Intake Forms & Earning Trust

Trust

I went to see a therapist the other day.

It was my first time making an appointment with her.

I arrived early to the old house, renovated to be a clinic where my naturopath is also housed, and was offered some tea while I filled out the intake form.

Some of the questions were straight forward but some of them were incredibly personal, asking about addictions and relationship status. Neither of which, to my knowledge, have anything to do with what I was there for. I left them both blank for the most part and gave only partial answers to other questions. They felt immensely assumptive.

Never assume that your clients should trust you. Trust is earned. 

I realized that, aside from the basics, I only wanted one question on the intake form, “What brings you to see me today?”

“Can you pay before the session? I’ll be on my lunch break when you get out.”

“Sure,” I said and then caught my breath at the $180 price tag for the hour. Shit. I had not realized it was going to be that much. Rule #1 of Pricing: never surprise people unless it’s with a discount. Sighing, I paid and followed the receptionist upstairs.

The therapist came out a few minutes later and invited me into her office. She had a good vibe and I liked her right away.

“So, this first session is mostly to go over the intake form, the policies and to answer any questions you have and then to maybe do a bit of work.”

I hate this.

This happened to me a few months ago when, on a friend’s suggestion, I went to see a therapist who spent the entire session talking about the theory of the treatment and the ethics of the whole thing.

In both cases, I sat there thinking, “What the fuck? Why am I paying $180 to have her go over things she could have emailed me in advance?”

“Did you read up the technique we’ll be using?” she asked.

I shook my head. It would have been a good idea. “I wasn’t given anything on it to read.”

“You didn’t take any of the flyers at the front desk?”

I shook my head.

From a marketing and business standpoint, this is such a gap.

When I booked the appointment, the therapist sent me the following email:

I am sending you an email to welcome you and also to pass along some information prior to our first session. If you have had counseling before, this may be familiar. In general, the first appointment is primarily a paperwork, history-taking and get-to-know-you session.
 
However, if there is something that you want to make sure we address specifically in that first session, please let me know either ahead of time via email or at the start of the session so that we can budget enough time.The first session is also an opportunity to clarify your goals for coming for counseling. Sometimes a good way to frame this is to ask yourself how you will know you’re done with counseling? How will you feel? What will your life be like?
 
It is best to approach counseling as a process and to allow sufficient time for you to work through what you need to work through. This time-frame varies from person to person, depending on issue(s), personality, and history. In general, however, you should notice some positive change in the first 3 sessions and more substantive change in 8-10 sessions.
 
My job is to support you in your process, offering expertise and feedback. If you are finding that my approach is not working for you, I welcome your feedback, as a means to learn and grow myself, and to see if I can better address your needs.
 
I look forward to meeting you.
Warm regards,

 

It was a fine email to get and set the context well and, I would have loved it if she had added a link to a 10-15 minute video about the modality and asked that I make sure I watch it before the session. It would have been wonderful if it was a video of herself explaining it. I might have watched the video and decided that due to her vibe or her description of the modality that it wasn’t a fit. I might also have gotten even more excited to see her. And there could have been another video that would go over all of the ethics and other typical things discussed in a first session.

And then, two days before, if she’d sent me a reminder email with those two links asking me to make sure I set aside thirty minutes to go over these before the session but that, if I didn’t have him, it was alright, we’d just go over the content together in the session – then I would have had the choice.

As a client, I deeply resent paying money to sit through something I could do better at home.

She began to go through my intake form which had me wonder why I bothered writing it down in the first place. Couldn’t she have just had it and written it down as we talked?

Stop being cranky I told myself.

“So it says here your last relationship…” and she begins to ask me about whether I’m dating or if that’s something I’m looking for.

I narrow my eyes.

“I am confused by this line of questioning.” I say. I’m not particularly trying to be nice about this.

I’m paying her $180 for this time and she hasn’t even asked me why I’m there. It’s reminding me of the pulse reader from last week. But it’s also different. These are issues that seem to, in no way, relate to why I’m there. They are immensely personal issues to be divulging to someone I’ve just met. Perhaps most therapists assume that they are trustworthy. Maybe they’ve lost touch with how vulnerable these issues are for people and it’s become rote for them.

I don’t know why.

But I sat there resenting her questions wondering, “Who do you think you are to ask me such questions with no context of why you’re asking them or how they relate to why I’m here? And why haven’t you asked me why I’m here?”

Never assume that your clients should trust you. Trust is earned. 

She is thrown off for a second but seems to collect herself quickly, “Oh, it’s just taking your history for what we’re going to be working on.”

“Why don’t we skip to that?” I say.

“Sure.” And, to her credit, we do.

The good Bill Baren suggests starting off your first session with a client with two questions: “Why me? Why now?”

I wish all sessions would start this way.

If she’d asked, “Why me?” I would have said, “Well, I’ve heard good things about the modality you use and my naturopath recommended you as someone who could help me with some things I’ve been struggling with.”

If she’d said, “Why now?” it would have been a doorway into my symptoms and struggles.

She didn’t ask those questions but I took the opening in her conversation to lay it all out for her. She listened well and I immediately relax to not be sitting there and waiting or regretting having shared something so personal.

If there are other issues related to this that come up, I think to myself, I’ll be happy to share them. But I didn’t walk into this room with an agreement to share every secret I have.

