Guest Post: Sliding Scale 2.0 – No One Left Out

By Josh Van Vliet, Director of Community, Academy for Coaching Excellence

1000px-Emblem-scales.svgI recently read a guest blog post by Peter Rubin about Privilege-Based Pricing here on the Marketing for Hippies blog (if you didn’t see it, it’s great – go check it out here). In it, Peter shares about this interesting and innovative way that businesses can help address social inequality through pricing structure.

Reading this, I got really excited, because at the Academy for Coaching Excellence, my teammates and I have thought a lot about this too.

At the heart of it, our work is about building a community, a world, where everyone is supported 100% and no one is left out.

Our contribution to that vision is to provide coaching and coaching skills training to people, so they can bring clarity, focus, ease, and grace to their own life, and empower others to do that as leaders or professional coaches. We offer programs for personal and professional leadership development, as well as for professional coaching certification.

In these times of widening inequality and deep uncertainty, we as a business saw that we have a critical opportunity to be a leader in our profession and our society.

So we’ve been asking ourselves:

How do we price our services to reflect our stand for creating a world where everyone is supported 100%, and no one is left out?

Given the fact that different people have different access to resources, often due to factors outside of their control (such as class, race, socioeconomic status, ability, and gender), how do we include everyone, as much as possible?

. . . And run a sustainable, profitable business at the same time?

Enter the sliding scale.

So how did you arrive at this sliding scale?

We started by creating a scholarship fund.

It helped, but it took a lot of energy to run, because it relied on us ultimately making a judgment about how much scholarship to offer someone.

On top of that, the application was enough of a barrier to entry that some people wouldn’t bother applying, or felt like they didn’t “deserve” a scholarship.

We also offered folks resources, coaching, and guidance on how to successfully crowdfund some or all of their tuition for the course.

We’ve supported people to collectively raise over $50,000 to cover course tuition, travel, and other costs, and it’s helped make it possible for many people to attend who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to attend.

And, we know that this is only part of the equation.

So we looked around to see what other people are doing, and discovered a few different organizations using a tiered sliding scale approach (like the Rockwood Leadership Institute).

How does your sliding scale work?

Here’s how we describe it on our website:

We stand for a world where everyone is supported 100% and no one is left out, and our pricing reflects that vision. Our sliding scale empowers people to participate who could not otherwise do so, and enables us to offer our life-changing work where it can do the greatest good.

We use an honour system, and don’t require you to disclose your income. We also honour that both expenses and income factor into your situation, so we ask that you discern the price truly right for you — whether that is below or above your suggested tier.

So that our work serves those who could not otherwise afford it, please invest the amount that is a “stretch” but not a hardship, factoring in your access to outside support (i.e. family and/or fundraising). Referring to the scale below, ask yourself:

  1. What investment level would be comfortable for me?
  2. What level would be a “stretch” but not a hardship — truthfully factoring in my access to outside support?
  3. Am I willing to register at that level?

This is an example of our sliding scale, for the Thriving Changemaker Intensive, our foundational 4-day course:

Gross Annual

Household Income

. . . OR Organizational Budget

(if your organization funds you)

Suggested

Investment

$90,000+ $10,000,000+ $3,000
$70,000 – $89,999 $4,000,000 – $9,999,999 $2,500
$50,000 – $69,999 $1,000,000 – $3,999,999 $2,000
$25,000 – $49,999 $0 – $999,999 $1,500
$0 – $24,999 Not available $1,000


What’s the response been so far?

Virtually entirely and overwhelmingly very positive. To give you a sense of what we’ve heard, here’s what one person wrote to us in response:

“This helps tremendously – financially, psychologically, spiritually – and actually brought tears to my eyes. Your decision to do this feels within me like a synching in alignment with my intentions and values. Thank you for being the change for social change with your sliding scale offer for The Thriving Changemaker Intensive.”

I think the only issue so far has been that it makes registration a bit more involved, especially for someone who has never experienced a sliding scale like this before.

A big part of the work for us has been to refine the way we communicate this approach, so that it’s as simple and clear as possible.

And, on the other hand, it has made “the money conversation” infinitely more simple, because people understand that A) this is an incredibly valuable program we offer, and B) they are empowered to simply pay at the level that is authentic and appropriate to their situation.

Won’t people just pay the lowest price?

It turns out they don’t. We’ve had people register at every tier — including those who pay at the highest tiers and tell us that they are truly glad to do so, because they are so aligned with our mission of inclusion and accessibility.

What have you learned about effective sliding scales?

In order to make a sliding scale work, you must:

  • Effectively communicate the value of the offering. A sliding scale sometimes becomes a way to handle the worry “no one is going to pay me for this” (of course, I NEVER did this in my private coaching practice when I was getting started…wink wink). If you’re not enrolled in the value you are going to get from whatever the service or program is, it makes sense that you wouldn’t pay a whole lot for it.
  • Effectively communicate your values. If you share why you’re doing it, and how their choice impacts others, it takes it out of the context of “let me get the best deal” and puts in the context of being a part of a community. It gives meaning to what they are paying, beyond a simple exchange of money for services.
  • Give people a clear and simple way to decide what to pay. When we’re confused, we don’t take action. If you have no idea how to choose what to pay for something, you’re more likely to either a) not sign up, or b) pay whatever’s easiest, which will be related to whatever reference points you’ve got, such as the low end of a sliding scale (or whatever you make up, if you have don’t have any reference point).

How is it fair to “force” some people to pay more than others?

The tiers we offer are simply a suggestion. We ask that each person see for themselves what the authentic rate is. We know that there are more factors than just annual income that determine a person’s ability to pay. The truth is, there’s no way we could determine the authentic price tier for someone. What we can do is give people some simple guidelines for how to make their choice, and empower them to do it.

What have you learned?

Trust people.  One of the principles of our work is that people have their own answers. They really do know what’s authentic for them to pay, what’s aligned with who they are, and what they value. And when you give them the choice, plus the context in which they are making that choice, they will generally choose to pay what they can authentically afford.

An appropriately-priced sliding scale helps flatten the “money conversation.” One of the biggest worries people have when considering joining a course or program is “I don’t have the money.” And for some, that may truly still be the case. We know this system isn’t perfect, and there are some people for whom even our lowest tier is out of reach. But for many, the conversation becomes instead: Is this the right thing for me right now? And if they see that it is, money is much less of a concern. Indeed, some people have been very happy to pay more, knowing that it helps others attend who otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

It looks like pricing inclusivity is good for business. Over the short time we’ve been experimenting with this (six months now), we’ve increased the number of people we’re serving, AND we’ve seen a slight increase in the average price paid per participant. Time will tell if this continues to hold true, but we’ve been thrilled with the results and the response so far.

How can people learn more about your work?

Visit our website: acecoachtraining.com, where you can find free resources, like our online training Hope in Action: Find Your Center and Empower Your Purpose in Times of Trouble, and learn more about the Thriving Changemaker Intensive, our foundational in-person course in Sacramento, California.

JoshVanVlietJosh Van Vliet leads the creation, implementation, and evaluation of programs at the Academy for Coaching Excellence. He is a professional coach, dancer, teacher, and musician, as well as social entrepreneurship coach, and trainer for Move The Crowd. Josh has taught swing and blues dancing; worked as a case manager with Gilead Community Services supporting clients with mental illness to live independently; and led movement classes for kids in schools through Recess Rocks. acecoachtraining.com

Guest Post: How to Teach a Class to Get New Clients . . . Based on the Cycles of Nature

natural-business-cycle-revised-4-16-for-9-6-16-blog-postGuest Post by Julie Wolk 

Today I’m going to teach you a very practical marketing skill that I love and use regularly in my own business: teaching a free or low-cost intro class that gives people a taste of you and your offering so they can’t wait to work with you.

And get ready – it’s a long post, but it will walk you through all the steps you need to design a really rocking class.

If you have something interesting to teach and you enjoy teaching (or you’re willing to push yourself a bit and put your gifts out there, nudge-nudge), this is one of the easiest ways to get new clients.

What’s unique about what I’ll show you here is that it’s a nature-based model for teaching and learning. It will give you the confidence to deliver an effective class, and have your students feel deeply held in a strong, interactive, inspiring container… that feels totally natural, and not awkward.

There are two main problems that we’re going to try and circumvent here:

  1. Many of you have something to teach but you don’t necessarily have facilitation experience or a format to follow. This means that even if you have amazing brilliance and wisdom, people can get lost or bored, and worse yet, if you don’t have a plan for how to help people take the next step, you’ve lost a huge opportunity to actually get new clients after teaching your class.
  2. The other problem is that there is a lot of noise out there – and a heckuvalotta “free webinars.” And many of them are super low on content and super high on pushy, annoying selling. That’s not what we’re going for here.

What we are going for is you sharing your gifts with people in an inspiring way so that no hard sell is needed, giving people an distinct invitation to go deeper and apply what they’ve learned by working with you, and offering people a ton of value whether they end up working with you or not.

Some Logistics Before We Start

  1. You can do this live, on the phone, or via webinar. The format is similar for all, but here I’ll walk you through teaching a LIVE two-hour course, and then I’ll give you some simple tweaks at the end if you want to take it online.
  2. I’m not giving exact timing for each stage because it can vary, but for a two-hour live class, assume the BLOSSOM stage is one hour, and all the other stages together are one hour. 

