Maybe I Should Stop Doing PWYC

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(NOTE TO READER: As you can see, this post has generated quite the commentary below and this from sharing it on social media. If it’s any reassurance, my practice of offering my daylong and weekend workshops on a PWYC basis is not under any imminent danger. I don’t intend to stop it any time soon. I wrote this piece more to reflect to all of us the immense consequence that everything we do and do not do has not only on our lives and the lives of others (intended or not). At this point, the reasons (selfish and selfless) for me to keep offering these workshops on a PWYC basis outweigh the reasons not to. So, I’m not looking for alternatives right now. I think with some adjustments, PWYC will continue to work well for me when I do it).

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Maybe it’s time to retire my PWYC pricing at my live day long and weekend long workshops.

I led a marketing workshop in Toronto last Summer.

It was a weekend workshop that I offer, as I have for almost 15 years now, on a PWYC basis.

Every time I do the workshop I tell people that it’s not a given that it will go on forever – this PWYC thing. If it stopped working, I’d have to stop doing it. Thankfully, it has worked thus far and people have been remarkably trustworthy in their instalment payments that they agree to.

But of that co-hort from the Toronto workshop (of which there were seven) there were two where payments were late. Two out of seven is a very high ration compared to the past.

It was left to me to follow up.

Over and over again.

It was a kind of ghosting.

Or carelessness. Or forgetfulness. But it all communicates the same sort of thing in the end. “This isn’t that high a priority to me right now.”

To be clear: the issue wasn’t the amount. I offer my workshops on a PWYC basis so that people can afford to attend it no matter where they’re at financially. And I’ve had people promise to pay me large amounts and then, months later, have to re-negotiate that as their financial picture had dramatically changed and I was happy to forgive that amount and let it go. 

I suppose it’s true for most of us: the big issue is communication.

On the personal level, it felt terrible. These were people I’d spent a weekend with. I’d paid all of my expenses up front to be there. I’d worked hard for them all weekend to help them grow their businesses. A certain level of affection grew. And then, after all that, they were treating me like this?

It reminded me of an ex-housemate who would take forever to pay his bills. But that isn’t what bothered me. It was that I was the one who had to follow up with him. He wouldn’t let me know it was going to be late. Then he’d promise to get me the money by Friday. And he wouldn’t. And then I wouldn’t hear from him for a month.

It was the lack of communication that stung the most. 

It reminds me of going to a friend’s house and sitting on her couch with a guitar. It was myself, my friend and two of her friends. 

“Are you going to sing us a song?” asked my friend, sitting on her floor with a bottle of wine. 

I nodded and began to sing a Corin Raymond tune that I love.

They listened for a while but, within sixty seconds, they’d begun talking with each other and weren’t listening at all. I stopped playing and set down the guitar. Besides the personal sting of being ignored, there was the song to think about. A song is a living thing and it was being dishonoured by that kind of behaviour and so, to care for it, I stopped it. It wasn’t fair to the song.

It reminded me of sitting at the Social Venture Institute at Hollyhock. We were in the kitchen. I was doing magic at a table. But people started grabbing at things. They were drunk. They were interrupting me and distracted. I stopped the show. They were shocked. One came up and apologized later. I think they’d all imagined that I would accomodate any level of rudeness they brought. 

It reminded me of one of my first magic mentors, Gazzo Macee who I had seen stop a number of street shows after five minutes because he could feel the tone the audience was setting wasn’t right. 

And so it was with these two people from the Toronto workshop. I would email and there would be long delays in even responding to me. In one of those cases, there were six weeks in which multiple emails were sent and no reply. The payments finally arrived but much good will was lost in the process. Perhaps it will be restored but I’m leaving that in their hands for the moment.

For the first time in years, I found myself thinking, “Maybe it’s time to put this PWYC thing to rest. Maybe people are taking it for granted too much.” I don’t need to lead live workshops. I can make better money online. There are no travel expenses, accommodations, venue fees etc.

I think that we often underestimate the consequentiality of what we do and don’t do.

We assume that what we love will be there regardless of how we treat it. Until the break up. Until we’re fired. Until that local bookstore goes under because we loved the convenience of Amazon.com instead. Until the local farmers shut their farms down because we all decided chain grocery stores were more convenient.

It makes me think of my dear colleague George Kao who brought me in to help his people for 90 minutes the other day and then sent me, thought I’d agreed to do it for free, $200 afterwards as his way of saying thanks.

It makes me think of how many indigenous traditions are based around feeding the holy in Nature with the beauty they make with their language and their hands and how many people go to Church wanting to get fed.

It makes me think of the difference a good and enthusiastic crowd makes when I perform improv with Rapid Fire Theatre in Edmonton.

It makes me think of the guests at my potlucks who help with the dishes throughout the night.

It makes me think of my dear friend Esther, a Mexican woman, who told me that when women of colour visited her they automatically began to help out with whatever chores they saw needed doing and white men who came to visit would simply sit and wait to be served with an air of entitlement. Helping out never seemed to occur to them at all. It makes me think about how I got up from my chair and began to help her with dishes once she told me that.  

My offering my live workshops on a pay what you can basis is not inevitable. Its future is not in my hands in the end. It’s in the hands of the people who attend them and how they honour or do not honour their word in what they will pay (and how honourably they act when they realize they are no longer able to honour their original commitments).