Trust is such a precious thing. And it’s earned. Our unwillingness to go slowly, in the beginning, is so much of what kills trust in both a therapist-client relationship or a customer-business relationship. You are rarely done much harm by going slowly.

By the end of the session, I really liked her and she had earned some portion of my trust.

But it lifts up questions for all of us: where in our business or helping processes are we assuming trust? Where are we asking questions we have not yet earned the right to ask? Where could we give more context into the reasons for our asking the questions we ask. Can we trust the process in that the right information will come up at the right time?

Never assume that your clients should trust you. Trust is earned. 

Additional Reading:

Marketing for Psychotherapists

Slow Marketing

Case Study: Hidden Gems (good thoughts on personalizing intake forms here)

I Don’t Care How Good You Are At What You Do

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I recently went to see a holistic health practitioner in town about whom I’d heard good things.

I arrived at his office and was welcomed to sit down.

He opened his laptop and asked me for my email and then for my wrist. “We start with taking your pulse,” he explained.

So he took my pulse for about a minute and then, for the next 45 minutes told me what was going on and what I needed to do about it based on my particular constitution and body type. As he made these suggestions, he typed them into the email he was going to send me.

And I sat there having an incredibly mixed experience. 

On one hand, his words were incredibly accurate to what I was experiencing and I was appreciative to have him taking such great notes on the particulars to send me. It’s the worst to see a practitioner who rattles off all of the things you are supposed to do and then expects you to remember them all.

On the other hand, he never asked me what had brought me to see him that day. Not once.

There was no intake form for me to fill out.

On the table in front of us was some tea. He never offered it to me. I had to ask about it.

And so I sat there, wondering, “Is he actually going to ask me why I came in the first place?” for the entire session feeling increasingly annoyed and confused. 

I don’t care how good you are at what you do.

For 45 minutes, I sat there while he talked at me, asked me focused questions, and then typed out the homework he was giving me. On one hand, the homework and suggestions were specific and generous. There was no sales pitch for a huge program. He wasn’t holding back the good stuff. And, on the other hand, I had to finally speak up towards the end to say, “Just to let you know, I’m on the edge of overwhelm right now.”

He seemed to get it. He made a few more suggestions and then, finally, he paused and said, “Any questions?”

But he seemed to mean, “Do you have any questions about what I told you?”. He still wasn’t asking me why I’d come.

In truth, it might not have changed anything he told me. I can’t know. And it’s his practice, so I am a guest in his practice. I’m not there to tell him how to run his business. And, despite the frustration I felt, I genuinely like the fellow. 

It lifted up for me the importance of empathy in our interactions with our clients. As the old adage goes, “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.”

I don’t care how good you are at what you do.

Empathy before education.

But there’s something else: I’m not sure how much I trusted his advice given how little context he had about me and my life and what had brought me there. There could have been many causes of my pulse reading. Maybe I’d come there just to see if we were a fit. Maybe I’d come to get his take on a particular symptom I was having. From reading my pulse there are so many thing he couldn’t have known (or at least that I couldn’t have known he might know).

If people don’t trust your diagnosis, they won’t trust your prescriptions.

And so, when we first meet with a client, it’s vital that they feel we understand their situation and why they are there. It’s vital that the trust that we are clear about their symptoms and that we are taking them seriously. It vital not only that we understand but that they feel understood – that they know we’re both on the same page.

This can be done in ways as simple as restating what you heard them say and asking them, “Did I get it right? Am I missing anything?”

When they feel clear that we ‘get’ them, they will automatically relax and be open to our guidance. Until that moment, no matter how brilliant and skilled we are, they will be sitting there, tense, waiting and resentful of their assumptions. Our assumption that we ‘get it’ will likely be read as our arrogance. Our job isn’t just to give good advice, it’s to foster an openness to it.

I don’t care how good you are at what you do.

My colleague Bill Baren suggests weaving these two questions into the early part of your session with a client, “Why me? Why now?”

These questions do two things: They let us know their reasons for coming to us but they also remind our client of why they chose us and why this issue matters so much to them.

If that’s not your style, it’s okay. But you might want to tell them that before they come to see you. You might want to make sure they understand that before they show up. If, when I’d asked to book an appointment, I was sent to a webpage letting me know his style, I would have been able to make a choice if that was the style I wanted or to at least be ready for it. If the page had said something like the following, I would have likely still done the session and felt much better about it.

“So, my style is that I don’t do intake forms and I don’t ask you questions before we get started. When we begin, I will ask you for your wrist and take your pulse. After twenty five years of doing this, I’ve found that the less I know the better when it comes to getting a clear pulse reading. Once I’ve taken your pulse, I will start working on an email to send you with my advice. It might sound strange but, after all these years, I can take your pulse, look at your body type and get a very strong sense of where you’re at and what’s needed. If I need to ask clarifying questions I will. There will be some tea ready for you and, being wrapped up in helping you, I will likely forget to offer you some, so please help yourself.”

If your style differs from how everyone else does it (e.g. no intake forms) it’s good to explain it to people. Let them know your reasons why.

I don’t care how good you are at what you do.

I mean, of course I do, but I don’t just care about that.

It’s vital to see our role as not being just to give advice but to make our case for what we’re saying. To lay out the logic. To break down our point of view so it all makes sense.

