dive with a thriving entrepreneur on topics like time management, team building, marketing, business models, and mindset.  Our goal each week is to expose you to something new that you can immediately apply to growing your own business.

This week, my guest is Dr. Michelle Mazur.  Michelle is the founder of Communication Rebel, and a coach for entrepreneurs, speakers, authors, and thought leaders who want to speak with impact.  She’s also the author of the bestselling book, Speak for Impact, the creator of the Rebel Speaker Boot Camp, and the host of the Rebel Speaker Podcast, plus I actually worked with Michelle on one of my own signature talks, You Really, Really Must: How to Make Bold Choices in an Overwhelming World. 

I wanted to find out how Michelle is using public speaking to grow her own business.  We talked about negotiating a new engagement, preparing for a talk, getting paid, and all the ways you can speak without ever stepping on stage.

Dr. Michelle Mazur, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit.  Thank you so much for joining me.

Michelle:  I’m so excited to be here, Tara.

Tara:  All right.  So you have just released a book called Speak for Impact, and it catapulted itself to the top of the Amazon rankings right away.  I think that is so exciting.

Michelle:  It was.  It was very exciting.

Tara:  Awesome.  So just as your book has been a hot topic, I think public speaking in general is a really hot topic for my audience, but instead of kind of asking you for advice, I want to find out more about how you’ve used public speaking in your own business.  So this is going to be a little meta, but I think it’s going to be super fun.  So first, can you tell us how you got started with coaching and consulting public speakers in the first place?

Michelle:  I’ve been coaching or consulting in some form for 25 years.

Tara:  Wow.

Michelle:  I did the math this morning.  I was like, oh, I’m old.  And I started on the speech and debate team in college, and so when I went to graduate school, I became the assistant director of the speech and debate team, and I went to Oklahoma and started the Parliamentary Debate Team there, and so I was always coaching and helping people write speeches and get better at it, and then as I evolved through being a professor and then into corporate, what was interesting is I was doing market research in corporate, which was so not my jam, but that’s a story for another day, but the leadership knew I was great at speaking and messaging. 

So they would always come to me and be like, “We have this big sales pitch.  Can you come and watch it and give us feedback?”  So I spent a lot of my time not necessarily doing research, but coaching and consulting on their message and how it was going to be received and how they were presenting themselves.  And eventually, I got to this point where I was having a conversation with one of my good friends, and he’s like, “Michelle, you have all of this great knowledge about communication and speaking and you’re so talented at it.  Why are you not doing something with it?  Like, why are you in market research?  I don’t get this.”  And he encouraged me to start a blog, and that blog turned into my business.  That’s … I’ve been at it now for about four years.

Tara:  Yeah.  And it has grown immensely over that time.  All right.

Michelle:  Yes.

Tara:  So speaking of which, what are some of the ways that you’re using public speaking in your own business right now?

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Michelle:  The first thing is I don’t look at speaking as something that just happens on the stage.  As business owners, as creatives, we are always speaking.  So I use it, like today, I’m on my way to Portland to speak at an event, but I also use it for webinars and workshops and Facebook Live and podcast interviews like this one, media interviews.  I mean, even blog posts, because once you have your message, and you know what you stand for, then you can just use that all over the place, and so I incorporate it into every aspect of my business, and so speaking for me doesn’t happen just on a stage.  It happens in so many different venues.

Tara:  Yeah.  I completely agree with that, and I think it’s one of the reasons that public speaking is a hot topic, and I think it’s also one of the reasons that if you have any kind of resistance to public speaking, it really is time to get over it, right?

Michelle:  Yeah, because you’re hiding in your business or your creative work otherwise, because if we can’t know about you, if you can’t articulate what it is that you do in a compelling way that makes people want to listen to you, you’re never going to be found, and you’re just going to die in obscurity, which is really sad.

Tara:  Yeah, yeah.  Okay, so I want to come back … I want to come back to that, for sure, but I also want to tie how you’re making money, the profit piece of the puzzle …

Michelle:  Mmhmm, yeah.