In offering the workshops in this pricing I expect more from people in their integrity than perhaps others do and I’m okay with that. I’ve got no plans on changing that. If we’re going to build a new economy, move towards the possibility of village-making, then surely our integrity in our commitments matters a great deal. 

If you love someone or a business, I ask you to imagine that the way you interact with it (or don’t) shapes its future. I ask you to imagine that the future of those you love and businesses you admire is in your hands. It’s too easy to imagine that they are inevitable. That they will always be there no matter what you do or don’t do. It’s easy to see those we admire as sort of bullet proof and not so vulnerable as we are. That they don’t feel the slights as deeply as we would. I can assure you they do. I’m not immune to it and have no plans to try to be intact (a word that means ‘untouched). 

Martha Nussbaum put it so well when she wrote,

“To be a good human being is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control, that can lead you to be shattered in very extreme circumstances for which you were not to blame. That says something very important about the human condition of the ethical life: that it is based on a trust in the uncertain and on a willingness to be exposed; it’s based on being more like a plant than like a jewel, something rather fragile, but whose very particular beauty is inseparable from its fragility. Being a human means accepting promises from other people and trusting that other people will be good to you. When that is too much to bear, it is always possible to retreat into the thought, “I’ll live for my own comfort, for my own revenge, for my own anger, and I just won’t be a member of society anymore.” That really means, “I won’t be a human being anymore.” You see people doing that today where they feel that society has let them down, and they can’t ask anything of it, and they can’t put their hopes on anything outside themselves. You see them actually retreating to a life in which they think only of their own satisfaction, and maybe the satisfaction of their revenge against society. But the life that no longer trusts another human being and no longer forms ties to the political community is not a human life any longer. Tragedy happens only when you are trying to live well, because for a heedless person who doesn’t have deep commitments to others, Agamemnon’s conflict [in which the king-protagonist has to choose between saving his army and saving his daughter] isn’t a tragedy… Now the lesson certainly is not to try to maximize conflict or to romanticize struggle and suffering, but it’s rather that you should care about things in a way that makes it a possibility that tragedy will happen to you. If you hold your commitments lightly, in such a way that you can always divest yourself from one or the other of them if they conflict, then it doesn’t hurt you when things go badly. But you want people to live their lives with a deep seriousness of commitment: not to adjust their desires to the way the world actually goes, but rather to try to wrest from the world the good life that they desire. And sometimes that does lead them into tragedy.”

And so, I’ll be paying attention at the future workshops and how people treat this PWYC offering. If the trend continues or expands, I’ll find some other way of proceeding that sustains me financially, respects my craft and makes my work accessible to those who need it. 

And, perhaps, I’ll need to speak to this more directly in my future workshops. Certainly this will be so. It’s a good reminder to all of us that when patterns of poor behaviour begin to emerge in our clients, it’s time for us to reflect on what systems we need in place to change that. I will need to name this pattern and say something like, “My friends… I trust you will pay an amount that is right for you and post date those payments for dates that work for you. And I understand that things change. It’s how it is. If you need to delay a payment for a while or you realize you’ll never be able to pay me… all I ask is that you tell me as soon as you know. Don’t make me follow up with you about the payments. Don’t make me send multiple emails asking you where things are at. Don’t make me chase you. If you promise a payment on June 1st, don’t wait until June 2nd to tell me it’s not coming. Or June 30th. I ask that you bring the kind of integrity to this you’d want your clients to bring to their financial commitments with you.”

Maybe it’s time to retire my PWYC pricing at my live day long and weekend long workshops.

I’m not there yet. But I’m no longer where I was a few months ago. I’m not assuming that things will continue to go as they have gone before. I can’t tell yet if this was a one time aberration or a change in the winds. I can tell you that, if this trend continued or worsened, I would pack up my pay what you can pricing and put it back in its case out of respect for it and the good people who are behaving so poorly towards it (why lead them into a situation they can’t handle and cause more shame for them?).

Maybe it’s time to retire my PWYC pricing at my live day long and weekend long workshops.

I suppose you’ll all let me know after my future workshops. 

Your Website Is Your Dojo

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“Your website is your dojo,” is a phrase I’ve said a number of times over the past few years to clients.

If you want to get good at martial arts, you need to practice. And the dojo is where you practice.

You don’t go to the dojo to win. You go to be defeated. You go to learn. You go to push yourself.

I suppose it’s the same in any art form. A writer is constantly defeated by the blank page. 

As Arnold Schwarzenegger put it, “A hundred pounds is a hundred pounds. It never gives you a break.”

It is supposed to stymie you. You’re supposed to see how little you know and how meager is your skill.

I see this with websites and entrepreneurs all the time.

They’ll tell me that they’re very clear about their niche, their point of view, their story and their services.

“Show me your website then,” I’ll say.

And the website is usually generic, confusing or uncompelling.

Don’t tell me you’re clear. Show me.

It’s easy to claim that you’re a karate master until you get into a real fight.

I see people defeated by their homepage all the time. What should they write? What options should they give to people?

I see people defeated by their bios all the time.

I see people defeated when they try to write a page on their site describing their ideal clients and their point of view. 