But, before we can even do that, we need to earn their trust for that advice. And that comes from listening to where they’re at until they feel clear that we understand their situation.

I printed off the suggestions he sent me and they’re incredibly useful. I’ll be diving into them over the coming months. Isn’t it funny how things can be such a mix?

My final thought…

What if, instead of trying to prove how good we were at solving the problem, we first focused on proving how good we were at understanding it?

The Marketing Mistake The Spice Store Made

Row of spice jars

A few weeks ago, I went to a spice store.

I didn’t need more spices. I needed a spice rack. I figured they might have one. Or know where to find one.

I walked in and asked a woman who worked there. 

She apologetically shook her head and told me they didn’t carry any racks and had no idea where I might find one in town beyond a local Home Depot. 

I was struck by the loss of the marketing opportunity.

Consider this: if you find a spice store and fall in love with it, you’ll be a customer for life. You don’t want to have to go through the work of finding a new one, you enjoy how knowledgable and passionate they are and you love that they know you by name. You trust these people when it comes to spices.

So, what if they did their research and found their ten favourite spice racks and made a little, in store catalogue to show people, or had those pages book marked on their computer or even stocked some and sold them directly to you for a small profit. And maybe they could tell you where in town to find them or where to order them online. Or they could order them for you.

I would have loved it if they’d said to me, “So you want on that hangs over the door? Okay. So there are ten basic models of these on the market. Five of them are worthless and fall apart instantly or their hooks don’t actually fit over regular size doors. Three of the remaining ones are pretty good but we’ve found two that everyone seems to be thrilled with. Why don’t I show you those?

They could make a video about this and put it on youtube and then, when customers asked about it, they could email them the link to look at.

And what if they found those places that sold them locally and befriended the staff so that, when people were looking for spice racks, they might be inclined to mention their store.

I recall a doula in Canmore, Angie Evans (who’s now in Regina), who got a surprising amount of business from referrals from the people who worked in the supplement section of Nutters (the organic grocery store in Canmore). She befriended them, told them what she did and then, when the staff would see people looking at prenatal vitamins or other products that indicated they were preparing for a child, the staff would often ask them if they were considering hiring a doula or midwife and if so who. If they were considering one but hadn’t decided yet, they would often suggest reach out to Angie.

My friend Ron Pearson is a magician in Edmonton who does corporate magic shows. But corporate event planners call him all the time to ask his opinion of other performers.

My dear friend Monika runs Reset Wellness in Edmonton which has a very science based approach to wellness. It’s more osteopathy than energy work. But you’d better believe that people will come to trust Monika and ask for her opinion on, “Who’s a good reiki practitioner in town?” A few weeks ago, Monika and I had a conversation about how she could create a referral list of people she trusts so that she would be ready for these questions.

Consider what people keep asking you for that you don’t offer. Consider what kinds of recommendations they ask you for that you don’t have answers to. Consider building yourself up a referral resource list of people you trust.

You can just sell what you sell.

But you can also become a trusted advisor. You can become a hub. You can become the go to person on a certain issue.

Jay Abraham makes the distinction between customers and clients. In his worldview, a customer was just someone you sold things to. A client was someone who was under the care of a fiduciary. A client is someone you were there to guide and protect on the matters surrounding what you do.

If everything you recommend is gold, people’s trust in you will deepen and they’ll spend more money with you and refer more people to you.

Three Hub Marketing Case Studies from the Farmer’s Market

Farmers-Market

This is a late edition to the Farmer’s Market Marketing Series.

A few weeks ago, I was invited out to Fort Saskatchewan to speak to some good folks who sold their goods via the Farmer’s Market.

I’d done a presentation of this type a few months back and, in the last fifteen minutes, I realized that the main conversation that seemed to be landing was that of Hub Marketing.

Too many entrepreneurs are solopreneurs.

They try to do everything themselves. But partnership is where it’s at.

I’ve written a lot about Hub Marketing before and you can read that here.

But I thought it would be fun for you to see some of what we came up with.

The Set Up: 

I asked each of them to reflect on who their hubs might be for their business.

Stated another way: I asked them to think about the kinds of people who would buy their products and then to ask themselves, “Where else might these people spend their time, their money and their attention?”

Stated another way still: “Where else can we find the people who buy your stuff?”

Three brave souls were willing to come up to the front of the room and share what they’d come up with and let us do some more brainstorming for them. I share these not as an authoritative strategy but to get your mind thinking about some of the ways that hubs and partnerships can look and work.

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Case Study #1: Gloria’s Edible Flowers

Gloria had a few businesses on the go, but we decided to focus on her cut flowers business.

 

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The hubs we came up with for her were:

  • vegetarians: maybe they’re tired of their friends condemning their penchant for boring salads? Wanting to make a vegetarian meal to impress the family and mix it up a bit. There are lots of vegetarian groups, newsletters, blogs etc. in local areas.
  • wedding planners & caterers: you’d better believe that catering companies would love to have a local provider of edible flowers on file just in case someone asks for them.
  • flower shops: if I were to want to find edible flowers in town, where would I go? I’d think it would have to be a local flower shop. Now they may not want to stock them, but they’d likely be glad to have her contact info so they could refer out to her.
  • lounges & cocktail bars: maybe some of those fancy hipster cocktail bars might enjoy knowing where to get some flowers for their drinks!
  • herbalists: I’m sure the questions must be asked to herbalists about medicinal uses of flowers. Perhaps she could co-host a workshop with a local herbalist or hire them to write some informative articles or blog posts about the benefits of the top five flowers they sell.
  • chefs at fancy hotels and restaurants: again, a solid contact for such a niche product might be just the kind of thing a chef would like to have in their back pocket.
  • extreme eating clubs: maybe flowers aren’t super extreme but their are clubs in most cities of people who like to eat adventurously, why not reach out?
  • culinary schools: could she go in and do a presentation for them? Could she host a competition for students to find who can come up with the best use of her flowers?
  • cake decorators: sure! Why not?