Tara:  To the ways that you’re using public speaking right now.  So can you just talk about how … how you’re generating revenue in relation to at least a few of the different ways you talked about also using public speaking?

Michelle:  Yeah.  So in the book – this is a great segue to the book – I talk about two different paths to revenue.  So I talk about paid speaking, which is the gold standard, which everybody wants, and then I talk about client-attracting speeches.  And so for me, I’m using paid speaking right now mostly in workshops, because I am a natural born teacher, so I love to teach my Speak for Impact process, or I teach the How to Fascinate assessment, and so I get paid that way, but then I also do gigs that either are very low-paying or fee-waived, and I have a whole system around how I give a speech, I make an offer from the stage that’s completely free, and people opt-in, so using some of my email marketing mojo, and then I nurture them into clients and customers.  So that’s how I’m using that aspect to really fuel my one-on-one work, my small, you know, my small group work.

Tara:  Okay.  Let’s talk about exactly how you work that process.

Michelle:  Okay.

Tara:  Because I hosted an event earlier this year where you were a speaker, and you were one of our top speakers at that event.  Everyone loves hearing you talk.  I love hearing you talk.  Anyhow, and I did not pay you for that talk.  You know, it was our first event, we didn’t have a big budget.  In fact, we were, you know, finished the event in the red, as a lot of event organizers, I’m sure, can … can empathize with that.  So how do you make an event like that profitable for you?  What does that process, can you walk us through step-by-step?

Michelle:  Oh, yeah.  Yes.  So the first thing you have to ask yourself is, “How do I get paid?”  And for me, I run the Rebel Speaker Bootcamp, and I aligned the launch of the Bootcamp with your event, because I know your people are my people.  So I gave a speech called Speak for Impact, and within that speech, it led to my free five-day challenge that I was getting ready to run right after the event called Get the Speech, Get the Gig.  And so people joined the challenge, and then they took part of it, and there was a Facebook group, and I got to give a lot of feedback, and so they got to know me really well, and then I launched the Bootcamp, and from that, I earned about $4000 of revenue, which was great.

Tara:  That is great.

Michelle:  It’s awesome.

Tara:  And that’s just in that one iteration.  We don’t know how much revenue you might earn from that later on because of the beginning ties that you’ve created to potential customers, right?

Michelle:  Yeah, because I’ve had speaking gigs pay off two years later.

Tara:  Yes.

Michelle:  I mean, it’s not an instant, like, make $10,000 in 60 minutes kind of thing, but it is very much, like, okay, if I’m strategic about this and I have a way to nurture people, they will become my clients.  And this time, it was like within three weeks they became clients, but sometimes, it’s a month, two months, or even two years.

Tara:  Yeah, absolutely.  I totally agree.  I mean, Pioneer Nation is an event that I’ve done twice and have gotten really great … those same results for.  Didn’t get paid, but probably from the first one, made at least $50,000-$60,000 over the course of two years.  That’s nothing to sneeze at, and so I think that’s really something to think about when you’re approached with a free speaking gig.

Michelle:  Yeah, and I think it’s all about the strategy, because if you don’t have a speech that’s really aligned with your business and leads them to the next natural step, that whole client attraction speech will not work for you.

Tara:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  So the other piece of this that I really like, too, is that, you know, I encourage people to create events towards the end of their launches to get people really, or like right before they make their pitch, to get people really on the edge of their seats, ready to buy, and what you’ve done here is not create an event, but leverage an existing event, so you had to do less work to get those customers excited and ready to buy from you, and I think that that’s something, I hope everyone takes that away.  Is that something that you’ve done in the past?  Was this the first time that you’ve done something like that before?

Michelle:  I was never so strategic about it before.

Tara:  Okay.