I see this all the time. 

It’s supposed to defeat you. You’re supposed to be appalled by how hard it is to express the things inside of you. It’s a good reminder: if it’s this hard for you to articulate what you do imagine how hard it is for your clients. And if you rely on word of mouth, this is a ponderous consideration.

People often ask me if they need to write a business plan. I always encourage them to do it; not because the plan will be of much use to them by the time they’re done. It’ll likely be useful for a few months and then not worth the paper it’s written on. But the clarity it will bring them in the process will be invaluable.

Writing a business plan forces clarity on the core questions of business: What are you doing? How are you doing it? Why are you doing it? For whom are you doing it? etc. These are questions that are so easy to ignore. They are the scales that the world’s greatest musicians still practice regularly.

They are the basics. They are the fundamentals. It’s easy to go to karate class, watch people at work and nod and say, “Got it,” but you don’t got it until you’ve practiced it and wrestled with it hundreds of times.

Nobody wants to practice that same damned jump shot thousands of times. 

No one in the military wants to do drill after drill.

No musician or actor is stoked about rehearsing over and over and over until it’s perfect. 

But it’s this kind of rigorous practice that creates masterpieces.

Marketing makes you better at what you do. Marketing asks you the questions that shape your products and services for the better; honing and focusing them. Marketing trims the unnecessary fat. 

And so, your website is your dojo. It never gives you a break.

Most people I know write and then rewrite their home pages, bios and other central pages. Rarely does someone write the perfect thing on the first draft. It ends up being an iterative process.

But a dojo isn’t just where you practice, it’s where your practice is recognized. It’s where you’re given your next belt. 

I suppose this is why having marketing coach can be so helpful. They’re like your sensei, or your voice coach, your fitness instructor… they push you harder. They keep defeating you but what comes out of it all is something more beautiful than you might have done alone. 

Your website isn’t supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to flummox you. It’s supposed to point out to you every place you’re not clear. That’s its job. But, if you stay with it, you come out with something simple and glorious. You come out with something so clear that it makes your entire business life easier.

Your website is like the CD you finally put out but it all starts with years and years of writing and rehearsing songs. It’s the book you finally publish. But it all starts with the blank page. 

Your website is where all of your hard work appears both as practice (various drafts and versions over the years) and as final product (the pages that are up on your website now). 

Additional Resources for Your Website:

Five Homepage Case Studies

How to Write a Lovable Homepage

Bye Bye Boring Bio (best workbook on writing your bio ever)

Point of View Marketing (most websites don’t have a point of view page but I think they should)

The Art of Relevance (the core issue around which your home page must be built)

The Website Toolkit (incredible resource from my colleague Robert Middleton that tells you the pages your need as a service provider and what should be on them). 

 

Point of View Marketing: Informed Consent

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I just spoke at the annual Natural Health Practitioners of Canada Conference in Edmonton as one of their opening day keynotes about marketing.

After my talk, I moved to the back of the room to organize a few things while the next speaker went up to speak about the ethical issue of ‘consent’ in the world of natural health.

It kept striking me how much this overlapped with the work I’ve been doing on point of view marketing.

Consent means that people are giving permission or agreement to an experience.

Informed consent means they have as full an understanding as they can have about what it is they are consenting to.

Every customer complaint ultimately comes down to a gap in expectations. They expected one thing and got another.

They came in for a massage but got craniosacral instead.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with craniosacral work. It’s that they didn’t sign up for it.

They went for a massage but ended up being touched in places and in ways they did not consent too.

Now, this doesn’t mean the intent of the touch was sexual. But, perhaps it’s a male massage therapist who is working some muscles around the breast the female lying on the table is receiving this as unwanted contact and feels powerless to say anything. She didn’t consent to this.

It would have been important for the massage therapist to discuss this and the kinds of touch and places he might touch her and to explain why. Then, before she was lying down on the bed and in a compromised position, she could have said ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

I’ve known people who got a bill from their contractor and were shocked to see additional expenses added in that they’d never consented to. A good contractor will always say, “Ok. We can do that extra bit and it will cost $4000. Is that okay?” They will always establish consent before moving forward.

There are two kinds of consent: there’s the consent you can give before an experience starts and then there’s the ongoing checking in during the experience to make sure everything is still feeling okay.

While the latter is vital, this post is focused 100% on the former.

I recall a colleague of mine, a naturopath, telling me how she’d had a couple of her clients left appointments part way through very upset because she had gone so hard for the energetic jugular on the issue they’d brought to her.

“Sarah,” I told her. “You’ve got to be gentle with people. You’ve got to let them know that this is your style before they show up.”

She nodded. She kept seeing this. She was realizing that her clients were coming in with no knowledge of her take on things and so were getting blindsided.

“Maybe you could host a monthly live workshop and insist they attend one before booking an appointment with you or maybe record it and ask that they watch it before your first session.” I suggested.

Another colleague of mine, a financial advisor, is incredibly blunt and brash in her workshops. She swears like a trucker. I sent a client of mine who was immensely sensitive to the workshop but without the forewarning. My client was mildly traumatized by the experience. She would never have consented to go if she’d known.