Choosing a Topic for Your Class

Your class needs to give people a taste of your work and make them excited to learn more. It should be designed directly to solve a problem or need that your specific target audience has. So, if you’re not clear on your niche and your target audience’s biggest challenges, it will be hard to pick what your class is about.

You can either teach an overview of your whole process, or you can choose one simple part of your work to teach them about that naturally leads to your other work.

For example, I teach a class called “Tune into Nature to Grow a Business You Love.” It gives an overview of my entire philosophy of business, the 3 Principles of a Natural Business, and the 8 Stages of the Natural Business Cycle. It answers my clients’ yearning for a clear structure for how business works that also feels natural and easeful. I could also teach a class, for example, about helping people find their niche naturally. This would be a great taste of what I do that leads to many other things I teach about, and it helps people solve a specific problem I know they have. 

Just remember, you want the people who show up at your class to be your ideal clients, because you are going to invite them to work with you at the end of the class. It has to flow.

Finally, you only need ONE CLASS! I teach the same class over and over again. Of course I refine and tweak it over time, and it changes and gets better. But there is no reason to reinvent the wheel here. That takes more time for you and confuses your message. Keep it simple!

A Nature-Based Model for Learning

You can see a picture of the Natural Business Cycle above (and if you’re curious about it, just go here on my website).

The Natural Business Cycle is based on an incredibly inspiring model created by Jon Young called the 8 Shields Model that I’ve studied and implemented for years in a variety of contexts. What I’m teaching you today is also based on this model. (If you’re intrigued about learning how to build healthy, earth-based culture and community by teaching people how to reconnect to nature using this model, I highly encourage you to check out the 8 Shields Institute).

This model basically posits that there is a natural learning process that tracks the natural cycles.So here we go! You can literally lay your class out according to the eight stages outlined below.

There’s a spot at the end of each stage for you to fill in the blanks and prepare YOUR class.

Stage 1: SEED

This is the very beginning. And SEEDS are magical, right? So much potential! So we begin with a moment of gratitude, a blessing, a moment of silence, a deep breath, or a simple “Welcome and thank you for being here!” (depending on the vibe of your work and the tone you want to set).

After saying thanks, it’s the perfect time to set an intention for your class. Again, this can feel very spiritual, or it can be super practical. The point is that while we are in the place of the SEED, or pre-birth, we set the tone for the entire class. Here’s what I say in the SEED stage of the class that I often teach:

My intention for our time together is that we take time out for the next two hours from this sped-up world to slow down, take a deep breath, and remember that we humans are actually of the earth! We ARE nature, and everything natural has a cycle, including our businesses.
 
If you like, this is also a good time to state your vision, the why behind your work, or the stand you are taking with your work.
 
Your Turn:

  1. What is the opening moment going to be like for your class?
  2. What’s your intention for this class?
  3. Why do you do this work? Why is it important?

Stage 2: ROOTS

Now that everyone has arrived and is present, there is the formal orientation or introduction to the class.  It’s more logistical in nature than the SEED stage. People like knowing what’s going to happen, and you want to tell them early on so they know what to expect. This helps them feel ROOTED and ready to grow and learn.

So here, you’re going to let them know you understand why they’re here by identifying some of the issues or challenges they might be showing up with. Then you’ll tell them what they’re going to learn in the class and how you aim to help them solve those problems.

Then, you can give them the brief agenda for the class: “After this introduction, we’ll do a warm-up exercise, then I’ll teach you about X, Y, Z, then we’ll have small group discussions, a Q and A session, and then at the very end I’ll let you know how you can work with me if you’d like to.”

Then you’ll introduce yourself. Tell your story… how does your experience relate to the content you are teaching them today? Use your introduction as a teaching moment. People want to get to know you, and this is your chance. Take a few minutes for this.

Then, if you’re in a live class and there aren’t too many people, I recommend going around the room and having each person introduce themselves and telling one small piece of info about themselves (there will be more time for people to get acquainted in the next stage).

Finally, tell people any logistics they need to know about: the bathroom is down the hall, etc.

Your Turn:

  1. What types of challenges might your students be experiencing if they showed up at your class today?
  2. What do you aim for them to learn today that will help with those challenges?
  3. What’s your brief agenda for the class?
  4. What’s your personal story?
  5. What’s the intro question for your students?
  6. Any logistics to tell them about?

Stage 3: SPROUT

It’s icebreaker time. The SPROUT is full of energy, and this is the moment to take advantage of the excitement in the room and get people interested in learning… about themselves, each other, and the subject matter.

You could do any number of activities here, from movement games to a simple sharing circle, but I’ll give you one activity that combines physical movement (great for getting people energized), getting to know the people in the room, and helping people hone in on their own intention for being there so they get the most out of the class.

Here’s how it works:

  • Have everyone stand up and wander around the room. If you’re feeling it, you can ask them to act in a particular way. For example, I’ll have people pick their favorite season or animal and walk around the room in that style. It’s goofy and loosens people up.
  • After a few moments, say “stop” and have people stand in front of the person closest to them (so they make pairs).
  • Tell them to ask their partner the following question and then switch. Give them each one minute to speak, and time them (tell them when to switch partners): What’s your name and what drew you here tonight?
  • Then have them walk around again as another animal or season (or whatever!) and have them stop in front of a new person and ask a new question: What’s your name and what do you hope to get out of the class this evening?
  • Do this one more time and ask a third question. I’ll let you choose this one. Make it something specific to why they’re here for your particular class.  
  • Round everyone up and have them sit down again.

Your Turn:

  1. What ice-breaker will you do?
  2. If you do the one above, what are your three questions?

Stage 4: BLOSSOM

Ok, here’s the part you’ve been waiting for. The part you thought was the whole class, but really it’s just this one part: the actual content of the class! Here you get to BLOSSOM and really share your beautiful gifts. This stage of the cycle parallels the heat of summer and the mid-day sun… you’ll put out a lot of good energy in this stage.

Of course, this IS an important stage, but it’s important to note that this is just ONE aspect of the class, and all those other parts are really important to having everyone feel held in a natural, holistic process.

So how do we give over the content in the most effective way?

First, you need to give people the context and framework for what you’re teaching. Don’t assume they know what’s in your head. Even if it seems basic to you, start at the beginning and give an overview of what you’re teaching before diving into the details. Make sure they understand why it’s so important too. If you’ve done this already in the SEED and SPROUT stages, great. No need to belabor it.  

Now, I want you to choose three (ish) things you want people to learn in the class. It might be, “Three Uncommon Ways to Heal Anxiety Naturally,” or “Three Mistakes People Make When Choosing a Niche.” (PS – This can also be the title of your class!). Map out the whole class, thinking in headlines, bullet points, and simple visual models. And I totally didn’t believe this when I was first started teaching, but if you can group your teachings into threes, people are much more likely to remember them. Further sub-divide each point into threes as well if possible.

A really tight way to deliver each of your teaching points is to first outline the problem, then the solution you are offering through your approach, and finally, the outcome they can expect if they do it.

Here are three pitfalls to watch out for:

  • Rushing and running out of time. Know that if your class is two hours long, the BLOSSOM stage will be an hour or less. And it will go fast. Which leads to…
  • Teaching too much (less is more). Teachers always try to cram way too much into that hour. Your students get oversaturated more quickly than you think, so it’s best to keep it simple. After you make a first draft, go back through and cut it down. What is essential to teach them? Cut out anything that’s not. Ask a friend if you need help with this.
  • Worrying about perfection and memorizing. The most important thing is that you to show up as YOU, feeling as relaxed and natural as possible. This is way more important than the perfect words. And this goes for the whole class, not just this section.

Your Turn:

  1. What is the context, framework or philosophy behind what you’re teaching?
  2. What three things do you want to make sure people learn during this class?
  3. What is the overview or outline of your class?
  4. Fill in all your bulleted teaching points (remember the rule of threes).
  5. For each main teaching point, can you name the problem people are facing, how your approach could help them, and what could happen for them if they do it?
  6. Time it, and then cut some out (it will take longer to teach in person than practicing alone).

Stage 5: POLLINATE

Whew, that was a lot! Now it’s time for the POLLINATION stage, the moment of conception. In the cycle, it’s actually a pause, a time to let our bodies catch up to our brains and soak up all the wisdom you’ve just imparted, so we can start to integrate it. So what does this look like in practice?

In a daylong class or a retreat, it’s a physical break: time for a walk, going to the bathroom, a meal or snack and conversation. During a short class like this one, I simply have people stand up and take a stretch break, or take a few intentional deep breaths as I say, “Well, that was a lot of information, let’s take a few deep breaths and let that all sink in!”

We need time to slow down and start to integrate and embody our learning. Give people a moment for this. The rest of the cycle will focus on further integration of the learning.

Your Turn:

  1. How will you hold this pause for integration in your class?
  2. What can you do for yourself at this moment to make sure you take a pause (hint, it’s a great time to take a sip of tea and take a deep breath!)?