Michelle:  Because I was looking, because I knew I had the Quiet Power Strategy Summit coming up, and then I was like, okay, well, when am I going to launch the Bootcamp next?  Why don’t I launch it right after that event?  It just made a ton of sense to me to do it that way, so I was able to be very, very strategic, but even with this event in Portland, I’m not launching anything after it, but I’m giving a speech called Your Unfair Speaking Advantage.  My opt-in is called Your Unfair Speaking Advantage.  And then I’m able to nurture people, and have them get to know me, and tell them, like, what I do, and make my offer to them.

Tara:  Okay, all right.  So let’s talk about that for a little bit, because clearly, consistency is key when it comes to your message.  What else are you thinking about when you’re considering what is the message, what’s the takeaway, what’s the big idea that I want to leave with in a particular talk?

Michelle:  Yeah.  I’m very audience focused and audience-centered.  So I like to give the audience a bite-sized result that they can walk away with.  So for example, when I’m speaking in Portland, it’s all about how do you stand out, and I really want them to identify an idea that they’re either passionate about or it makes them go on a rant, and they’re like, oh, that makes me so mad and I want to do something different.  And for me, that’s a great result, because then they can take that, and whether they’re a speaker or not a speaker, they can write a blog post around it, they can do a Facebook Live, they can incorporate it into their speech, and they get one step clearer to really understanding what makes them different from all the other businesses and all the other speakers.  So I love to give them that bite-size result, because I know that audience struggles with what’s my message and how am I different from every other business coach or social media strategist out there.

Tara:  Got ya.  Okay.  And so that brings us to another kind of important takeaway for people, too, which is that your goal when you’re on stage or I’m sure on a webinar or you know, wherever you’re doing speaking, especially when you’re trying to attract and nurture new clients is not how can I be inspiring, or even what can I teach them, it’s what can they do because of this talk, right?

Michelle:  Absolutely.  I am all about action and change, and I feel like I have done my job if they do something differently after they hear me speak.  So I’m not … I always say inspiration is cheap, action is priceless.  So if we can get the audience taking action, if you can get them a result in a 20-minute talk, they are going to be like, “I love you so much.”

Tara:  Yeah.

Michelle:  Tell me more.  Like, tell me more about what you do.  So that’s what I’m always aiming for is that action piece.

Tara:  Beautiful.  Love it.  All right, let’s shift gears a little bit.  How do you go about looking for or booking speaking gigs?

Michelle:  So for me, a lot of them come through referral at this point in time, and I always tell people your speech is your best marketing tool, because if you can go to a speaking gig and knock it out of the park, other gigs will come from that.  So I get a lot of mine from referrals.  Yeah, probably the vast majority of even my workshops come through referrals, because somebody talked to somebody else, and I think that’s the best way to get speaking gigs, and I do do some pitching.  So if there’s an event that I’m really interested in that I want to be on their stage, I first, I don’t pitch right away.  I work on cultivating that relationship, first, and getting to know them, or maybe, I don’t know, going to the event.  Hmmm.

Tara:  Mmhmm.

Michelle:  Because once you have that personal connection, it’s easier to pitch yourself as a speaker, so I’m not one of those people who will be like, you know, cold call ten people today to find your next speaking gig, because yeah, it’s a numbers game, and eventually, you’ll book one or two gigs after you make 100 calls, but ugh, that is not the way I want to run my business or do speaking.

Tara:  Yeah, I’m really glad that you pointed out actually going to events before you try pitching an event organization or pitching, you know, an event committee, because one misstep I think I see people make is for those people who want to get into public speaking, they will only go to conferences, you know, that they have successfully pitched, or they will only go to a conference when they’ve pitched it, and it’s like, well, but you’re missing out on all of those relationships that you could be building with people who could be booking you, and so your impact, even though, sure, okay, great, now, you’re getting to speak, your impact is so much smaller than if you just make that kind of short-term investment in actually going to an event and making those relationships happen.

Michelle:  Yeah, absolutely.  I think that’s the key thing.  Like get out of your house and go to the event where you most want to be speaking at, and meet people and be insanely helpful to them.

Tara:  Yeah.

Michelle:  And that’s the way you’re going to develop a relationship with them, and that makes booking speaking gigs so much easier.