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Case Study #2: Gord’s Beef Jerky

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The hubs we came up with for him were:

  • Agriculture Fairs and Tradeshows: this seemed to have worked well in the past. Just showing up and having a booth at these things might end up being his bread and butter. Just because it’s a hub doesn’t mean it needs to be out of left field and ‘never done before’. Most hubs are hiding in plain sight. Some of the best hubs are ‘old reliable’.
  • ATV Clubs: this makes a tonne of sense to me. If there’s an ATV event, he could show up and sell it from the back of his truck, or set up a table. It doesn’t need to be fancy and formal to work.
  • aboriginal groups: there’s certainly possibility here. I don’t know the politics of who is allowed to vend at Pow Wows and aboriginal conferences and events but it’s an option.
  • convenience stores: sure! Why not approach a local corner store, especially if it’s independently owned, and invite them to support a local beef jerky provider rather than the factory farmed crap version they’re currently selling.
  • school cafeterias: I’m not as sure about this one or how it would work, but maybe?
  • food groups (e.g. celiac, paleo): right! There are certain groups who’d be biased to eating beef jerky as a snack over fruit, sandwiches or other things. If he could find them, go to their events and sell some merch but then, importantly, make sure they know which farmers’ market he’ll be at and to invite them to come and visit his booth… well, this is how it’s done in one on one sales. They come to say ‘hi’ and become regulars and now you’re the place they get their jerky from.
  • the Department of National Defence: heavens. I don’t even know where to start but that could be a large order if he was able to secure it.
  • bars: I’m really not as sure about how this one would work.
  • surveyors: a whole profession of people just standing around and getting hungry. Maybe he could sell directly to the companies for them to give as snacks for their bored workers? Could be.
  • ski resorts: again, this could be a big order if he landed even one ski lodge for repeat business.
  • work camps: why not call up the local industrial work camps and ask to speak to the person in charge of feeding everyone and see if there’s not some business to be drummed up?
  • forest rangers: they must have conventions. Why not go to one? I’m not as big a fan of this one because his business will likely best be built with larger orders instead of one on one. I’ve never in my life felt loyal to a particular, local brand of jerky and I don’t know if I ever will. I’ll just buy whatever’s closest to me that seems ethically raised.
  • sports clubs: could be. Again, this becomes individual sales but having a booth at larger sports events and inviting people to visit at the farmers’ market? Why not.
  • university Forestry Programs: Maybe. I’m not stoked about this one.
  • BBQ Stores: Could be! If they’re into BBQ then they’re into meat. Could be some regular business here.
  • tree planting companies: this could be big. They have workers who are out all day working hard and they need snacks. Could be worthwhile exploring.
  • campers: I personally wouldn’t be trying to find individual campers but to approach camping supply stores like MEC, REI and smaller more independent ones.
  • farmers: maybe? This seems obvious but it’s not as exciting to me.
  • rodeos: hells yes. Go and set up a booth at one of these and watch it rain money.
  • hunters: meh.
  • sports stores: sure! This could be solid.

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Case Study #3: John’s ‘Dandy Joe‘ Roasted Dandelion Root Blend Coffee Substitute

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The hubs we came up with for him were:

  • coffee and tea shops: bulk orders. He approaches them and says, “hey! Here’s a unique, local coffee substitute that’s like nothing else and it’s local!” Boom.
  • farmers’ markets: this is where most of his business has come from and where most of it will continue to. No reason to stop.
  • Chinese stores: Joe said he’d had an order from a woman in China who loved it and thought maybe Chinese shops might dig it. Who knows! Worth exploring.
  • spas: an interesting idea. “Instead of serving your clients coffee full of caffeine or the same old boring herbal teas, why not offer this local super food to them?”
  • the sleep center: pitching it as something to drink late at night instead of coffee and offering them tins to offer as upsells to people who buy beds and want to sleep better. Maybe?
  • yoga studios and events: all these yogi’s are trying to kick coffee and give their adrenals some peace. What if he found out the top yoga events in town each year and set up a booth there? What if he identified the top ten yogi’s in town and approached them with a free tin to try out themselves? He could win over a whole community here who is likely to be going to farmer’s markets anyway.
  • tea wholesalers: this could become all of his business if it fell into place:
  • thelocalgood.ca: I co-founded a local network to connect good, forward thinking Edmontonians and we could maybe feature him on our blog.
  • the Organic Box: Sure! Why not get himself listed as a product people could order in a monthly, organic, grocery delivery service?
  • ski lodges and restaurants: maybe some indy restaurants or ski lodges might love having a unique, hot drink like this to offer their clientele?
  • dandelion root growers: I’m not sure why this is on the list…
  • church groups: could be? This doesn’t feel really compelling to me.
  • herbologists: they might not buy a lot but they could likely be a great source of referrals to others.
  • Costco: Oh man. They’d eat him alive on margin. He’d make no money. Stay away from the bright lights!
  • heath food stores: an obvious one. Yes.
  • hemp producers: could he partner with a local hemp seed producer to make a local, superfood smoothie mix of dandelion, hemp and some other things? Maybe!
  • holistic health practitioners: of course. Yes. The more of these who know about him and his product the better. He could have a booth at the local new age, holistic health consumer expos and spend all day working that room and make sure they know which markets to find him at and his website and, in the long term, that could be very solid for business.