If you were a hardcore, raw-vegan, you likely would be upset to find out the naturopath you’d been recommended to go see was a hardcore paleo. You’d not have consented to go if you knew.

If you were a fundamentalist Christian, you wouldn’t consent to see a pagan healer etc.

These might seem obvious but it happens all the time: surprise.

Surprise is another way of saying, “I didn’t give me consent for this.”

Now, sometimes we are delighted by the surprise and sometimes… we aren’t.

If you do an intro workshop, my belief is that your goal must be to give them the information that they need to give (or not give) their informed consent about the next step in working with you.

How do you do this? You lay out your point of view.

You lay out your philosophy, perspective, take on things.

You tell them the generic process that you use.

You tell them the assumptions and principles upon which you’ve based that process.

You show them the overall map of the elements with which they’ll be contending in dealing with their issue and how that all relates to your core principles and your process.

You make your best case for this approach to the issue.

And then you make them your best offer.

It’s that simple.

I want to emphasize how much of this can and should be handled before you ever meet with them one on one.

A few years ago, I went to see a therapist who was specializing in a particular modality. I was paying about $185 for the hour.

She spent the entire hour going over everything I’m describing here. She told me the ethics of therapy. She gave me a flyer. She did everything but therapy with me. I was growing more and more agitated sitting there and listening to her go on and on.

Finally she picked up on it and asked me what was going on.

“I am paying $185 for something you could have emailed me and asked me to read over before I came here. You can have recorded this all in a video and sent it to me. Why am I paying for this?”

I did not consent to that experience. If she’d told me that this is how we’d be spending the first session I would never have booked a session with her.

Did I want to hear her point of view? Yes.

Did I want it in that format? No.

If you want your new clients to be delighted with your work, then give them the information they need to make the best choice for themselves.

The best marketing lets people know, “This is who I am. This is what I do. This is how I do it.” and then let’s them decide if that’s a fit for them or not.

They need to know your honest, considered take on the risks and benefits before they give you permission to do anything.

This means slowing down the marketing process even when you’re scared it will annoy them or that you might lose the sale.

It gives them the information they need to give you informed consent.

The challenge is this: what is that information?

Most entrepreneurs I work with have never articulated this clearly.

Want help crafting your unique own point of view?

OPTION #1: Join my next POV Lab. It’s a 30-day program for twelve people where you will be guided to dig deep into your own unique perspective and be asked over and over again why you do what you do the way you do it. This includes a lot of handholding and feedback. You can learn more here: marketingforhippies.com/povlab

OPTION #2: Get my Point of View eBook. This is my treatise on the subject and includes an incredibly useful workbook. You can get your copy here: marketingforhippies.com/povbook

OPTION #3: Get my workbook Don’t Market Yourself, Market Your Message. This is a sister piece to my POV eBook. You can get your copy here: marketingforhippies.com/messageebook

Point of View Marketing: Five Case Studies

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As I get ready for my next Point of View Lab, I’ve been reflecting on some recent examples I’ve been uncovering with clients.

Over the past few months, I’ve been working with a lot of people around their point of view and I keep being amazed at the power that this has in our marketing.

Whereas niche helps to immediately establish relevance, point of view establishes credibility.

Niche gets them in the door but point of view convinces them to stay.

The pay for the niche. They stay for the point of view.

I see it all the time. People figure out what they want to do but then realize how much competition there is.

They become a life coach, yoga teacher, permaculture practitioner etc. and then they realize how many other people there are offering the same things. They decide to sell Spanish galleons and then go down to the harbour and see hundreds of other people selling the same thing.

One of the things that can differentiate you from others doing what you do is your approach to it; your take on it.

It took me over a decade but I finally realized that my core message was that “Marketing can feel good.”

So simple and yet my entire daylong workshop is based on it. 

We’ve been diving into this a lot in my Mentorship Program.

One of my clients in that program, Alysa, helps people with chronic pain. Her particular angle is the emotional aspects of chronic pain and how to live a full life in spite of it. During one of the calls she shared her idea for a URL: www.PainIsNotTheProblem.com. I loved it. The website isn’t ready yet, but the core POV here is very strong. She’s offering a whole other approach to dealing with pain by suggesting that, in terms of your quality of life, pain is not the core issue.

Another participant, Pamela runs her Brave Love programs and, while working with her on her POV, this gem emerged: “you must be willing to risk every relationship if you want truth and real intimacy.” What a mind bomb. In order to have a real relationship you have to be willing to risk it? Every time? That, without the willingness to risk it it will never become what it could be? More than anything she wrote, this grabbed me.

When I asked Pamela about the impact of doing this POV work she said, “It grounds me in something I know for sure. Between the risking and the not jumping ship, I find that everything I do revolves around these core beliefs. It is empowering and exciting to uncover what I’m all about.”

18342682_10155165607550586_8481781063627981696_nAnother participant Karen uncovered the overlap between Sex, Love, Genius and represented it in this venn diagram. She’s written more about it in this article.

When I asked her about the impact, she said, “For me I’m surprised at how it makes people connect with me. I’ve had a close colleague contact me to want to know more about what I do…and then the new client yesterday who just easily invested in a 6 month 1-1 commitment because I’d spent so much time articulating a POV that resonated with her. That it has a shocking effect of really drawing people closer.