Tara:  Yeah, okay, so this makes me think about, sort of like how public speaking is a long game.

Michelle:  Mmhmm.

Tara:  Can you talk about that a little bit?  I don’t know that I have a fully-formed question, but I feel like you probably have some really good inside on playing that long game of public speaking.

Michelle:  Yes, it is a long game, and I hate all of the marketing that’s like, “Make 6 figures from speaking in 6 weeks,” or, “I made a million dollars and so can you,” because I think that gives the wrong idea about what speaking is about, because the first step of it is you have to have something to say.  You have to have a speech that you can market and sell into an organization, and then once you have something that’s good and remarkable and people really want.  Then it’s about okay, how can I book this?  How can I sell this into different organizations?  And who do I know?  And going to those events.  And I think about one of my clients, and she and I have been working on and off for like two years, and she’s finally getting a ton of momentum.  Like, she spoke at Google a couple of weeks ago, and she, every time she goes out and speaks, she’s booking more gigs, but it’s been two years in order for that to happen.  So if you need to make money fast in your business, speaking is not the way to go.  But if it is a way that you know you want to get your message out there, start with writing that speech and giving it to anyone who listens at first, and then really focus on the selling and the marketing of that.

Tara:  Yeah.  It’s just like so many things in business.  If you know you want to do it eventually, like, start now, because it’s going to take time.

Michelle:  I know.  Every once in a while, somebody will say, “Well, you know, public, I’m going to hit it out of the park next year with my speaking.” 

I’m like, “Great, so how’s your speech?” 

“Oh, well, I’ll do that next year.”

And I’m like, “No.”

Tara:  No.

Michelle:  I’m so sorry, it’s not going to work for you like that.

Tara:  I might be a professional educator and expert, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped learning.  When I’m ready to learn a new skill, the first place I go is CreativeLive.  Check out this great class.

Debbie:  Are you feeling stuck?  I’m Debbie Millman, the host of the podcast, Design Matters.  I’m teaching a class on CreativeLive called A Brand Called You.  In my class, I cover everything you need to know about how to position yourself to get the job that you love, the job of your dreams.  I’ll help you understand how to position yourself in the marketplace, how to create a mission with sincerity and stature, how to write a resume and a cover letter, and even how to track your progress.  This class is for anyone looking to improve their career and their life.  Join me now, and get the job you were meant to have.

Tara:  All right, let’s go back to booking gigs.  So what’s the first thing that you do or the first thing you think about when you get an inquiry for a speaking gig?

Michelle:  Yeah, the first thing that I do, especially if I don’t know the person or the organization, is I Google them.  I find out who their audience is.  I find out all about their event.  I find out if they’re charging for their event, how much they’re charging for their event, because then I kind of get an idea of like do they have a budget or is this something that I’m going to have to negotiate, like, will you buy my books in order for me to speak.  So it just gives me a good idea about what they’re about.  I also look at like … like their Board of Directors and see if I know anyone or someone I know knows them.  So I just really do my research before I respond back, because it also tells me if these people are the people that I want to be talking to.  Especially if they can’t pay me, I need to be in front of my ideal audience for my speech to work.  So research is always first.

Tara:  Totally agree with that.  I’m so glad you brought up research.  Because yeah, I will still speak for free, too, if I’m talking to exactly the right people.  If I’m not talking to exactly the right people, I need to get paid, because I’m not going to make that money on the backend, right?  And that is so important.  It’s so important to know that and think about that, because when that email comes into your inbox, and you’re like, “Can you come speak in,” I don’t know, a great city, “San Diego?”  Yes, I would love to speak in San Diego.  What do you want me to talk about?  Science fiction?  Sure.  You know, whatever it might be, but you know, as exciting as a new inquiry can be, I totally agree that research has to be the first step.

So what does that response then kind of look like from you?  Because I think immediately you get into that negotiation piece, where it feels like both parties are kind of a little, like, I don’t want to give you too much information.  I don’t want to give you too much information.  How do you handle that?  What does that first email back look like if you’re wanting to move forward?