Stage 6: FRUIT

It’s time now to for people to gather together and harvest the FRUITS of their labors. Basically, you’ll divide people into small groups so they can explore how to apply what they’ve learned to their own lives. And people LOVE this part… connecting and sharing and talking about themselves? What fun! And, it’s where the real learning happens. I like to take about 15 minutes for this section (longer if possible).

On a logistical level, you need to hold this tightly. Make sure you have a timer and a sound-making device (or a loud voice), and don’t be shy to walk around the room and let people know when it’s time for the next person to speak. Everyone needs a turn, and you need to facilitate this.

Below are my favorite questions to ask to help carry the work forward (but you can also come up with ones that are specific to what you’re teaching).

Three Good Questions to Ask:

  • What lit you up about what you just learned? (or, what’s an epiphany you had about your own life/business?)
  • What’s something you might change about how you’ve been doing things after this class?
  • What’s a first action step you will commit to taking after this class?

Your Turn:

  1. What two to three questions will you ask people in order help them apply what you’ve taught to their own lives?
  2. What supplies do you need to bring to facilitate this stage?

Stage 7: NOURISH

In the NOURISH stage, you as the teacher get to draw out lessons from your students experiences to help them more deeply embody the learning for themselves. Just like a fruit nourishes our bodies or the soil, knowledge and wisdom nourish our minds and souls.

On a practical level, it’s time to share lessons from their small groups with the whole class and for the Q and A session.

So first, ask a few people to briefly share a little fruit, or lesson, from their small group discussions. Don’t skip this part! It is so inspiring for everyone in the class to hear what people are actually gaining from your class. And it sells your work BIG TIME (without you saying a thing) when people in the class get to hear everyone’s amazing epiphanies. Feel free to augment these learnings by responding or adding to them.

Then it’s time for Q and A:

Three tips for a lively Q and A session that doesn’t get out of hand:

  • Ask everyone to take a moment and write down a question they have. Let them know how much time there is for Q and A, and manage their expectations by asking them to come up with a concise question so that everyone can have a chance if they want it. (Then, if someone is rambling on and on, it’s easier to interrupt them and ask them to keep it short).
  • Try to make each person’s question relevant to the whole group by spotting lessons, creating teaching moments around them, and showing people how one person’s issue or challenge may actually be relevant to others. (If someone has a very specific or logistical question that will take a long time to answer and isn’t very relevant to others, invite them to come up talk to you after class).
  • Stick to time. Q and A sessions have the potential to get really boring. Ten or 15 minutes is generally enough in a two-hour class. If there are many more questions, stay late and talk to people AFTER you make your offer and close the class in the next stage.

Your Turn:

  1. Think about what people might come back from their small groups with and practice responding to some of their discoveries.
  2. Think about questions that people might ask in the Q and A session and practice responding to these questions. 

Stage 8: DORMANCY

We’re coming to the end of the class, the DORMANCY stage – a place of resting in the fertile soil that’s been created during this process.

This stage is not only about rest, it’s also about giving the space and the opportunity for new inspiration to come in. It’s the perfect time to let people know how they can work with you going forward.

And make no mistake: this is actually the most important part of your class (if you truly want to get more clients through teaching it). So pay close attention to the steps you need to take here to make sure that the people you are meant to work with have the opportunity to do so.

How to Make an Effective Invitation to Work With You:

  • I open this stage with a statement something like this: I covered a lot of content on this call, and I know that actually implementing it is a whole other story. And the reality is that for most people, actually implementing all this stuff is unlikely without support. And yet with support, it can make things so much more (your outcome here). And THAT is why I do (your type of program) with people.
  • If you are offering one-on-one work or a group program that requires a consultation to join, the simplest invitation is to sign people up for a free consultation right now, so that’s what we’ll focus on here.
    • First tell them the benefits they will get out of the consultation itself (not the whole program!), how and why it’s helpful for people. Think outcomes. Even though it’s free doesn’t mean they’ll take the time to do it.
    • Then tell them the details about how they sign up for it (you’ll be sending around a sign-up sheet, see below).
    • You don’t need to tell them all the details of your program offering during the class if they are going to have a free consult with you anyways.
  • If you are offering a course or something else that they can purchase on the spot or via your website (without a consultation), you’ll need more time to explain all the benefits of it and then the details and logistics. This is a slightly different strategy and will need to be a topic of another blog post!
  • Now, pass around a physical sign-up form for your free consultation. I actually put dates and times right on there and have people put their name, email and phone number in a time slot (and after the class, follow up with each person to confirm via email!).
  • Bonus tip: If for some crazy reason you don’t already have everyone’s email address from when they signed up for the class, make sure you get them at the end of the class. Many people will NOT sign up for free consultations, but you will still be able to add them to your email list so they can get to know you through your newsletters over time and reach out to you when they are ready (this is how you grow your tribe!).

Your Turn:

  1. What is your opening statement for this stage (feel free to lift mine)?
  2. What are you inviting people into at the end of your class? If it’s a free consultation, what is the program or package you are offering in that consultation?
  3. What benefits do people get out of your free consultation?
  4. How do people sign up for your free consultation?
  5. What forms do you need to create to pass around during this time?
  6. What is your follow-up plan for people who sign up for free consults? What about for people who don’t sign up for free consults?

And . . . Back to the Beginning!

I told you it’s a cycle. Here we have another ceremonial SEED at the moment of transition: a simple and brief “thank you for being here” (or a mind-altering closing meditation, whatever works for your business).

And now you’ve planted the SEED with your students for their next evolution around the wheel.

And finally, tweaks for taking your class to the phone or online:

  1. First, you don’t need to do a “webinar,” per se, especially if you are intimidated by the technology. Start with a regular old conference call line. Easy and free!
  2. Phone and online classes are better at 60-75 minutes. Engagement is much harder when people are alone with their computers and not in a room with other people.
  3. Skip the icebreaker in SPROUT, but do announce people’s names as they arrive if you have that ability tech-wise. In place of the icebreaker, I simply use an energizing statement: “Alright everyone, you ready to dive in? I’m excited to start!”
  4. I teach the BLOSSOM stage all the way through with no Q and A if I’m online and hold all questions until the Q and A section. Q and A throughout a call can feel disjointed (it can live too, and it’s important to maintain a balance of you teaching, but also not ignoring important questions).
  5. One way to add some interactivity on a call is to give people 15-20 seconds to journal or think about a question you ask. So at least they are interacting with the material, even if they’re not interacting with another person.
  6. The POLLINATION moment can literally be a deep breath together to let the information sink in.
  7. When you are doing anything interactive on a call or online, you want to tightly facilitate it. Some technology helps a lot with this! I use technology where people can raise their hands with their keypads and I call on them, or they can type in questions. I love MaestroConference as far as phone technology goes.
  8. During your offer, on the call, direct people to your consult application page or scheduling tool and encourage them to sign up right now for a free session with you. You can let them know you have XX spots this week for consultations to give it a little urgency. 
  9. Do the Q and A after you make the offer. This is because many people will drop off the call as soon as you’re done teaching and not stick around for Q and A. You want them to hear the offer, and then they can stick around and ask questions if they have them.

I hope this post was helpful!

It’s such a joy to teach and learn in this model, and I’ve found it very effective in my business as well.

 

Julie Wolk is a business coach comWebsite-Closed Smilemitted to helping purposeful entrepreneurs slow down and tune into nature and themselves to find the clarity, strategy and systems to grow profitable businesses they truly love and enjoy! For 15 years she’s guided talented visionaries to manifest the success and impact they desire. People love her down-to-earth approach and that she takes into account the uniqueness of each person she works with. Find out more about Julie and her work here: juliewolkcoaching.com

Play the Long Game with Your Sales Copy (and get more clients)

Guest Post by Ling Wong

How do you feel when you come across pushy sales pages with big red headlines, yellow highlighters and blinking arrows pointing to the “buy now” buttons?

(You know what I’m talking about . . . the “if you don’t buy you’re an idiot” kind of energy.)

40544993 - abstract geometric background. abstract geometric pattern on green background.A one-way conversation? A trapped audience to a monologue by a narcissist? Being yelled at? Being talked down to? A 7-year-old who can’t make a sound decision on her own?

You wonder if these “persuasion mechanisms” are truly effective. You surely don’t like being talked to that way . . .

Then you look around and see all those “internet marketers” who gloat about 6 or 7-figure launches using these tactics. Hmm, they must be effective, right?

(What they didn’t tell you is the refund rate, and the burn and churn . . .)

We’ve been told to twist the knife, add salt, and make the pain more urgent than a tornado warning; to pull the triggers of fears and scarcity; to stir up a sense of inadequacy; to make the potential buyers feel like crap.

We’ve been told that people are indecisive. They don’t understand their problems. We need to push them into making a decision we *think* is the best for them. (What a big ego!)

Deploying some sneaky “persuasion” techniques may get you one sale, but it’s not going to win you friends.

How many “info products” are sitting on your hard drive collecting dust because you were pressured into purchasing by sales materials that pulled some fears and scarcity triggers?

How does that make you feel? If you didn’t use the product because it doesn’t resonate with you, then you didn’t get results. Would you go back to the same business to buy more stuff?

Moreover, if you had a bad experience with these high-pressure tactics, you probably don’t believe in them whole-heartedly.