Outside of my Mentorship Program, I worked with a fellow Michael Talbott-Kelly whose work is built on the foundation of this idea: your problems have a purpose. This idea that every symptom we have in our life carries with it a message for it, that our symptoms are purpose-driven not random happenings to us. Looked at in this way, our symptoms happen for us not to us.

And then there’s Brad and Andy of The Great eCourse Adventure who I spent a day with delving into their point of view around helping people develop home study courses. We talked about a lot of things but, the strongest thread I saw was in their realization that most people never complete the home study courses they sign up for. As a result of this, they don’t get the results they paid for. As a result of that they don’t rave about it to their friends. Word of mouth is the dominant force in marketing and when people have a mediocre experience with something they don’t talk about it. Brad and Andy realized that the best way to make your home study course profitable was to make sure your course was worth sharing. And so they created an entire site dedicated to making their case around that point of view called coursesworthsharing.com 

On the surface, these phrases and ideas might not seem like much and, the truth is that, on their own they aren’t but they can open the door to a fresh perspective that they’d never considered before. Each of these people would be able to stand up in front of a crowd and unpack and articulate these simple ideas for hours revealing layer upon layer like Russian stacking dolls.

I believe that an intro workshop can and should be based around simple and clear ideas like this. A distinct, clear and compelling point of view. Something provocative.

You can read more examples of people with a clear point of view here.

Want help crafting your unique own point of view?

Here are three options:

OPTION #1: Join my next POV Lab. It’s a 30-day program for twelve people where you will be guided to dig deep into your own unique perspective and be asked over and over again why you do what you do the way you do it. This includes a lot of handholding and feedback. You can learn more here: marketingforhippies.com/povlab 

OPTION #2: Get my Point of View eBook. This is my treatise on the subject and includes an incredibly useful workbook. You can get your copy here: marketingforhippies.com/povbook

OPTION #3: Get my workbook Don’t Market Yourself, Market Your Message. This is a sister piece to my POV eBook. You can get your copy here: marketingforhippies.com/messageebook

Helping The Helper

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Sometimes you’ve got to ask yourself, “Who is it that’s helping the one I want to help?”

Sometimes your target market isn’t who you think it is.

Famously, FedEx made the mistake of thinking that their clients were the CEO’s of companies when, of course, it was actually the secretaries and executive assistants who would be using their services. Marketing to the CEO’s failed. Marketing to the administrative staff succeeded. The most brilliant ad directed to the wrong person is doomed to fail.

A colleague of mine, a copy-writer, ran into a problem one day. His wife had come up with a relaxation CD for stressed out brides. He’d written the copy himself. It didn’t sell. He asked high-priced colleagues of his to help him out. It didn’t sell. He was flummoxed. When I looked at the situation, it seemed to me that he had his ladder leaned against the wrong wall to begin with. What bride is so self aware to realize she’s becoming a ‘bridezilla’? How likely is it that, in the midst of the madness that is modern wedding planning, that she would look for a relaxation CD rather than downing a bottle of wine or getting a massage. 

Does that mean it’s a terrible idea? Not necessarily. It might just mean that the bride’s mother or the bride’s maids might have been better target markets.

Sometimes you’ve got to ask yourself, “Who is it that’s helping the one I want to help?”

A client of mine works for a mental health organization in a major city in Canada. They would do talks at Universities about mental illness. I suggested that he might get a stronger response if he did a talk about, “How To Help Your Friends Who Are Struggling With Mental Illness,” because those struggling are unlikely to show up at a talk when they could just watch a youtube at home. 

Sometimes you’ve got to ask yourself, “Who is it that’s helping the one I want to help?”

Another client of mine is a death doula in Toronto with a background in Non-Violent Communication (NVC). She wanted to work with the dying but those dying are unlikely, in the turmoil they are in, to reach out and hire themselves a death doula. And, how would you market to them without it seeming crass? 

I suggested she create a workshop about, “How To Be With Your Loved Ones As They’re Dying,” in which she could tie together her background in NVC, empathic listening, healing and her death doula work. 

“If you do that,” I suggested. “You might find that these people want to hire you to support their families in helping them out as death begins its courteous but unwanted approach to their loved ones.”

A client who helps people with chronic pain realized that a target market for her might be caregivers to those who are in pain. If you help people with cancer, surely you could create a workshop on “How To Support Loved Ones Struggling With Cancer”.

Sometimes you’ve got to ask yourself, “Who is it that’s helping the one I want to help?”

And then sometimes those people will connect you with the ones you really want to help.

Be a Flower, Not a Butterfly Net

 

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I hosted a men’s circle earlier this year and a young man said something brilliant: be a flower, not a butterfly net.

It reminds me of something I heard colleagues say for years: be a lighthouse, not a searchlight.

Butterflies run away from nets. People run away from searchlights.

Of course, it’s dangerous to get into dogma about any of this but it’s worth noticing how much energy we often put into a strategy that is fundamentally about chasing potential clients (who might never be a fit in the first place).

I recall a successful life coach being asked, “What’s your niche?”

And he replied, “People who like me?”

On one level, it’s a shit answer. On another level, that’s absolutely where it’s at.

At the end of the day, you only want to work with people who are a good fit for you. They’ve got to like you.