Michelle:  I try to get them on the phone.

Tara:  Okay.

Michelle:  Because it’s so much easier to talk about the money thing.  I honestly feel like negotiating your speaking fee is like negotiating for a used car.  Because yeah, you’re right, nobody wants to give too much information.  Like, they won’t tell you your fee, they won’t tell you the budget.  It’s like trying to buy a car, and you’re like how much is that car?  They’re like, “I don’t know.  How much do you think it’s worth?”

Tara:  That is exactly what negotiating speaking fees feels like.

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Michelle:  And it causes a lot of stress, and I just did a workshop for my tribe around I don’t care if you’re speaking for free or not, you have to have a price in your head.  So whether they have the budget or not, you can decide whether to work with them, but if you don’t have a price, and you’re like, “Oh, yay, someone wants to pay me to speak, but I don’t know how much I charge,” that’s kind of a problem.  So having that price in your head is key, but I much would rather hop on the phone with someone for 15 minutes, and say, “Hey, yeah, so what is your budget?  And what are you looking for?  And what are you able to pay?”  And just have more of a dialog, because then it’s just, it’s easier that way.

Tara:  Yeah.  Can you talk a little bit about how you personally determine your speaking fee?

Michelle:  Yes.  So what … so in this webinar that I just did, I talked about coming up with like an hourly rate that represents your value, at least.  Because there’s a lot of intangible value in your speaking fee.  Because it’s not the hour you’re on stage.  It is your years of experience, your education, everything you’ve done to become the speaker you are today, and that needs to be considered.  And then there are other things that you can actually measure.  Like how long is it going to take me to prep and practice?  How long will it take me to travel?  How long am I on stage?  How much recovery time do I need?  So I consider all of those things for each, well, and I have a pretty standard fee right now, which I’ll just say it’s $4000.  It’s like …

Tara:  Thank you for sharing that.

Michelle:  I’ve done … I’ve done the math, it’s $4000, and that covers my costs, it covers my time away from business to do the speaking, it covers my practice time, and I feel like it represents my value really well.

Tara:  And just to stop you right there for a second, you’re expecting the organization to cover travel and other expenses on top of that?

Michelle:  Yes.

Tara:  That’s not included in the $4000.

Michelle:  Yes.  And I know there’s other models where people do say okay, I charge $10,000, but it’s all included.  Like travel is included, and my hotel, you don’t have to worry about any of that.

Tara:  Yeah, I need to switch to that model, because I’m very picky.  Just so we’re all clear on that, I’m a little bit of a diva when it comes to travel.  Okay, I feel like I have … oh, I know what my follow-up question to that was.  You mentioned earlier kind of negotiating fees maybe around something like are they going to also buy your books.  Can you talk about maybe some of the creative negotiations that you’ve done over the years?  You don’t need to need names.

Michelle:  Yeah.

Tara:  Just, I think people don’t think about all of the options that they have for getting compensated for a speaking engagement that is not financial.

Michelle:  Yes.  So sometimes, they don’t have a budget for speakers, but they have a budget for swag.  So they’ll say, “Okay, well, can you buy a book for every single person who comes to this event,” and if they have 200 people and you charge $20 per book, that is a pretty great fee for you.  So thinking about your books and having them buy those and give them out as swag.  Thinking about sponsorships.  Like either having someone sponsor you to speak at the event, or negotiating with one of the event sponsors to speak at the event.  There’s also things like video, which is so valuable for speaking, and photos.  So if they have a professional videographer and a photographer, you can use that for all your speaker marketing materials, and that has value, because that means you’re not paying, you know, two grand out of your own pocket to get video of you on stage in your element.

Tara:  Yes, amen.  I’ve also negotiated around promotional consideration before, too.  So like are you willing to feature me in your newsletter a couple of times?  Can I do a webinar with your audience outside of the … like with your whole audience, instead of just the conference attendees.