If you don’t have 120% conviction in what you say and do, how can you expect others to be convinced?

Now you’re Tad’s peeps, I assume you’re not selling some once-and-done cantaloupe widget to make a quick buck.

“Selling” deep, transformational work requires that we build trust and credibility with our community. It’s about connection and relationship.

It’s a long game. Pushy burn-and-churn tactics won’t get you there.

On top of that, I want to think my peeps aren’t stupid.

I prefer to give my clients some credit and trust that they have the ability make a decision that best serve their interest.

Let’s start by changing the assumption:

What if indecisiveness is NOT our nature?

What if indecisiveness is our reaction to what’s presented to us?

What if indecisiveness is an indication of insufficient relevant information?

What if indecisiveness is just one way of saying “I’m not fully convinced about the value of the product or service, and its relevance to my circumstances”?

Would you make a major decision without first gathering information and educating yourself on the subject matter?

Imagine you’re a caveman and you want to grind up some mammoth meat… Someone tries to sell you a food processor without any context, explanation or demo. You scratch your head and continue to pound the meat with a stone.

Sure, the food processor is the right tool that’ll give you faster and better results. But if you couldn’t link the problem with the solution, the solution is not relevant from your perspective.

I know, we’re all complaining about “information overload” and you’d wonder if feeding people more information is going to make them buy.

The answer is, yes and no.

No – they don’t need more “raw data” that’ll further confuse the hell out of them and throw them into analysis-paralysis.

Yes – they need a curated, logically presented set of information that links their problem to a proposed solution, from a perspective that resonates with their worldview.

This is particularly important if you’re delivering “deep” benefits and profound transformations.

You’ve to connect the “symptoms” – what triggers your potential clients to look for a solution and therefore land on your materials – with your services.

There are probably some intermediate steps between their complaining about the problems, to understanding the cause of their challenges, to connecting their problems to your modality.

They may need to be “initiated” into your world, learn a few new terms or concepts to interpret and articulate their challenges, before they can fully grasp the value and transformation you deliver.

Bridging this “knowledge gap” can make your sales materials more convincing while winning hearts and minds without being “pushy.”

Essentially, you’re incorporating the premise of Inbound and content marketing into the sales materials with a laser focus on connecting the dots between the symptoms and the solution (aka what you’re selling.)

It doesn’t have to be complicated. A few paragraphs of “educational” content on your sales page can make a world of a difference.

While providing valuable information, your content should answer these questions:

What do your readers need to know about themselves/their problems/you/your approach etc. before they can decide, one way or the other, whether your products and services are of value to them?

Is there any misconception or disinformation you need to address, so they’d stop shooting in the dark and get support from an expert (you)? 

Do you need to alleviate any fear about following a new process or around the changes working with you may cause?

How can you help them fill in the blanks and make a decision so everyone can move on? (Loose ends = energy drains, no bueno. 

Remember, “decision” can mean a yes, or a no. We’re presenting one side of the story to trick people into saying yes. Our responsibility is to help them take the action that best serves them at this moment in time.

Here’re a few extra tips when writing this content:

  • Keep it short, simple and focused. Don’t navel-gaze, don’t launch into your entire 6-years of Reiki training or turn it into a self-gratuitous spiel on gluten-free eating. Make sure everything contributes to helping the readers make an informed decision. (Informed decision = less buyers’ remorse = less refund + happier customers).
  • Understand where your audience is in relation to your area of expertise. E.g. you don’t have to dumb down the content if your ideal audience already has some basic knowledge. They’d think your products or services are not for them if your content is too “basic.” Educational content doesn’t mean beginner level knowledge. You could be addressing misconception or highlighting what they don’t know, which leads to poor or inconsistent results.
  • Incorporate your own point-of-view and convictions – they probably resonate with those of your ideal clients’. We all develop shorthand and make assumptions about the world based on our beliefs and experiences. If you could tap into them and use them as a common starting point, then you don’t have to start from zero and build more resonance right off the bat.
  • Tap into your ideal audience’s identity and inkling. Speak to an identity they’re already aspired to. Affirm what they believe to be true (of course, only if it’s in alignment with your approach,) rather than trying to strong-arm them into being a different person in just a few paragraphs (hint: you’d lose.)

If you ever found transitioning from talking about the readers’ pain to talking about your products or services to be somewhat awkward, I’ve good news for you.

This piece of educational content is also great material to transition from the “I hear you and I identify with you” piece to “here is my stuff – benefits and features” portion of the sales copy.

It changes the energy behind the conversation to one of providing value. You’ll feel good about it. When you feel good about how you sell, you sell more because you’re putting the right energy behind the act of “selling.”

Contact Ling Wong at: ling (at) business-soulwork (dot) com

Ling Wongimg_3672-199x300 : Intuitive Brainiac | Copywriting Alchemist. Through her unique blend of Business + Marketing coaching/consulting with a Mindset + Psychic Twist, she helps the maverick-preneurs uncover, articulate & transform their WHY into content that connects, resonates and converts – by way of an intuitive yet rigorous iterative process born out of her Harvard Design School training and 10 years experience in the online marketing industry.  

Get her brand new WEBSITE COPY ALCHEMY video here.

Honesty Matters: 12 Marketing Tactics to Avoid At All Costs

Guest Post by Marcia Yudkin

You want to run an honest business, right? It’s easy to lose your moral compass when you hear prominent marketers talk up shady marketing tactics and see them hail the results they get through fakery, verbal sleight-of-hand, or outright lying.

So here’s a handy list of marketing moves to rule out when you want to have the trust and respect of long-term customers and the public at large.

1. NON-EXISTENT SCARCITY

One well-known information marketing guru laughingly told a conference that he gets lots of last-minute orders by telling prospects that only, let’s say, 5 product sets are left, when in fact, he’d gladly sell 500 more. Fake scarcity also crops up when someone says the price will go up after the next X units are sold, yet the marketer doesn’t raise the price, or when a sale is supposed to end Saturday, and it’s still there on Sunday. Clearly, all these examples show a lack of integrity. Even if you think “everyone does it,” you have the option of taking the higher ground.

2. EMOTIONAL MANIPULATION

Certain phrases enrich marketers by triggering guilt, shame, confusion or fear in customers. One marketer says you can reduce refund requests by saying, “and if you’re not satisfied, I’ll refund you out of my own pocket.” This implies the refund comes from the marketer’s money and is that right, to make the seller suffer because you weren’t happy with your purchase? Actually, it’s really the customer’s own payment that would be coming back to them when they return something for a refund. Don’t perpetrate twisted tactics like this.

3. FALSE FRONT

The classic move in this category is getting photographed beside a Rolls Royce parked in front of a mansion. The car is rented, though, and the mansion belongs to someone else. Inflating your lifestyle, your credentials, your depth of experience – it’s all wrong and can boomerang on you disastrously when an ex-friend, investigative blogger, a lawsuit exposes you.

4. “BESTSELLER”

A whole industry flourished for a while devoted to the aim of achieving something that would be technically true yet highly misleading to the average person. If you engineer a relatively small number of sales in a short period of time, you can reach the #1 rank in an Amazon.com category and call your book a “bestseller.” The intention here is to deceive people into thinking thousands or tens of thousands of copies sold when the actual tally might have been less than a hundred.

5. OVERBLOWN PROMISES

Take a cold, hard look at your headlines. Are you promising results that your buyer desperately desires and probably will not get? “From Couch Potato to Beach Bikini Goddess Without Diet or Exercise!” “Become the Talk of the Town With Your Google Places Listing.” A little bit of drama to get attention might be okay, but over-the-top promises have no place in a respectable business.

6. REFUND OBSTACLES

Someone selling thousand-dollar home-study courses once gleefully described a new technique he’d come up with, designed to make it harder for people to return his products for a refund. It was impossible to open his mailing package without shredding it, so any customer would have to find or buy a box to send the course back in order to invoke the money-back guarantee. When your goal is having happy buyers rather than lots of unhappy ones who never ask for their money back, this kind of chicanery makes no sense.

7. COMPETITION AS BOOGEYMAN

Here the pitch warns that if you don’t buy the product, competitors who do will leave you in the dust. Do you have any genuine basis for that kind of a prediction? If yes, explain. If not, then it’s nothing but hot air, hype, and hoopla. Don’t go there.

8. SLOPPY WORK FOR FAST MONEY

When a marketing guru says you’re foolish to care about quality and that “good enough” wins the day, shut your ears. Never deliberately leave mistakes, oversights, glitches or holes in your work. If you have something you’re tempted to apologize for, fix it before you go to market. Remember that with today’s ubiquitous online reviews and social media, complaints are easier than ever to post.

9. DELIBERATE “OOPS”

Sometimes you’ll see two or even three emails in a row from the same source, with the second and third correcting an error in the link in the first email. Unfortunately, some marketers have figured out that those second and third emails get more attention for the message than the first one, and they occasionally create this sequence deliberately. Do this on purpose and then make a genuine error you have to correct, and you begin to look hopelessly incompetent.

10. SALES PITCH IN MASQUERADE

Ever grind your teeth because you signed up for a webinar or conference to learn the featured content only to suffer through an extended pitch for a new product or event instead? Call a preview a preview, so customers understand what they’re getting into. Don’t invite visitors to your website to download a “report” that is little more than a promotion. Earn trust by setting up accurate expectations.