Stop Trying To Be So Authentic

Authenticity1Authenticity is not a goal.

It’s a byproduct of something else.

It’s not something you can put on like a coat. It’s not a strategy. It’s something you can posture at. It’s not even the goal. It’s the result of something else that you’re doing.

There’s the old story of the archer who misses his shot because his eye is on the trophy he wants to win and not the bullseye. If you try to get the trophy, you miss the target. The only way to get the trophy is to stop focusing on it.

Every once in a while, I will hear people say things like, “I’m a very authentic person.” or “Well, to be really authentic about it…” and I see courses on how to learn to market authentically.

I’ve seen email subject lines say things like…

This is the most vulnerable thing I’ve ever shared” or “I’m really scared to share this with you . . .” only to read it and have the vulnerable thing be something salesy that is clearly not very vulnerable at all. They used my caring of them as a hook to get me to open the email. That didn’t feel good. As another colleague of mine, Teray, shared, “When someone sends too many “vulnerable”, “embarrassing” subject headings in a row…it starts to feel like me me me me.”

Some of it rings a bit hollow. Some if it seems like they are trying really, really hard to be authentic.

Authentic also doesn’t mean hippie, conscious, new age, spiritual or any of that.

Want to know who has the most authentic marketing of anyone I’ve ever seen? Jay Abraham.

Jay Abraham is a hardcore capitalist and doesn’t hide this at all. His offers are direct, candid and he is extremely transparent about his own selfish motives for making the offers he makes.

Nothing is being hidden.

His marketing, though my political views couldn’t be more different than his, feels authentic to me.

Being authentic doesn’t mean speaking in soft and sweet tones all the time. It can sound salesy too. Believe it.

Authentic doesn’t look a particular way.

But when you use the language of authenticity and you aren’t actually being authentic… it’s the worst.

So what is the bullseye on which we need to focus?

In marketing, I think it’s the truth.

But a particular kind of truth. It’s the truth of ‘is this a fit?’ rather than ‘how can I get the sale?’.

If your agenda is to get the sale then no matter what you do, short of telling people, “I really just want the sale,” your actions will be manipulative and land as inauthentic.

Most sales training is an attempt to cover this original sin, the type one error of focusing on the sale. It’s all about how to build rapport, elicit buying strategies, overcome objections etc. So much of marketing is about trying to seem authentic while we pick their pocket. It’s full of justifications for our own selfishness and desperation. It’s full of rationalizations for doing things that don’t actually feel right for us.

Having said that, collapsing and giving away the store for free isn’t particular noble or authentic either.

But what if our focus wasn’t on trying to seem authentic.

What if it wasn’t even on trying to be authentic.

What if our focus was just on creating something wonderful, giving great customer service and getting the word out? What if our focus was, in those wonderful moments when someone expressed an interest in our work, on helping them sort out if it was really the best thing for them or not?

What if we looked at marketing as filtering and not seduction?

Let your focus on providing value for your customer be the most authentic thing about you. Don’t use authenticity to sell something.

 

Recommended Resources:

The Seven Graces of Marketing – Lynn Serafinn

Marketing for Hippies 101 – Tad Hargrave

On Fake Vulnerability and Giving a Crap (Dear Marketing Guru…) – Ling Wong

The Power of Sticking Around Long Enough

patience1-1It’s happened a number of times to me now.

I meet someone or some across a business which provides a product or service that I see as needed and that I might want to recommend.

And then they go out of business. Or they stop doing that thing.

And it’s often before I’ve really had the chance to get to know them or had much occasion to spread the word about them. It’s frustrating because I love knowing who to send people to if I can’t help them.

I’d be speaking with someone and say, “Oh yeah. John does that kind of work. He’s great.”

And then someone would overhear me and say, “Oh. John stopped doing that a few months ago. Now he’s onto this other thing.”

Niche switching is a natural thing to do. It happens all the time. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s often exactly what you need to do.

But it takes a while for a reputation to be made. It just takes time and most people quick or change direction before they get there. They’re digging a well and, a foot before they hit water, discouraged, they stop digging there and start digging somewhere else and so they never reach the life replenishing stream under the ground.

In business, those waters are the natural flow of word of mouth that sends you business without you even lifting a finger. It’s the power of becoming a hub, becoming a trusted advisor, expert or ‘go to person’ in any particular arena. That does the marketing for you. If you stick around long enough, hustle while you do it and connect with other hubs in a good way, without three years, everyone knows who you are and what you’re about.

If you work on the issue of trauma for three years in a community and do your best to get the word out there, keep at it.