And, if your strategy is to run around chasing everything that moves with your butterfly net, or swinging your searchlight around and capturing everyone you see, you might just find that most of them have no interest in what you’re offering at all.

It’s so much effort for so little reward.

What if you were to out your effort into being a more beautiful flower or a more known and trusted lighthouse instead?

What if you were to work on honing your niche and point of view so that they were clear and well-known?

What if you were to really focus on bringing your own vibe, quirk, personality and aesthetic into your business (instead of going for the generic look)?

You might find that this is what really wins the long-game and that you win, with less effort, in such a way that no one else has to lose.

Don’t be a butterfly net, be a flower.

Other Blog Posts You Might Enjoy On This Theme:

Get Rejected Faster

Polarize

The Real Reason To Do Intro Workshops

Products On This Theme:

The Niching Nest

Point of View Marketing

Marketing for Hippies 101

“What are your favourite books and authors?”

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This is a simple question that I’ve asked more times than I can count of clients to help them clarify their point of view on an issue: “What are your favourite books and authors?”

Now, when I ask this question, I’m not asking generically. I’m asking it in the context of the work they do. I’m asking them, “Look, you help _____ kinds of people get ______ kinds of results. Who are the authors, what are the books you’ve read, that have most formed your opinions around this all? What are the books that you wish your clients would read because they best express your take on things?”

What I’m trying to get at with this question is a more clear understanding of how they see things.

I’ve had so many clients tell me that their ideal clients would be ‘spiritual’. And I have no idea what they mean by that. I could ask them to tell me their entire cosmology but that’s often a convoluted and nebulous affair. So, instead, I ask them,

“What are your favourite books or authors on this spirituality?”

And you can tell a lot about how a person sees and defines spirituality by their answers:

  • “The Celestine Prophecy, Conversations With God and The Four Agreements.”
  • “Loving What Is, Feeding Your Demons and Debbie Ford.”
  • “The Course in Miracles, Marianne Williamson and The Disappearance of the Universe.”
  • “Doreen Virtue and Louise Hay.”
  • “Iyanla Van Zandt, Oprah Winfrey and Rev. Michael Beckwith.”
  • “The Secret, Greg Braden and Deepak Chopra”
  • “Black Elk Speaks, Vine Deloria and Leanne Simpson.”
  • “The Bible, Thomas Merton and Jim Rohr.”
  • “The Tao the Ching.”
  • “Rudolph Steiner, White Eagle and books on Theosophy.”

Each of these compilations gives us a very different picture of what they mean by ‘spirituality’.

What can you do with this list?:

  • Put Them In Your Bio: This list of influences (and, of course, we could ask the same question and have it be about documentaries, websites, blogs, podcasts etc.) could be shared on the About Me page of your website to help people get a sense of where you’re coming from (this is surprisingly effective at helping people figure out if you’re a fit or not). This gives people a sort of mosaic, at-a-glance view of your perspective. They can connect the dots. And, if they’re also into those particular influences, they will be leaning towards working with you.
  • Use Them To Find Hubs: You could also look at each and ask yourself, “Where might I find people who share my interests in these kinds of books?” This could reveal some hubs you’d not thought of before. Perhaps there are book clubs, MeetUp groups, or bookstores that focus on those particular themes.
  • Reach out to them directly: You might be surprised at how accessible certain influencers are. You might be able to foster a relationship with them. Perhaps you could interview them or they might interview you.
  • Use This List to Hone Your Point of View: Sit with this list and ask yourself, “What’s the perspective that these all share? What are the points of overlap? How do all of these authors see _____ issue that I agree with?”

Additional Resources:

Point of View Marketing – Tad Hargrave

Five Homepage Case Studies: Directing Them Where They Need To Go

The best guide I’ve ever seen for writing your homepage is Carrie Klassen’s eBook How To Write a Loveable Homepage

And, over the years, one of the biggest questions I’ve gotten about websites and homepages is, “What if I offer three different things? How do I represent this on my site?”

The first thing is that, sometimes, the truth is that you actually need three different websites. If you’re a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker? You need three sites. People would be so confused if they saw those three things being sold on one site.

But if those three things are fairly in line with each other, “I run men’s groups, sell men’s health products and lead men’s adventure weekends,” well then… there’s a clear thread of ‘men’. So, those can all fit on the same site easily and it will make sense to people. 

Remember the old adage, “The confused mind says ‘no’.” 

We don’t want to confuse them.

We want them to hit our site and know not only exactly what it’s about but also if it’s for them. 

Now, that’s a larger question of niche which I won’t get into here, but it’s important.

Assuming you’ve got a clearish niche, you might still have a number of different things you do.

Case Study #1: JenniferSummerfeldt.com

Jennifer Summerfeldt is a dear friend of mine who dove into the business world and started creating websites. But, soon, she had so many websites. She didn’t know what to do with them all or how they connected. She felt overwhelmed with what to tell people when she met them or where to direct them. As she described the different websites she had – women’s counselling, birth coaching and postpartum counselling, there was a clear thread of ‘women’s empowerment’. 