11. NON-FREE FREEBIE

When you describe something as “free,” that means it has no cost. Period. Something that the customer receives only when they buy something else is not free. Marketers often fudge this because they understand the power of the word “free.” Customers get disgusted because they were attracted and then fooled by the word “free.”

12. NUMBERS RULE

Testing helps us determine what works better than what. However, some marketers go beyond the usefulness of testing to claim that whatever gets a better response is always the better tactic. A little voice inside you worrying that maybe a headline, a selling technique or a marketing spiel goes too far is irrelevant, they say. On the contrary, giving that little voice a fair hearing can often keep you from getting customer backlash and negative media attention. It also helps you maintain your self-respect!

All in all, if you wouldn’t feel comfortable having something be exposed on the front page of the newspaper, engraved on your tombstone or part of your entry interview at the pearly gates, don’t do it. Guard your reputation. Treasure your conscience.

marciayudkinMarcia Yudkin is a copywriter, marketing expert and business coach, as well as the author of 6 Steps to Free Publicity, now in its third edition, and 15 other books. She particularly works with introverts, social entrepreneurs, health educators, coaches and consultants. Learn more about no-hype marketing through her No-Hype Marketing Academy.

12 Big Mistakes Crowdfunders Make (And 11 Tips You Need to Succeed)

 Guest Post by Leah Lamb

crowdfundingCrowdfunding is one of the more powerful initiations and rites of passage into actualizing your vision. And while it is exciting and inspiring to hear of so many people’s successes, it is equally powerful to learn from their mistakes. Below I have outlined 12 big mistakes it is oh so easy to make, and 11 tips to developing an effective and efficient crowdfunding campaign.

1. Thinking Too Small When It Comes to Long-term Relationship Building

Most of the people who are launch crowdfunding campaigns are maker-types. And most likely that means that there will come a day when you will want to make something again. So don’t think of the people who participate in your campaign as disposable…consider them epic allies that are joining your team for the long haul.

  • Super Stealth Tip 1: Get Personal: You are building relationships that have the potential to last a lifetime and could potentially see you through many projects. Along with sharing information about your project, be authentic about who you are and what you care about. Reach out to people after they donate with a personal email where you thank them; you may even want to tell them what they funded. For ex: “Thank you for donating $10, you paid for 10 pages of my book!
  • Super Stealth Tip 2: Just because your campaign ends doesn’t mean that your relationship ends. You can continue to message people through most platforms, and you can also download the contacts list and integrate that into your mailing list. You can use that mailing list to maintain contact with people over time, keep them engaged with what you are creating, and make them part of your tribe/family/pods that actualizes cool things in the world.

2. Not Realizing That Your Main Job Is To Inspire People

I realize you thought that your main job was to get people to give you money. But atlas…it is actually to inspire people. One of the very first winners of project runway actually called her fans to see why people were watching. Turns out her fans watched because they loved watching someone accomplish something. You are DOING something amazing… you have taken a bold leap, put yourself out there, and are manifesting your dream. So flaunt that, and know that people are inspired by you.

  • Super Stealth Tip 3: Share Your Vision. Don’t be shy about sharing your big vision. Maybe it’s as fabulous as bringing more joy into the world by making people laugh, or as serious as feeding the homeless, or as practical as telling a story that will inform people. Connect people to your big vision for change, and tell them what inspired you to create this project.

3. Not Preparing for Taxes

Taxes and crowdfunding are for real. If you raise more than 20K you will be reported to the IRS and you will be taxed on what you raised. So make sure that you run your campaign early enough in the year so that you can spend as much of your funds as possible to avoid large tax bills.

4. Ignoring the natural cycles of online behavior:

August, September, and December are historically the months with the highest amounts of campaign failures. Don’t become a stat. Know your facts.

  • Super Stealth Tip 4: If you find yourself feeling the impulse to begin your campaign in one of those months, make sure that it is timely and irresistible OR use that time to your advantage for doing all the campaign planning…

5. Rewards: bad, boring, and costly

So many things can go bad with rewards… but the top pitfalls are: 1) Not budgeting for the time it takes to assemble and distribute rewards 2) Not budgeting the cost of mailing.

  • Super Stealth Tip 5: Develop as many digital rewards as possible.
  • Super Stealth Tip 6: Take every talent and gift you and your best friends and allies have and think about how they can be made into rewards. Rewards don’t have to be a literal representation of your project, they just have to be inspiring and result in something that people want. Extra points if you create a pick up location where people can get their gifts so you don’t have to mail them.

6. Lacking an eagle eye when it comes to the details:

There are a lot of details that can bite you if you aren’t paying attention. Such as the fees that crowdfunding platform charges, taxes, and the time, energy, and cost involved with fulfilling rewards. You don’t need a super stealth tip to tell you to read all of the fine print.

7. Making a crappy, boring, or really long video

            Enough said. Your video reflects on the quality of product you will ultimately deliver.

             It doesn’t have to be Hollywood quality, but it needs style, good sound, good editing,

             and great messaging.

  • Super Stealth Tip 7: Consider using the following recipe while writing your script: 1) Build credibility, tell us who you are and why you are the person who can do this job 2) Be your authentic self…in front of the camera. This isn’t as easy it sounds. Get someone to stand behind the camera and talk to them. 3) Deliver a concise and inspiring vision for what you want to do…and why you want to do it. 4) Inspire us with your idea! 5) Ask us for money. I know…it seems so obvious and so many people don’t do it. 6) Keep your video under 3 minutes. 2:45 seconds is even better.

8. Avoiding Proper Planning

So many people think they can whip out a campaign in a weekend (ehem, I was one of those people once upon a time). The truth is…doing it right means setting yourself up for success. Give yourself the time you need to develop the strategy, rewards, and copy for your campaign page. Schedule time to and write and rewrite your video, gather your production team, and schedule an editor. Reach out to your network to develop an ambassador program. Coordinate with friends or partner organizations who would want to throw a launch party… all of this takes planning and time.

  • Super Stealth Tip 8: Give yourself 4-6 weeks to develop your campaign.

9. Creating Financial Goals That are Out of Your Reach

This one speaks for itself. You need to assess the size of your network, and assess the size of your friend’s networks, and then do the math.

  • Super Stealth Tip 9: Around 1/10 of the people who visit your campaign page are going to make a contribution. The average contribution is $50. Now develop the math equation (or use the one I created in my 23 page Action Guide (see below).

10.  Not Treating Their Campaign Like A Job

You know that saying, “If you build it they will come.” That doesn’t apply to your crowdfunding campaign.

  • Super Stealth Tip 10: Plan on treating your campaign like a part time job. It will require you to be relentless and persistent. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the weekends off, because you need to treat it like a marathon, not a sprint. But doing a little bit of promotion on the weekend couldn’t hurt.

11. Ignoring Your Special Sauce

There is something unique to you and your project. It might be your sense of humor. It might be your epic persistence. You might be able to do a handstand like no other. What ever it is…make sure that you thread your campaign with the specialness of you. I realize this concept is abstract, so I’ll provide an example. One of my goals in life is to strengthen and build community. So when I did my second campaign I became aware that there were a lot of entrepreneurs and artists, and I wanted everyone to know about each other. I started flaunting my awesome tribe in my email updates, and I celebrated people on facebook. It was one of my ways of giving while receiving…to celebrate the people who joined my mission to put a story into the world that I believed would make a difference in the lives of youth. So I posted links to their work, and bragged about the amazing skills and talents of the people who were joining my project’s community. People still mention the impact that had on them. That’s my special sauce. What’s yours?

12. Not making a mid-campaign strategy

Every campaign has a natural cycle: lots of attention at the beginning, lots of attention at the end, and a flat line in the middle. You need to create a strategy before you launch your campaign for how you are going to enliven your campaign in the middle.

  • Super Stealth Tip 11: Don’t announce all of your rewards when you launch. Keep a few reward that you can announce in the middle or end of your campaign that will encourage people to increase their reward. In other words: plan all your rewards at the beginning, and then post a few halfway through your campaign when things get slow. Cause they will.

Want more help? YOU ARE IN LUCK!

I will be hosting an Online Workshop October 4th-Oct 8th Everything You Need to Rock Your Crowdfunding Campaign where you can study with myself and other experts who have successfully raised 100’s of thousands of dollars through crowdfunding. When you take the course live you have access to me for live Q&A and you can even sign up for the bonus package to have me review your materials. I know. It’s an awesome and crazy affordable program. I made it this way because I wanted the makers, creatives, burners, and more to have easy affordable access and support so they can build kick ass campaigns.

Can’t take the class but want to dive deep into the topics touched on above? You can get the recorded version or you can Get this 23 page DIY How To Launch Your Campaign Action Guide. (Of course it this comes free to everyone who signs up for the online course)

Contact: Leah Lamb at: 

leahlambLeah Lamb is a Writer, Producer, Transformational Storyteller, and Multi-media innovator. Her work plays with a lexicon that weaves myths, archetypes, and the hero’s journey into our modern world. Leah weaves her love of theatre, wilderness, film, and social justice together into her work as a storyteller and crowdfunding expert. Her first novel The Whale Dreamer, is almost finished. For more info: leahlamb.com

Is This My Best Interview Ever? You Decide.