If you do a unique kind of yoga, have a niched permaculture business, have a business based on a particular target market, or based on a particular thing you’re offering, if you have anything even close to resembling a niche, you do a great job and you stick around long enough in business, you will develop a reputation as someone to go to for particular issues or for particular things. Just by having stuck it out long enough you will have a name in town for doing things. Most people give up on this too soon.

But it takes time.

Most entrepreneurs don’t stick around long enough to really get known for anything.

Most entrepreneurs do not persist and play the long game.

The Israeli Dutch Man’s Amazing Shrinking Business Workshop

m2q4sAxFA few weeks ago, I had lunch with the good Govert van Ginkel, a fine facilitator and practitioner of goodwill amongst people through his workshops and one on one work.

He told me the story of a Business Bootcamp he attended in Holland last year.

It was led by an Israeli man who had moved to Holland twenty years before.

Holland has about 16 million people and a full million of them have had to become independent contractors, without pensions or benefits, due to the economy and layoffs.

Seeing this, this fellow decided this might be a group of people in need of help from the kind of business workshops he did.

And so Govert saw this workshop flash across his Facebook over and over again until he finally decided to sign up. It was a full weekend workshop, including lunch and snacks. He was charging $65. Govert knew that this would barely make the man anything.

In the end, the man got 1,000 people signed up. So that’s $65,000. But, once you take out the cost of the venue, materials, food and time put into it… it’s money but it’s not as much as it might seem at first glance.

By the end of the weekend, there were only about 400 people left. This might seem like a story of an embarrassing failure but it’s actually the story of a strange kind of business success.

Govert told me that, when they’d come back from every break, there would be fewer chairs. Numbers were being tracked and paid attention to. So, it never felt like the numbers were dwindling. There was never that deflating feeling even though it was clear there were fewer people.

The trainer pointed out that a big mistake people made in sales were to meet strangers and try to sell them, but that this missed two steps. That the first step was, yes, to meet strangers but then to become friends with them, to foster some kind of trust between you and then to sell to them and then, finally, to invite them to be ambassadors of your work. He was advocating a sort of slow marketing of the kind Robert Middleton outlines in his Marketing Ball metaphor.

At one point, he was challenged as to why he was leading the workshop in English and not Dutch. Hadn’t he learned the language? He expressed that he had but that, when he spoke Dutch, because of his accent, people thought it was ‘cute’ and he felt like that diminished his stature and authority as a professional. I imagine some people didn’t like that answer and others of his answers.

But he wasn’t there asking for people’s vote.

He wasn’t going for approval from anyone.

He was sharing himself and giving every bit of value he could that weekend knowing that his style and approach wouldn’t be for everyone. He was willing to have his personality and content get a polarized response. He was willing to be rejected. He knew that the 400 people left at the end of his workshop would be there because they liked him and what he had to say. He knew that they would be the most likely people to say ‘yes’ to his offer of coaching packages at the end of the workshop.

It’s a different way of looking at things. Most people would look at more than half the people leaving the workshop early as a sign of failure. But what if it was a strange sort of success?

He realized that marketing is about filtering, not seduction.

And so he began with generosity. He offered a full weekend to people at a bargain price. He did it knowing he might lose money on the front end. He did that instead of trying to sell a bunch of strangers into an expensive weekend workshop. He allowed for slowness by creating a space for people to get to know him and see if it was a fit for them.

NOTE: This blog post is not an endorsement for this man or his content (neither of which I know). I am not suggesting I would be aligned with the marketing approaches he teaches in his workshops or his style. I am not suggesting I wouldn’t be either. 

The Four Most Dangerous Words an Entrepreneur Can Say

I_already_know_2I’ve met so many people who come to my workshops and, at breaks, speak to me in overly familiar terms about how they already know this stuff and how many books they’ve read and marketing courses they’ve gone to.

Everything they’re saying gestures to my flip chart notes covering the walls towards the end of the weekend workshops and says, without always saying it directly, “I already know that.”

And there they stand in front of me, struggling.

I usually don’t comment on this because struggling is a hard enough place to be without shame being piled on top of it.

But I see this all the time, the unwillingness to not know, the deep resistance to asking for help, the fear of humiliation preventing them from ever reaching humility and thus the utter inability to be vulnerable.

But if you’re dedicated to the culturally endorsed story of the virtues of self sufficiency you’ll never ask for help. You’ll be too proud. Your desire to be seen as having it all together is the very thing that guarantees you will, eventually, fall apart.

If you want to succeed in business, it’s going to ask you to learn some new things. That means admitting you don’t know. It means admitting you’re a disaster. It means turning to your friends. It might mean hiring a coach.

It means asking for a lot of help.

How much?

If I had to give you a specific quantity of help you need to ask for here’s what I’d tell you, “Ask for an embarrassing amount of support.” Meaning, if you don’t feel slightly mortified for all the help you’re requesting, then it’s likely not enough.

And you might be shocked by how fast things start to move when you stop pretending you have all the answers already, when you stop trying to impress your teachers and colleagues, when you admit that your business practices and marketing are a total disaster.

If you already knew it, you’d already be doing it.

Growing your business asks a lot of you and one of the first things it asks is your humility.