I suggested she book JenniferSummerfeldt.com and put her three websites onto it in a clear way so that people could land on her site and quickly find the resources that were relevant to them, as if she had a virtual concierge standing there, directing them to whatever was most relevant in the area. Three buttons they could click. Three options.

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Case Study #2: TheUncagedLife.com

My colleague Rebecca Tracey did a similar thing on her site by naming four particular situations her clients might be in and inviting them to click that box. This is simple and genius.

What this means is that people won’t land on her site and spend three minutes trying to figure out if there’s anything relevant for them there and then leave. If one of those four pieces is relevant to them, they’ll take a next step. 

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Case Study #3: ThriveWithAutism.ca

My colleague Jackie McMillan helps those who are struggling with autism and lays out four very clear options for people to choose on her homepage by naming the four major groups of people with whom she works: parents of autistic children, educators, professionals and spectrum adults.

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Case Study #4: The League of Adventurous Singles

Kira Sabin who runs The League of Adventurous Singles has this on her homepage.

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If you hover your cursor over the three buttons you see these…

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Case Study #5: Corrina Gordon-Barnes

Corrina Gordon-Barnes is a relationship coach and her homepage is a gem of clarity.

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Again, this seems so simple but I see so few websites do this.

Consider your own homepage and how you might make it, visually, more clear.

How could you lay out the main options or pathways they might take in an unmistakably clear way?

If you do this your clients will…

  • Know if your website is for them much more quickly and waste less time.
  • You’ll start getting clients who are pre-filtered and a much better fit for you and waste less of your time.
  • Feel much better about sending people to you site.

Additional Reading About Filtering in Marketing:

The Three Roles of Marketing – There are three roles in marketing: 1) Getting their attention 2) Filtering & Establishing if it’s a fit 3) Lowering the risk of their taking the first step. I see so few businesses doing that second role well.

The Are You Sure Page – This is another example of how you can actually interrupt the purchasing moment to make sure that the only people who buy from you are those for whom your offering will be a good match. This means less refunds, less shitty clients and better word of mouth.

The Niching Nest – This is the basis of any filtering. Do you have a clear niche? If not, start with this.

What if you’re not offering your clients enough?

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Less.

This is what most of my clients feel like they should be offering.

Most of the people I cross paths with are terrified of being too pushy.

They’re terrified of “over-selling.”

They blanch at the thought of ever pushing someone to buy more than they need.

And there’s a deep sort of integrity there. But it’s only a half integrity. It’s coming out of collapse.

Those same people would never consider that being too passive, under-selling or selling someone less than they need might be out of integrity in any way.

It’s a strange sort of thing.

And so, most of them go about their business lives playing very, very small and offering very small things.

Imagine you sell supplies for crossing the Sahara desert and your friend visits you, excited to tell you about their trip but they only have a small flask of water.

Is it really kind to say, “Sure. You’ll probably be fine.”

And so it is.

They offer single sessions to clients knowing full well it won’t even come close to delivering them the real result they want, but have rarely considered created a beautiful, bespoke, larger package.

They do the occasional talk but have never thought of leading a workshop.

Or they lead workshops but they’ve never thought of hosting a retreat.

Or they have led retreats but have never considered starting a school or higher level mentorship program.

You get the idea.

Most of them have never considered that their clients might actually want more from them, not less.

And sometimes that ‘more’ might be less.

Some entrepreneurs offer a lot of high level things but have never considered creating more affordable eBooks or online, homestudy versions of their work.

Your clients might actually want to hear from you more frequently. That’s possible.

They might want to access your content in different ways. They might want more shallow or deeper versions of your work.

I’ll never forget when I first ran my Marketing for Hippies 101 program online. I had forty people sign up and pay me $200. They’d been waiting for me to offer something like this since I was never going to tour my workshops to where they lived. That money had been sitting there on the table the whole time.

And then I led my Niching Spiral program and, on my third go at it, made $24,000 from a thirty-day, online program. My clients were wanting help with this and, when I offered them something more than the blog posts and free videos I’d put out about it, they lept.

In November of 2016, I decided to launch my Marketing Mentorship program for twelve entrepreneurs. I was surprised and delighted by how quickly it filled, generating a solid $5000/month for me. It wasn’t for everyone, but there were clients of mine who’d been waiting, though even they hadn’t known it, for such a thing.

Most entrepreneurs have a poorly thought out, spindly little business model. Your business model could likely afford to be more robust. As you build it out, two things happen. As you build out the free and cheap levels of your work (e.g. blog posts, podcasts, online video, eBooks etc.) your business becomes safer to approach and check out. As you build up the higher priced levels of it, your business becomes more sustainable for you.

What do your clients want from you?

I’d wager a hefty amount of money on this answer . . .

More.

10 Min Video: 5 Mistakes To Avoid When Planning Your First Retreat

Rebecca Tracey of The Uncaged Life is one of my dearest friends and colleagues. She’s offering up a new program called Your First Retreat which is designed to help people in the personal growth, coaching, and healing fields nail their first retreat so that it’s fulfilling and profitable.

I asked her if she’d be willing to record a video and do an interview to give people some ideas they could use right away. And she agreed to doing both. I hope they help you out in figuring out how to make your first retreat (or maybe your next one if your first one or two didn’t go so well) a success.

What’s the story of this program/product? What did you notice was missing that had you create it?