Greetings friends,

I recently recorded a 71 minute interview with Australia’s Natalie Kent of sacredbusiness.com.au and I thought you might like to check it out.

The focus on the interview was on Point of View Marketing. As you know, I’ve written a book on the topic but this is one of the only interviews I’ve given that delves into it.

Some interviews feel like I’m retreading a lot of old ground but this one was cooking with gas and we both found ourselves breaking some new ground. I found myself saying things I’d never said before. I think I also swear more in this interview than I’ve tended to do. This was one of my favourite interviews I’ve done in a long time.

I don’t know how long this video will be up for free.

In this 71 minute video you’ll learn:

  • Why the 3 key elements of point of view can transform your business
  • Why you need to create a marketing map for your customers (+ a live critique of Natalie’s new map)
  • How to craft your offerings in a way that creates a sense of safety
  • How the integrity of your offering is intertwined with your pricing

You can watch the whole thing for free at the link below:

sacredbusiness.com.au/sms-true-marketing-with-tad-hargrave

4 Basic Reasons Your Business Isn’t Working Very Well

Guest Post by Julie Wolk.

tree-trunk-569275_1920Imagine a tree without roots.

Doesn’t really work so well, huh.

Your business also needs roots. It needs deep, strong roots too, so that it can hold up when the winds of change blow and the doldrums of summer seem to slow things down.

The problem is that it takes focus and time to build these earthy foundations of our businesses, and so we tend to skip over them, charmed by the shiny objects of the marketing world . . .

“The one marketing system you will ever need!”

“Get everyone to say YES to you!”

“All it takes is this one simple mindset shift!”

“Make millions blogging!”

I know: I see them everyday on Facebook too. And I admit – I’m sometimes tempted too (when my eyes aren’t rolling back into my head). Could it really be that easy?

Well first, probably not.

And second, if your business doesn’t have strong roots – meaning focus and clarity around four key areas of your business – none of these shiny promises are going to help you.

The Four Roots of Your Business

If you are not strongly rooted in these areas, no trick in the business book is going to work.

Skipping the roots and going straight to designing a slick website, or doing marketing and sales, can leave you feeling confused and frustrated – and your potential clients too.

And yet so many people do it! I would like to help you avoid that pain.

So let’s walk through these four areas:

1. Your Money

The majority of entrepreneurs I meet are mostly or completely ignoring their money.

A lot of people don’t like “dealing with money” at all. Or, it might be that numbers, spreadsheets and bookkeeping programs make you glaze over. Or that tracking feels like it’s too much pressure or gets in the way of your creativity.

Not only that, we all hold deeply rooted and often invisible beliefs about money that are etched into our psyches from years of familial and cultural influence.

Here are some common beliefs about money, that when left unattended can actually block you from earning money:

  • I’ll never have enough
  • Having money requires working so hard I’ll burn out
  • Rich people are greedy
  • Money is the root of all evil
  • I don’t deserve to make money
  • Money is complicated or causes problems/pain

Can you see how if those were your beliefs, you might not actually be able to earn a good living?

Thing is . . . I’m pretty sure most of you need to make at least some money in your business (if you don’t then awesome, but I would argue that you still need to pay attention to your money).

When you pay attention to your money – even if you have to get over a big “ick” factor to do it – here’s what happens:

  • You start to dislodge your stuck places around money by facing it and honoring it, instead of shying away from it
  • You feel empowered as the true leader of your business, one who has their finger on the financial pulse
  • You create an energetic container for your money to flow into, so that you earn more money. “What you appreciate, appreciates,” (says my favorite money teacher, Lynne Twist)

There are two key money practices you cannot ignore if you want to create a thriving business. One is energetic and one is very practical.

You need to explore and shift your underlying beliefs about money.

This is a long-term project. The first step is identifying what tapes play in your head about money without you even thinking about it. Then comes the work of shifting those old beliefs into life- and business- affirming beliefs about money – and constantly noticing when you slip back into your old ways so you can keep yourself on track.

You need to track your money.

Even if it’s just a simple spreadsheet (but ideally a simple bookkeeping program), please start tracking the money you earn and the money you spend in your business! Set a financial goal and track each month to see how much NET profit you earned (income minus expenses).

The coolest part is that these two practices are mutually reinforcing.

When you track and pay attention to your money, you start earning more, and your beliefs about money begin to shift. When your beliefs begin to shift, you start to earn even more money. And so on!

2. Your Purpose

Picture it: A business without purpose . . . wandering aimlessly in the sun-dried hills, wondering what to do with its life . . . Confused about what it does, who it benefits and how . . . Full of ideas and offerings, but not focused enough to make them happen. What problem do I solve? Who are my people? Where do I belong? Why am I here?!

Ok, I’m being overly dramatic, but I think you get the picture.

If you’re not clear on the purpose of your business – otherwise known as your niche – you can bet that others are confused too. This is not good for business.

And, when you’re not clear on what you do, it leads to all sorts of other frustrating questions like:

  • How do I talk to people about what I do?
  • What do I put on my website?
  • How do I market and get clients when I can’t clearly explain what’s going on?

Your business’ purpose, or niche, is perhaps the most fundamental building block of your business.

When you skip this part, it makes everything so much harder.

But when you take the time to hone in on your niche:

  • It will help you clarify what is totally unique about your business so you stand out from the crowd
  • It will allow you to speak confidently about your work, know exactly what to put on your website, and market with more authenticity and ease
  • It will help your perfect people find and hire you

I like this ecological definition of niche: “The role and position of a species in its ecosystem.”

What is your role in your ecosystem? How do you use your natural gifts to solve a problem for people? And who are those people specifically?

And how do you position yourself? How and why do you uniquely do your work?

Woven together, these threads are your business’ purpose. And knowing this, and honoring its organic growth and change over time, is an essential root of growing a successful business that feels natural to you.

3. Your Process

So you want to sign clients up to work with you for a six-month commitment because you’re sick of doing these one-off sessions and not having consistent work.

Or, you want to teach a yearlong group course so you can leverage your time.

Or, you’re still trying to find the words that show people how what you do is different from all other practitioners out there in your field and how you actually will help them get what they want.

All wonderful ideas!

But for people to make a big investment in your work, they really need to understand how exactly you’re going to help them. It’s not enough to tell them you’re an acupuncturist and you’re going to also do some moxibustion and cupping to help them feel better.

You need a process: A system that walks your clients down a pathway to the results that they’ve hired you for.

Here are some of the vast benefits to clarifying your process:

  • Potential clients are more likely to work with you when they are clear and confident about how you will help them get results and see you as having credibility
  • You feel more confident in your own work because you can actually see everything that goes into you creating results for your clients
  • You get to create an incredible, unique system that is truly your methodology, based on your experience, skills, and philosophy
  • This roadmap can be the outline for all of your business’s offerings, enabling you to design different programs and packages for different stages of the journey that all flow together and help you leverage your income

Your process does not have to be complicated. It just needs to be clear. Although it might be hard at first, try to define the steps you take people through as you work with them. What results do they tend to get each step of the way?

4. Your Time

My clients regularly ask me how they can better manage their time. Translated, this may mean:

“I am totally distracted by Facebook,”

“I have been putting off X project for six months now,” or

“I feel scattered and disorganized and don’t know what to do first.”

Sound familiar?

You might also have some resistance to structures and systems like calendars and goals. You are not alone in this.

The dance here is finding the balance between structure and flow. Structures truly do create freedom, and yet we don’t want to be overly rigid with ourselves, or beat ourselves up when we don’t hit our goals (no self-flagellation, please!).

That said, here’s what a little structure can offer us:

  • Less overwhelm, more organization, and more confidence in getting things done in your business
  • Clarity about what needs to happen next in your business and when you actually need to do it by
  • A strategic and focused way of approaching your work instead of a hodge-podge of random activities
  • Meaningful vision and goals that actually inspire you to get things done

But how do we get there?

The truth is that to really improve our “time management” and “productivity” (the outward desires of most entrepreneurs) we need to get at the heart of how we use our time.

At the core, our ability to manage our time well relies on things much deeper than simple productivity tips:

  • How aligned are you with your work? Do you feel on purpose?
  • What do you want to create? What are your goals?
  • What’s your strategic priority? What’s most important to do first?
  • Are you taking care of yourself? Are you giving yourself ample rest and refuel time so you can actually get this stuff done?

What these questions all point to is the need to take a step back from our busy work lives to slow down and figure this all out!

It takes some trust to know that time taken to create a plan and vision and set goals and priorities will actually help you feel less scattered and more focused on a day-to-day basis. But I invite you to take a risk and try it!
Our Root Systems Always Grow and Change 

As trees grow, their roots grow . . . The taller the tree, the more robust the root system.

Over time, as you and your business evolve, you will need to return to further clarify and deepen your roots. This isn’t just for beginners.

Every time you want to change or up-level your business, it’s an opportunity to return to your roots and clarify. Whether you want to increase your client base, take your business online, teach groups, or hire staff, as you grow, your roots need to grow with you.