Michelle:  Mmhmm.

Tara:  And doing things like that can be really beneficial to me.

Michelle:  Yep.

Tara:  But it goes the other way, too, where you may want to negotiate a higher fee based on how much promotional consideration they’re looking for from you.

Michelle:  Mmhmm.

Tara:  Yes.  So good.  So good.  So good.  Okay.  So how do you go about preparing for a talk once you’ve booked the gig.

Michelle:  Yes.  So at this point, I have two signature talks that I give all the time.

Tara:  Okay.

Michelle:  Which is great.  So that means I don’t have to write it.  But if I ever do have to write a new talk, I use my Speak for Impact methodology, because it’s a great way, it’s the way I use with my clients to write a speech that gets results for the audience.  So I use that method, and then as I prepare, I kind of revisit the method, and I decide things like which stories should I tell for the audience.  At this point in time, I have like three openers for my speech, and I have one that’s a Rocky Horror Picture Show opening, and for edgy audiences, that’s awesome.  Like, they love it, they eat it up.  For more conservative audiences, it’s like, no, I’m going to do like the what do you want to be when you grow up, or the visualization one.  So I have these three openers that work really well, they’re tested, so I kind of figure out which one is best, and then I go through.  And my main content never really changes.  It’s typically the stories and the examples that will change based on the audience and what they need.

Tara:  Ah, I love that.  So it’s almost like building with different puzzle pieces, or from building blocks, or like Breanne would say, Lego.

Michelle:  Yeah, it’s exactly like that, and once you get to the point, it’s like, okay, this is my core message, now, I can just plug and play different stories that I know that work, different introductions, different conclusions, and customize it for that audience.

Tara:  Nice.  Okay, so you mentioned you have two core talks that you give.  And I know how this goes.  I mean, like, I have two or three core ones that I give as well, but an event organizer comes to you and they say, “We’d really like you to talk about X,” and X is not actually one of your core talks.  What do you do then?

Michelle:  I try to negotiate.

Tara:  Okay.

Michelle:  Because I feel it’s very important, in order for you to get known as a speaker, you have to have a consistent message.

Tara:  Mmhmm.

Michelle:  You know, I think about like Sally Hogshead or Brene Brown, they’re not going to be talking about topics outside of their area because an organizer wants them to.  And sometimes, I think you get to a point, and you’re like, nope, sorry, I don’t talk on that, I just can’t, it’s not my area of expertise, I’m not comfortable, I can talk to you on this, but you know, trying to negotiate and I’m always super creative.  Like I am good at making the link between whatever they want to talk about and whatever I want to talk about.

Tara:  Yeah, I’m really glad you brought that up, because I think there’s … there’s sort of an objection to that, or an immediate objection to that, which is, well, but I want to book the gig, so I want to do what they want me to do, right?

Michelle:  Mmhmm.

Tara:  But I think there’s a way to balance that against what you also need to be talking about that’s best for your own personal business strategy.

Michelle:  Yes.  Like, for example, I was working with a client, and she wanted to pitch this CEO group, and she talks about people problems, and how to solve people problems through leadership, and she’s like, “Oh, but they want strategy and technology,” and I was like, “Weren’t you just telling me the other day that in order to have successful strategy, that you have to have your team on board before you do the strategy?  And that’s the people part?”  I was like, “So actually, your talk fits into the strategy pocket,” and she’s like, “You’re brilliant.  Thank you.”  But for me, it was just like, oh, well, there’s a very clear connection between what you talk about and what they need.

Tara:  Yes.  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  So that’s brilliant.  Just what is … what’s the thread that ties these things together so that you can stay on message, but also give the event what they need as well.  Perfect.  Okay, so what do you do after a gig is over?

Michelle:  I rest.

Tara:  And what do you, Dr. Michelle Mazur, do to rest after a gig?