Something very beautiful happens to people when their world has fallen apart: a humility, a nobility, a higher intelligence emerges at just the point when our knees hit the floor. Perhaps, in a way, that’s where humanity is now: about to discover we’re not as smart as we thought we were, will be forced by life to surrender our attacks and defenses which avail us of nothing, and finally break through into the collective beauty of who we really are.” – Marianne Williamson

 Recommended Reading:

Are You Humble Enough – Mark Silver

Easy is the new free

ease_of_use1A few years ago my friend Brandy Burdeniuk said something to me that I’ve repeated many times since.

“Easy is the new free.”

Are there a lot of free things out there on the internet these days? Sure.

But while that might save you money it could be very expensive in terms of your time.

People love free things but what they often want even more is easy.

But not easy in an abstract sense. They want a particular thing to be easy. They’re trying to achieve something and it’s hard for them. If you can make that thing easy for them, they won’t mind paying you a bit extra (even a lot extra).

And this is where the lack of niche is a business often shows up. There’s no particular result they’re offering that they’re trying to make easier.

What might particular results look like?

  • “I have gallstones and want to keep my gallbladder but lose the stones and do it without surgery.”
  • “I had a heart attack but don’t want to be on medications for the rest of my life. I want to heal naturally.”
  • “I have been depressed and on medications and want to wean my way off and use a more holistic approach.”
  • “I want to get rid of this back pain.”
  • “I want to feel comfortable and confident in dating.”
  • “I want to learn to say no without being wracked with guilt.”
  • “I am still wracked with shame for something I did. I want to find a way to move forward in my life.”
  • “I want to get over this heartbreak.”
  • “I want to get good at selling.”
  • “I want to sleep better.”

What’s often there in the place of those specific kinds of results is…

“I offer a broad array of modalities and approaches that subtly balance your whole system.”

And that focuses on what you are doing to them. It is focused on what you think they need. It’s not focused on what they are craving. And so, even if you offer that for free, it will not be as compelling as offering them help to get what they’re actually wanting in an easier, sweeter and gentler way.

Once you have a clear result you’re offering then it’s just a matter of coming up with a clear, compelling and credible offering, package, system or approach that can help them get what they want more easily.

I think of my friend Crystal’s husband in Vancouver who offers to help people identify and get of any allergy in three sessions (or he’ll keep working with you for free until it’s gone).

I think of my Niching Spiral Home Study course which is about helping people find a workable and profitable niche in 90 days.

I think of my colleague Corrina Gordon-Barnes and her ideas on how to have your blog attract more actual clients or Brad Morris’ approach to making it easier to craft your e-courses.

But, if there’s no specific result you’re offering, then there’s nothing to make easy and, because you need clients and no one seems to be responding to your generic offering of “I offer a broad array of modalities and approaches that subtly balance your whole system.” you will find yourself forced to keep reducing your price and moving closer and closer to giving it away for free.

If your business isn’t growing as fast as you’d like as yourself: am I trying to be free or to make things easy?

Ambushing and Bait and Switches

Small_Biz_HR_Bait_Switch-235x300The other day, I got the following message on Facebook:

Hey Tad, just want to say how much I love you work and continue to follow your blog and content all the time.”

These kinds of messages always find a good home in my world. It’s easy to think that people like me are constantly told how much they are appreciated, but it’s not always the case. You put things out in the world and, sometimes, have no real idea how they land.

So, when someone takes the time to express their appreciation, it means a great deal even if I don’t always have time to respond personally.

Oh you.” I replied. “Thank you.”

*

And then the conversation took a turn for the worse. 

*

I’d love to tell you more about a really conscious company that offered me a great detox. It’s a 10 day transformation cleanse.
May I share a video with you?

I sighed, “Let’s slow this conversation down just a little bit.” I was already feeling exhausted for having to have this conversation with someone again. I already had a sense of where it was going. “Is this a company with which you are personally involved? Is this a MLM type company (even if it might prefer another term) and, were I to sign up for this cleanse, would you receive any financial compensation?

I wasn’t feeling upset, or at least not that feeling alone and not really towards the woman who was writing to me. It was an upset about how this culture fails us and how the sales training of MLM companies utterly fails people. I was sad that this conversation needed to happen still. Though, given where I began in sales myself and how aggressive and pushy I was, I am in no position to point fingers at anyone.

It’s a network marketing company that supports sustainability and offers non GMO, organic foods and products.” she said. “I offer the product as part of my nutritional services. I prefer these than the past retail products I used to recommend.

*

I paused for a moment to decide how candid I wanted to be with her. I decided to be as direct as I could.

*

Thanks for clarifying. This isn’t something I’m interested in right now. And… ” I paused for a moment to decide how candid I wanted to be with her and decided to be as direct as I could be. “Here’s what felt off for me with this. It felt like a mini ambush a bit. You opened with a sincere compliment and then, suddenly, I was being pitched. It felt like the conversation was opened in one way and then, immediately, became about something else. A woman I used to date met a woman at a cafe. They had a great conversation. The woman invited her out for coffee and she agreed because the interaction had been so nice. When she got there, the woman began to pitch her on Amway and her heart broke a little bit. Her head was swirling in wondering how sincere the compliments and good connection had been at all. I don’t doubt that your words to me are sincere and I’m grateful for them and… there’s a beauty to directness too. I’m sitting with what might have felt better for me as an approach here. Here’s one I’m imagining

You: “Tad, you came to mind today and I wanted to reach out to you about two things. The first was that I just read _____ blog post recently and I loved it and I love your work and wanted to tell you. And then, as I thought about you and knowing that you’re into health and wellness, I thought you might, or might not, be interested in something I’ve been involved in. Do you ever do cleanses? I don’t know if that sort of things is something you’re interested in.”