Website-Closed SmileJulie Wolk is a business coach committed to helping purposeful entrepreneurs slow down and tune into nature and themselves to find the clarity, strategy and systems to grow profitable businesses they truly love and enjoy! For 15 years she’s guided talented visionaries to manifest the success and impact they desire. People love her down-to-earth approach and that she takes into account the uniqueness of each person she works with.

If you want support to work on the Roots of YOUR Business, join Tad as he interviews Julie about her new course that covers all this good stuff at 2PM MT (local time in Alberta, Canada) on August 2nd: HERE

http://juliewolkcoaching.ontrapages.com/RootsofBizTad

Winners of the 2016 SYTYCN Contest!

sytycn2016I am thrilled to announce the winners of the 2016 So You Think You Can Niche contest!

Backstory: throughout the month of May I invited people to submit their niche summed up into 140 characters (that’s the length of a tweet!), and then to rate at least five other people’s niches from 1-10 and offer feedback to one another.

The results were fantastic. We had 45 niche meme entries, over 150 Facebook “likes” on those entries and more than 560 thoughtful, constructive comments.

I am deeply happy and encouraged by the quality of content and interaction. In addition to being fun, the So You Think You Can Niche contest for 2016 has been a wonderful platform for learning and a genuine success.

And the winner is: 

Allison Macbeth!

Allison Macbeth

Allison received an overall rating of 10, and of all the 10/10-ratings in this contest, she had the most feedback comments – thus making her our winner and proving that the amount of genuine, thoughtful, rated feedback really did matter!

My sincere congratulations to Allison – she entered a super clear niche for her work helping women to chart their menstrual cycles and balance hormones naturally.

Allison takes home the first place prize of a 90-minute coaching session with me ($450 value) + she’ll be featured on my blog in the future + a $100 gift certificate at her favourite locally owned restaurant + a free hard copy and digital copies of my book The Niching Nest + a free entry to my Niching Spiral Homestudy Course to give to a friend (she doesn’t need it ’cause she’s so smart) + $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course (in case she does want to join the course herself), which will be fully launching soon!

— — —

2nd & 3rd place:

Eloise Meskanen and Leesa Klich. Each of these women received a 10 rating overall and had the 2nd and 3rd most comment ratings of all the 10/10-ratings. They will each receive a 30-minute coaching session with me ($150 value) + an electronic copy of The Niching Nest + $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course, which will be fully launching soon!

— — —

The lovely SYTYCN contestants who placed 4th through 10th each win $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course – a discount the winner can use or pass onto others. The tie-breaker for niches with the same rating was the number of comments offered on that niche. 

My congratulations to these folks: 4th place: Kathryn Karpinski [10]; 5th place: Crystal DiDomizio [10]; 6th place: Jill Mahanna [10]; 7th place: Bradley Morris & Andy Freist [10]; 8th place: Sherry St. Cyr [10]; 9th place: Joyce Schafers [10] and 10th place: Victoria Vernhes [9.5].

— — —

BEST MEME AWARDS go to people who created an eye catching, easy-to-read meme that really echoed their work or offering. This is a subjective category – I’ve looked at a lot of memes in my time and I chose memes that were striking and memorable to me, that were clear and welcoming and made sense with the niches they are supporting. These folks win $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course – a discount the winner can use or pass onto others.

And the winners are: Josee Brisebois, Iona Bonamis, Crystal Di Domizio, Cara Leopold, Tomar Levine, Rebecca Llewellyn, Allison Macbeth, Eloise Meskanen, Bradley Morris & Andy Freist, Claire Sierra, Devika Singh, Victoria Verns, and Fran Westmore.

Best Memes of 2016

— — —

THE BEST COMMENTS PRIZES go to the people who gave the best, most useful and insightful feedback to many others in the SYTYCN contest. They each get $300 off my Niching Spiral Homestudy course – because they’re the kind of people I want in it (this is a non-transferrable prize).

Thanks for the amazing effort and deeply thoughtful feedback folks, my congratulations go to: Lia Ayley, Josee Brisebois, Sarah Chauncey, Elfriede Krauth, Dana Leigh Lyons, Liz Massey, Solona Mead, Liz Norris, Jo Maria Vernon, and Sherrie St. Cyr.

— — —

List of  Final Ratings:

Lastly, you’ll find the  list of the final ratings for everyone who entered the contest below. Congrats and thanks to all these lovely, brave contestants!

Please note: the calculation was made by finding the average score of a niche/meme’s ratings and averaging that total with my (Tad Hargrave’s) rating.

1 Allison Macbeth 10
2 Eloise Meskanen 10
3 Leesa Klich 10
4 Kathryn Karpinski 10
5 Crystal Di Domizio 10
6 Jill Mahanna 10
7 Bradley/Andy Morris/Freist 10
8 Sherrie St. Cyr 10
9 Joyce Schafers 10
10 Victoria Vernhes 9.5
11 Tomar Levine 9.5
12 Josee Brisebois 9.5
13 Iona Bonamis 9
14 Lia Ayley 8.5
15 Liz Norris 8.5
16 Fran Westmore 8.5
17 Ling Wong 8.5
18 Jessica English 8.5
19 Courtney Moore 8
20 Devika Singh 8
21 Rebecca Llewellyn 7.5
22 Mary Choo 7.5
23 Sarah Chauncey 7.5
24 Dana Leigh Lyons 7.5
25 Alice Grange 7
26 Jessica English 7
27 Tea Silvestre Godfrey 7
28 Jennifer Badach 7
29 Xine Lafontaine 7
30 Claire Sierra 7
31 Jo Vernon 7
32 Sheena Grobb 6.5
33 Elfriede Krauth 6.5
34 Cara Leopold 6.5
35 Sabrina Fletcher 6.5
36 Liz Massey 6
37 Nicole Ortega 5.5
38 Solona Mead 5.5
39 Sharon Love 5
40 Louise Knight 5
41 Seth Rainess 4.5
42 Jennifer Wenzel 4.5
43 Douglas Brown 4
44 Olga Kaminsky 4
45 Dana Pharant 3.5

So You Think You Can Niche Contest – Win $100 + Free Coaching + A Copy of The Niching Nest for The Effort of a Tweet

***Contest Open May 2nd – 31st, 2016 ***

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Do you have a clear niche? Are you sure?

I’d like to give you a simple and fun way to find out for sure (and it might put $100 in your pocket). 

Many entrepreneurs I work with believe they do in fact have a clear, solid and effective niche for their business.

Until I begin to ask a few questions.

In my experience, 90% of entrepreneurs have an extremely fuzzy niche (and don’t realize it). But that’s just my opinion. And it occurred to me that you might be curious about how clear your niche is. So, I’ve arranged a quick and fun way for you to get some direct and candid feedback from me and also dozens of other people. In my experience, honest feedback can be hard to get.

Backstory:

For the past three years now I have run a contest I called So You Think You Can Niche? where people submitted their 140 character niches and memes  – and there were some really good submissions.

You can see the top forty winners by clicking on the dates for 2013, 2014 and 2015.

I created a fascinating and really useful, searchable collection of case studies from the 2014 and 2015 entries, which is an added bonus for people participating in my new Niching Spiral Homestudy Course, which is currently in beta testing.

So here it is, So You Think You Can Niche? 2016. It’s totally free to enter. But it’s only for the brave . . .

Submitting Your Niche:

Click the SUBMIT HERE text below and it will take you to a submission form that explains all. But here are the rules:

  • you must write your niche in 140 characters or less (say wha?!). That’s the length of a tweet.
  • if you submit a niche, you must rate at least five other people’s niches (it’s only fair) but please do more if you can. Be honest and constructive in your feedback.
  • your photo meme must include your 140 character niche text, your website (if you have one) and the hashtag #sytycn2015. Here’s are some great examples – the winners from 2015 and 2016 respectively:

Don’t know how to make a meme? You’re not alone! There are all sorts of apps for both Apple and Android phones and computers – here’s an article with some choices listed. Download one to your phone or computer to make your meme. Or get help from a friend! We happen to use Diptic and Over, but all these apps are a bit different and it depends what platform you’re working on which one will be the best for you.

You are totally welcome to email your friends and rope them into voting for you as long as you ask them to be honest.

Once you submit, your photo will be posted in this album on my facebook page. You can then select your photo and copy the link and share it as you like. 

In fact, here’s a Facebook post and a tweet below:

fb So You Think You Can Niche? Contest Win $100 Cash + A Spot in My Niching for Hippies program ($600) for Less Effort than a TweetFACEBOOK: 30 second favour – Give me an honest rating from 1-10 on how clear my niche is to you in the So You Think You Can Niche contest? #sytycn2016 [ADD A LINK TO YOUR PHOTO]

new twitter logo So You Think You Can Niche? Contest Win $100 Cash + A Spot in My Niching for Hippies program ($600) for Less Effort than a TweetTWITTER: 30 second favour – Give me an honest rating from 1-10 on how clear my niche is to you in #sytycn2016 [ADD A LINK TO YOUR PHOTO]

How to Rate Other People’s Niches:

fb So You Think You Can Niche? Contest Win $100 Cash + A Spot in My Niching for Hippies program ($600) for Less Effort than a TweetFacebook: Go to the photo album of niches. To vote, simply leave a comment underneath the photo with a number from 1-10 along with any comments you’d like to make. You can view and vote here.