Michelle:  Mostly, it’s Netflix, going out to breweries, and going out to dinner with the hubby, because I am spent.  Now, I’m an ambivert, but I even hear from my extroverted clients that they need that recovery time, and I remember once I did three speaking gigs in one day, and literally, my friend watched my brain shut down.  So I spend some time recovering, and then after I’ve had my recovery day, I will definitely follow up with the organizer, I will follow up with people who chatted with me at the event, and start building those relationships.

Tara:  Yeah.

Michelle:  So, but that recovery is so important.  You just can’t go right back into business right after speaking.

Tara:  No.  You can’t.  And just to kind of remind everybody that you mentioned that when you were talking about your speaking fee, too, because it’s not … it’s not just something that you have to … to block off in your calendar, and you do absolutely need to block it off in your calendar when you’re putting that speaking gig on, you know, in your schedule, but you also have to include that time in your fee, as well.

Michelle:  Yes.

Tara:  Very, very important.  All right.  Can you tell us more about the book?

Michelle:  Sure.  Well, I’ll give a shout out to CreativeLive, because I did your publishing course on CreativeLive.

Tara:  How to Write and Publish an EBook.

Michelle: In five days, or I did mine in a month, and it was so incredibly easy.  Like, it was actually a very joyful process for me, because I took an existing blog post that I had that was all about writing your speech as your next bestselling product, because I believe that your speech is a product that you’re going to sell in your business.

Tara:  Which we also talked about in a CreativeLive class.

Michelle:  Yes, which we also talked about in a CreativeLive class.  And so I wrote this, like, 4000-word blog post around that topic, and I was like, oh my gosh, this is awesome.  I have this blog post, and then I just wrote some bridge content.  I pulled in some other blog posts, because I felt like there were some missing links, and sent it off for copy editing.  I got it out within four weeks, and I had a fabulous launch.  Like, I was able … it was kind of insane.  I decided to put a street team together, and I emailed my list, and I was like, “Hey guys, I’m releasing this book, if you want a free copy, I would love to have you on the launch team.  Here’s what’s involved with that,” and I walked away from my computer to work with a client, and an hour later, I had 40 applications, and had to shut the launch team down.

Tara:  Wow.

Michelle:  Because I’m like too much, too much, okay.  And I think the launch team made it a success.  I also reached out to influencers.  I was telling you about the book.  People like Tonya Geissler, and just letting everyone know, and people really rallied around it, and that’s what I felt, like, the book is definitely what I want to be known for.  Like, building your speech as a product and here’s a strategy to do it, and I felt the positioning was good, because all public speaking is about skills, and this is like, okay, let’s think about this strategically, people, and then the marketing was just so easy.  It was so much fun and effortless and it was just a joy to do.

Tara:  That’s awesome.  And tell us how well it sold.

Michelle:  Oh, yeah, like it climbed to number one in all of its categories within hours after it launched.

Tara:  Yeah.

Michelle:  And it’s staying in the top ten.  Like, I’m like three weeks out from launch, and every once in a while, I’ll log into Amazon to like spy on the book, and I’m like, “Oh, look, it’s number one again.”

Tara:  Yeah.

Michelle:  And there’s … and I know Amazon’s been promoting it, so I’ll see like a spike in sales.

Tara:  Mmhmm.

Michelle:  But it’s doing really well.  I’m curious to see what’s going to become of it in like six months, because it’s just kind of that little engine that could, and the feedback I’ve gotten from people, they’re like, “I love this book.”  They’re like, “It’s so strategic.”  And they’re like, “Yet, you write in such a way that’s approachable, and it’s not stuffy at all, it’s really fun.”  So it’s been such a great experience.

Tara:  That’s awesome.  And just to kind of bring it full circle then, is the book one of … is the topic of the book one of the core topics that you speak on then?

Michelle:  Yes, that is my other signature talk is Speak for Impact, and talking about how to build your speech like a product, how to make money from speaking, and how to really get known for your idea.  So that is in a speech of itself, so the book lines super well with my speaking, it aligns well with my one-on-one service, and I just feel like … in some ways, it was like marking my territory on this idea, writing that book, because no one else is talking about it this way, and I felt like okay, it is my time to mark my territory, and now, I … this is my viewpoint, and if people want to know how I’m different from other speaking coaches and consultants, they can read that book and figure it out in an hour.