After running successful retreats for 4 years in my business, I had people asking me all the time how to do it – and I remember being at that stage, having no idea where to start, being nervous about whether or not I could pull it off, and wasting a lot of time and money learning. I wanted to create an all in one resource for people who want to run retreats and want to save themselves the overwhelm, the lost $$, and the uncertainty, and help them plan transformational retreats without a hitch.

Who, specifically, is this program designed for? 

Anyone who wants to run boutique style retreats with 8-20 people – life coaches, creatives, health coaches and wellness professionals, energy workers etc

They already have a business (even if it’s new-ish!) and want to incorporate retreats into their business model as a new way to connect with clients. They need to already know their niche and have a few paying clients in order to get the most from this course.

Your First Retreat is specifically for people who want to create an amazing experience for their clients while turning a profit, not who are out to make 6 figures form retreats (because that’s not how it works!)

Why is this program relevant to those people? 

Your First Retreat will help alleviate the fear and overwhelm that comes with starting to think about retreat planning, and will help them make sure they create amazing experiences that also turn a profit.

There is SO much to know, and you don’t know what you don’t know when you’re starting the planning process. The course takes the guesswork out of retreats and helps makes sure you don’t make some of the common mistakes that can lead to lost $ and crappy client experiences.

What are the top three blunders you see people making in running retreats?

1- Not planning far enough in advance – this will leave you scrambling to find a venue that still has space, rushing to market and fill your retreat, and making the whole process way more stressful than it needs to be. Give yourself 6 months for a local retreat and 12 months for an international retreat to start the planning process

2 – paying too much out of pocket (and then losing money) – You do NOT need to take on the risk of losing money you’ve put down for your retreat. Don’t pay anything yourself – pre-sell your retreat and use that money to lay down any deposits, and be clear about the refund and cancellation policies of your venue before paying anything

3- Packing the itinerary either too tight, or leaving it too loose – how much group + workshop time you include depends on what kind of retreat you are running and what you have promised your participants. For example, a business-focused retreat will have more time together working and coaching, and a more experiential adventure style retreat won’t have as much. Too much packed in will leave people overwhelmed and not able to integrate what they are learning, and too little and people are left wondering why they paid such a premium for this retreat when they could have just gone on any other vacation. Nailing the retreat itinerary is important!

What are your three big ideas around making your first retreat a big success?

1 – Give yourself LOTS of time to market – it’s the hardest part!

2- Don’t plan a retreat too early in your business. You need to have people to market it to in order to fill it! if you can’t think of 5 people who would say YES to it right now, take some time to build your network and/or your email list, and wait before you start planning anything.

3 – Have a clear focus for the retreat – people need to know what this retreat is all about and whether it’s a fit for them, and if you’re not clear on that, they won’t be either. Knowing who the retreat is for, what the purpose is, and having a string mission statement will help make sure you get the right people there with you – and having the right group is what will take your retreat from good to incredible for your participants (and for you!)

Can you share a couple stories of retreats that have gone well and what can be learned from them?

1. My first retreat in Belize was amazing! We had been telling people for a while that we were going to start planning a retreat, so both my and my co-leader’s audience were primed and ready when we launched. This made it easy to sell and we sold out fairly quickly! This taught me that having an audience to sell to is hugely important to make sure you sell out and don’t lose money! This could mean an email list, a super engaged FB group, a local network, or just a lot of colleagues friends, and peers that you can sell to who you KNOW would be interested.

2. My friend Kira ran a retreat in Italy that I attended and it went off without a hitch. It was a life-coaching retreat focused on single women/relationship coaching, but it also had a strong focus on just having FUN on a cool vacation with like minded people (it was called the “Let’s F*cking go to Italy Retreat”). We’d have casual but smart conversations about love and dating after breakfast in the morning (while sipping teas in a beautiful villa in the mountains), and then head out adventuring for the rest of the day. The balance of free time to group time was important here. No one was there to have a heavy coaching session everyday and that was never the purpose of the retreat – but keeping the vibe on point with how it was marketed, everyone knew what to expect and got exactly what they came for. It was great!

Why is this program credible? Why should they trust it or you to help them?

I’ve run my own retreats for 4 years now with huge success, and for this course, I also interviewed 25 other successful retreat leaders to gather their best tips, marketing strategies, and advice, as well as the real scoop on how much profit they have made from their retreats, and blended it all into one easy to use manual that will teach you everything you need to know.

I also include an interview with several other experts to help beef up the course where my expertise was lacking — a lawyer who helps clients with retreat contracts (and as a bonus included one in the course for people to use!); a hotel manager and event coordinator who tells you everything you need to know about booking venues; and a Facebook ads expert who shares some amazing knowledge about how to best use Facebook for selling your retreats.

Who, specifically, is this program not a fit for? 

It’s not suitable for someone who doesn’t have a business or a business idea yet. Retreats rely on you having already built an audience (but I do give tips for getting there is someone is just starting out. But it will not help you figure out what business idea you should start.

It’s also not for someone who wants to run a retreat/travel agency business (ie. multiple retreats a year as their only course of income), or someone who wants to run large, conference-style events.

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If you’d like to learn more about Rebecca’s program you can click here (affiliate link) or here (not).