To be clear on the rating system:

1 = Not clear at all. I have no idea what they’re talking about or what problem they solve for people.

10 = I can totally picture specific people I could send to them and I know for sure whether I’m in their niche or not. I clearly understand the problem they are solving.

You’re welcome to write some feedback too – in fact, please do! But let’s remember to be gentle, uncompromising truth but also unconditional love as this is a vulnerable thing for people. 

There is a prize for the person who gives the best and most insightful comments (read more at the bottom).

Examples of Niches I’d Rate a 10 in Clarity:

  • I help holistic practitioners attract more of their kinds of clients they want without doing anything that feels pushy.
  • I lead yoga classes for people with “round bodies” who don’t enjoy going to regular yoga classes.
  • Therapists who need an outlet to anonymously share all the secrets they have to keep from sessions with clients.
  • MD’s who are burning out or can see they’re heading to burn out if they don’t slow down and make changes.

Thirteen Chances to Win a Prize.

What’s in it for you?

How to win: the winner will be the person with the highest total score. In the case of a tie, the one with the most people rating them wins. So get your friends involved if you want to be sure to win – but remember, they need to rate you honestly!

1st Place: 90-minute coaching session with me ($450 value) + you’ll be featured on my blog + $100 gift certificate at your favourite locally owned restaurant + free hard copy and ebook versions of my book The Niching Nest + a free copy of Niching Spiral Homestudy Course to give to a friend (you don’t need it ’cause you’re so smart) + $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course, which will be fully launching soon!

2nd & 3rd Place: 30-minute coaching session with me ($150 value) + a free hard copy and ebook copy of The Niching Nest + $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course, which will be fully launching soon!

4th – 10th Place: Win $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course, which will be fully launching soon! + an ebook copy of The Niching Nest.

Best Photo: Your creativity and quality of presentation will be rewarded, even if your niche isn’t. You win $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course!

The Best Comments Prize: the person who gives the best feedback to others gets 50% off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course because that’s the kind of person I want in it.

But, every person who enters a niche will receive a rating from me personally (from 1-10) and some direct feedback and questions to help you dig a bit deeper.

Every person who enters gets to see a tonne of examples of how others articulate their niches in clear and fuzzy ways. And you’ll get feedback from (hopefully) dozens of others.

SUBMIT HERE

5 Reasons to Beta Test Your New Program – Using Nature as Your Guide

Guest Post by Julie Wolk

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 11.46.14 AMAll business is iterative. In fact, so is all of life.

This means we need to learn to let go of perfection in favor of motion.

We have this crazy idea that we live in a linear world where everything has a clear beginning and end point.

But in truth, we cycle around continuously, as the seasons turn, doing, adapting and shifting according to a changing environment (both inner and outer) . . .  and doing it again.

This is how biological evolution works. It’s always been happening, and it will always continue.

Similarly, our businesses go in cyclical phases, travelling around the wheel.

And here’s the best part – when we finally relax into this reality, it’s a huge relief!

We realize that we don’t actually have to figure everything out all at once – things will naturally evolve and change over time, becoming more and more suited to the environment around them.

We simply can’t force it. Things take time to evolve.

That’s a big load off, right?!

This principle of iteration holds true for the overall evolution of our business, for our niche, and for our programs and services, which we’ll focus on in this article.

 

So What is a Beta Test?

A beta version, beta test, prototype, or simply a test run, are all words for the first cycle or iteration around the wheel.

The bottom line question to guide you in creating a beta version of your program is:

What is the simplest way I can put out a quality program to try out my idea in as little time as possible?

There’s a popular idea in the tech start-up world called The Lean Start-Up, which defines a beta program as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and the process of using a build-measure-learn feedback loop. While it started with software products, the concept quickly spread to other industries.

It’s evolution from the heart of Silicon Valley – you build something, measure how it does based on feedback in the marketplace, learn from it, and then rebuild (you know it as version 1.0, 2.0, etc).

 

So here are some further questions to help you apply this concept to your work:

  • What is the pared down or bare bones version of my epic program?
  • What elements can I leave out that will make it easier for me to just get it out there now but would not sacrifice the goals of the program?
  • Can I test out a program one-on-one before offering it to a group?
  • Can I teach my course live before attempting to package it up into an online course (a must-do if you ask me)?
  • Can I teach a daylong version instead of an 8-week course?
  • Can I use a cheap or free venue to host my event? Or do something non-residential before planning a big retreat?
  • Can I offer a free or low-cost call or class to assess interest in a more robust program?
  • Do I need to do it via webinar (or other unfamiliar technology) or can I simply use a free conference call line?
  • Could I design an information product myself instead of hiring a graphic designer?
  • Can I do it without a fancy website or sales page and have sales conversations instead? 

 

What Happens When You Don’t Beta Test Your Programs

Look, it’s going to happen anyways: The first time you offer something, it’s probably not going to be as good as the 10th time you offer it. So why not own this reality and take advantage of it instead of uncomfortably trying to act like you already know everything when you don’t?

And then of course, there’s the “Crickets Effect.” When you don’t beta test, you run the risk of creating an “epic” program that your target market doesn’t even need, potentially wasting a lot of time and money when people don’t sign up.

But worse than crickets or pretending you’ve got it all figured out, there’s the more likely possibility that if you don’t put out a beta version, you won’t put anything out . . .

Because you are waiting for perfection.

First off, let’s just send that little perfection monster on vacation. Cycles need to move. And while clarity is very important, we have to be careful not to get stuck in vision-mode.

One of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs make is trying to figure it all out in advance – to make their offering absolutely perfect – before they put it out there.

Forget your perfect offering.There is a crack in everything.That's how the light gets in.-Leonard Cohen-3Well I’m here to say:

Forget your perfect offering (thank you, Leonard Cohen).

And This Takes Courage, By the Way.

While the reality is that nothing’s ever going to be perfect, when you’re in beta mode, things are inherently even more imperfect (that’s the whole point).

But we humans don’t generally like being seen as less than perfect, so this means you’ll need to muster up some courage to put your work out there anyways.

And frankly, this is what building a purposeful business is all about.

Just doing it anyways even if you’re not quite ready.

Because you will learn way more about how to successfully grow your business by actually doing your work and getting direct market feedback that you will from me or any other business or marketing consultant out there, or from simply planning and thinking and doing market surveys.

So how about trying a beta version?

 

5 Great Reasons to Put Out a Beta Version of Your Program (and Some Implementation Tips)

  • You Gain Experience and Confidence: This is the obvious one. You get to actually do it! Doing it will give you more practice in your craft and more confidence in your abilities. You will get to see your work impacting others and that is essential in giving you the information and motivation to move forward in your business.
  • You Get Feedback and Testimonials: You can get the specific feedback you need to make your program better through surveys and interviews (How did this module work for you? What would make it better?), and you can get the testimonials you need to market your program more effectively when you come out with the next version.
  • You Get to Be More Relaxed in Your Delivery: Because you have framed this as a beta program, which manages the expectations of your clients, you can more easily let go of it having to be perfect. I reference the fact that I’m running a beta program all the time when I’m doing one! I even make jokes about it. You get to be transparent about your newness, which gives you more leeway to be creative and experiment. And people will respect your honesty.
  • It Can Help You Fill Your Program: I recommend “one-time beta version pricing” – pricing that is reduced from what you will ultimately charge for an evolved program to a point that feels good to you AND fills your program easily. Then, you can focus on program creation and spend less time marketing. I’m not proposing you dramatically undervalue your services, but remember that you are gaining a lot more besides money when you get to test out a new program on a bunch of people! (And you may end up earning just as much money because you’ll actually fill the program instead of charging more and having fewer people).
  • Your Clients Get Super Invested: When people get in on the ground floor and are asked to provide feedback, they feel heard, they feel ownership and they feel investment. They will get more attention from you now than they will when there are more people in the program. They are likely to get a lot out of your program and recommend it to others. And because you will offer your beta program at a one-time beta version price, (this is true, it’s not creating a false sense of scarcity, as I absolutely recommend increasing your price the next time you offer it), they will be psyched they are getting a deal. And people truly are getting a great deal because you are awesome.

 

PS – Doing a Beta Version Doesn’t Mean You Aren’t Good at What You Do

Beta programs are not meant to be hid behind because we don’t think we are good enough.

You have something to offer. It is in some stage of development. Your beta program will help you develop and evolve your offering in a particular format you may have not delivered it in before.

Once upon a time, we were all amoebas. Now we are people. That took time.

Your beta program is a way to hone your gifts and create something deeply impactful and worthwhile for people. It will be valuable the first time you offer it, and it will become more and more valuable over time.

JulieWolkAbout the Author: Julie Wolk helps purposeful entrepreneurs slow down and tune into nature to find the clarity, strategy and systems to grow profitable businesses they truly love and enjoy. For 15 years she’s guided talented visionaries to manifest the success and impact they desire. People love her down-to-earth approach and that she takes into account the uniqueness of each person she works with. 

 

If you like what you’re reading, download Julie’s free guide: The 5 Principles of a Natural Business: How to Tune into Nature and Yourself to Grow a Profitable Business You Love.