Tara:  Brilliant.  Brilliant.  Brilliant.  Brilliant.  Okay, two more questions.  The first one, for people who have been speaking kind of casually, maybe they get those inquiries about a free gig here or there, or they’ve been doing webinars and they really want to get on stage, what would be one or two things that they should do next to really start accelerating their speaking career?

Michelle:  I think the first thing is really deciding on what your signature talk is going to be and building that and writing that, and I have to say, I know for some people, that’s like the struggle part.  It’s much more fun to get a gig, and then write a speech, but it’s so necessary for you to be known for what you want to do.  So if you’re doing it casually, and especially if you’re reinventing the wheel every single time you’re speaking, you’re wasting your time and you’re blowing any momentum you’re getting from that speaking gig.  So having that one, like, one or two go-to talks, and just knocking it out of the park would be the first step, and then I think at some point in time, you’ve got to get serious, and make the business decisions.  How am I going to get paid?  Like how am I going to make money from this?  Am I okay?  Like, and how many times do I want to speak a year?  Like, for me, I have … I want to speak six to eight times a year, because in a past life, I was on the road a lot speaking, and I’m over it.

Tara:  Mmhmm.

Michelle:  Like I want to be at home with my cats and my husband, and making some of those business decisions, like how am I going to make money, how often do I want to be speaking?  What kinds of events do I want to be speaking at?  Because at some point, you have to make the decision to assume the identity of speaker, instead of just playing at it.

Tara:  Oh, brilliant.  Okay, last question.  What’s next for you and your business?

Michelle:  Yeah, right now, I am working on getting my Speak for Impact process out as like a DIY just in time learning course, because it’s a great way to write a speech, and I know most people don’t know how to write a speech and they waste a lot of time and put a lot of effort into something that audiences don’t want.  And then the other thing that I’m thinking late 2017, early 2018 is I want to do my own live event that’s an alternative to TED.

Tara:  Ooh.

Michelle:  Which … so this is new.

Tara:  No kidding.

Michelle:  I mean, this is like breaking news.

Tara:  You heard it here first, folks.

Michelle:  I know.  Because I love TED, I love what they do.  The, you know, Ideas Worth Spreading, but I also think ideas aren’t enough, it’s change and action are where it’s at.  So I want to have speakers who are more for social justice, more for change, sustainability, having some of those conversations.  So I’m really scared telling you this, but I’m really … I know that that’s the next step for me.

Tara:  That is so awesome.  I’m so excited for you.  Well, Dr. Michelle Mazur, thank you so much for joining me.

Michelle:  Thank you, Tara, I’m so pleased to be here.

Tara:  Find Dr. Michelle Mazur online at DrMichelleMazur.com or at The Rebel Speaker Podcast on iTunes.

Next week, I talk with Debbie Millman, host of the first and longest running podcast about design, Design Matters.  Debbie and I talk about the 10 to 12 hours she puts into interview prep, how she started with just a phone line back in 2005, and the opportunities that have come her way thanks to the podcast.

CreativeLive is highly-curated classes from the world’s top experts.  Watch free, live video classes every day from acclaimed instructors in photography, design, audio, craft, business, and personal development.  Stream it now at CreativeLive.com.

This has been Tara Gentile.  Discover how to accelerate your earning as a small business owner with my free class, Revenue Catalyst, at QuietPowerStrategy.com/PPP.

That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., a CreativeLive podcast.  Download more episodes of this podcast and subscribe on iTunes.  If you appreciate this kind of in-depth content, please leave us a review or share this podcast with a friend.  It means the world to us.

Our theme song was written by Daniel Peterson, who also edited this episode.  Our audio engineer was Kellen Shimizu.  This episode was produced by Michael Karsh.  We add a new episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. every week.  Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you love to listen to podcasts so you never miss an episode.

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