Tad: “Sometimes. I should probably do it more.”

You: “I know the feeling. Well, to put it out there, there’s a ten day cleanse I’ve come across and it’s the best one I’ve found. I wasn’t sure if you’d want to know more about it or not but there’s a video I can send you about it. No pressure on this. And a disclaimer, it’s an MLM company so, if you signed up I would make some money but there’s also a direct link I could give you where you could buy it directly and I wouldn’t get any money. I just think it’s a great thing. Again, no pressure, I know you’re busy.

That sort of direct conversation, with context given as to why you thought it might be relevant to me, with the disclaimer about the profit motive might have felt a bit better. It just suddenly went into a pitch. And I appreciate very much that you asked permission to share the video. That feels good. How does that all land for you?” I asked hoping this had not been too much for her but also aware that I had not asked for her pitch at all and it had found me in a Facebook message on my personal profile and leveraged that connection and opportunity for her business.

I reflected on the incredible importance of Permission Marketing in which you don’t market to people without having their permission to do so first.

She replied, “That’s very good. Thank you for for offering that suggestion. Sorry if it felt intrusive. I’m a bit excited about it and what I experienced. I definitely will apply this as it does feel better. My appreciation for your work is authentic and sorry of that felt otherwise.”

It was a relief to feel her openness to my words. I have had to cut off relations with colleagues in the past because they couldn’t hear my feedback on similar issues. “I think part of it is that Facebook is such a personal medium for me and so I assume messages I receive here are in that vein. MLM is a very tricky situation because the level of stigma around it is large (and not unearned). What that means is that, if people even get a sniff that it is MLM there will be pressure present because now they will see you in a particular way. And if they smell it and get the sense that it’s being hidden, all of the alarms go off. This is all true in sales in general but it’s extra true in MLM. There’s a need to be direct but also to keep focused on constantly diffusing pressure.

The-Heart-of-Selling-3D-Ebook-Cover-JPGThe best person I know around this is Ari Galper of Unlock the Game whose work is based in how to constantly be diffusing pressure so that an authentic conversation can unfold. It’s something I also explore in depth in my ebook The Heart of Selling: An Interview with Mark Silver.

Another approach that could feel really good would be to simply message me and say, “Tad, can I pitch you on something?”

I’d likely say, “Ha. Sure. What you got?”

“And then you could give me your best pitch for your cleanse with all of the disclaimers and ‘no pressures’ etc. And then I’d be able to sit with it and see if it felt like a fit. There would be no suspicion about intentions. I think sometimes people think it’s not very ‘hippy’ or ‘conscious’ to be that blunt and direct but it’s actually deeply appreciated if it’s balanced with a detachment, a lack of assumption that this is going to be a fit etc. A hard pill to swallow is that our natural enthusiasm, unchecked, will often read as sales pressure. On your end, if feels like you’re being authentic and effusive and, on the receiving end, it comes across as pushy. It can be hard to tone down our vibe. It can be hard to be chill about these conversations but it’s important to remember that most people have an incredibly hard time saying ‘no’ and so our passion can actually be something that bullies someone into doing something that doesn’t feel right for them. It can have us want to move the conversation faster than is right for the other person. There is a deep need to keep slowing ourselves and the conversation down.”

I reflected on how my colleagues Jesse and Sharla often speak about the importance of surfacing the concerns the others might have before signing any documents. They suggest that you literally stop the conversation and say, “Are there any concerns you have that might stop you from moving forward on this?” and then to really, really listen.

It had me think about my recent practice of creating an ‘are you sure?’ page that interrupts and slows down the buying process.

It had me think about how selling and marketing feel so unnatural to so many of us and how brave people are to even try, like this good woman did, to extend herself and take the risk of offering something she believed in.

It reminded me of how many people have had some version of the following experience:

“I went to a 1/2 day workshop about envisioning your future and I liked the information and the presenter. The women then offered free 1 hour consultation to go deeper and see if we could work together. During the 1 hour consolation I told her something pretty vulnerable (I don’t do vulnerable easy but she seemed like she was genuine) and then later in the call she used that information in a way that made me feel bad about myself and like pressure to work with her. I will never work with her. Now if someone offers free time, I say upfront I just want to know more about your ability to support me but if you are going to do a hard sell I will not waste your time. I really felt like she had no integrity – I’m sure it’s something she learned from her coaching course – but it felt very mean. (Feel free to post this anonymously if you are sharing this with others).”

It reminded me of the heart of my work and my commitment to the idea that marketing can feel good.

*

The real work in selling, for most of us, is not about learning how to be more convincing, it’s about learning how to identify and remove sources of pressure so that we can have a human conversation with people instead of giving them a pitch.

*

Additional Reading:

To read more thoughts on my notions of how to approach people with graciousness I recommend reading The Classy Cold Approach.

I also recommend reading A Client Says I’d Love to Work With You… And Then You Never Hear From Them Again by Rich Litvin in which he explores the notion of “Questioning their ‘yes'”. Brilliant stuff.

And, again, Ari Galper’s work at Unlock the Game is brilliant here as is Mark Silver’s Heart of Selling program.