Farmers Market Marketing Series #5: The Three C’s of Social Media

So, once you’re on social media, how do you use it as a farmer? Besides posting sweet, sweet selfies of yourself and your animals I mean.


Farmer PJ Ryan from Newport, Co Tipperary, in his prize-winning selfie


The first thing to know is this, if the only thing you do on social media is try to sell people and flog your wares, people will tune you out fast. The general rule is to make sure you’re sharing 80% content they want to see and 20% can, then, be shameless plugs.

So, what kind of content is relevant?

Anything story telling about your farm is. Any fun updates, pictures, videos etc. of life on the farm sharing the good, bad and ugly will do well.

People are curious about where their food comes from. If you post little videos of you on your farm – examining your crops, milking a cow and educating people about it all as you do. This helps to show people your personality, the personality of the farm and the animals. It helps deepen the relationship. Carry your smart phone with you and take videos throughout your day sharing what you’re up to and your thoughts and upload videos straight to Facebook or Youtube.

You can make your own videos, write and share your own blog posts and updates etc.

You can create your own memes using tools like IMG Flip or Meme Generator (or photoshop if you’re handy with that).

And those are all fine things to do.

But, it’s important to point out that some people think that being on social media means that you need to create all of the content.

No no no.

There are actually Three C’s of Social Media: Create, Curate and Converse.

So, you can also curate, that is share things other people have made.

To get you started, I’ve collected a number of local food memes you can share. And here is a list of all the local food TED Talks you can share too. You could also create or curate recipes people can make based on the food you grow. Could you partner with a well known local chef to make them with or for you? You might just find something perfect online too. Also Shit Farmers Say on Twitter is gold.

Or videos like these.

The Third C is to Converse. This will often take the form of asking a sincere question and engaging with people on their answers. It could be a question like, “Would you pay a little extra if we grew heirloom tomatoes next year?” or “What’s the best recipe you know of for cauliflower?”

In our next post in this series, we will get into some real world examples so you can see what this might actually look like. I’m using examples from Facebook but the same ideas could be used in pretty much any medium.

Please leave any thoughts, tips, resources or ideas that could help farmers grow their businesses in the comments section below. After a few weeks, I promise to read through them all and weave anything relevant and useful into the blog itself so that they can be of the most use to the most farmers.

Farmers Market Marketing Series #4: Two Simple Ideas on Social Media


Even if you barely use it, social media makes it easier for customers to find you and connect with you. It allows you customers to tag you in comments and draw more attention to your farm. In today’s world, it is expected that you’ll have at least a basic social media presence.

IDEA #1: Find out which platform your people use. 

Are your people on Twitter? Instagram? Pinterest? Facebook? This can differ from city to city and community to community. You can find out by asking your customers whenever you interact with them.

IDEA #2: Know your local food hashtags.

If you’re on social media and are sharing photos, memes, information and updates make sure you tag all of your posts with whatever the local hashtags are for local food. In Edmonton, it’s #yegfood (YEG is our airport code). If I search that hashtag I’ll find all of the conversations people are having in my town about local food. So, whenever you post, make sure to use that hashtag in them if it’s something you think would be relevant and of interest to the wider local food community.

Please leave any thoughts, tips, resources or ideas that could help farmers grow their businesses in the comments section below. After a few weeks, I promise to read through them all and weave anything relevant and useful into the blog itself so that they can be of the most use to the most farmers.

Farmers Market Marketing Series #3: Five Solid Ideas for Online Marketing


There are two main ideas, outside of thoughts on social media (which are coming next in this series) that could make the biggest long term difference for you and your farm.

IDEA #1: Be Googleable.

If you have something you’re offering that people are searching for online, make sure that they can find you. Bottom line, have a website – there are plenty of free tools you can use that are incredibly easy to create your own site for free if money is an issue and you’re just getting started. The main ones are: Yola, Weebly, SquareSpace and Wix.

Also make sure you get yourself listed on google.

Note: If you have a website with a blog built into it (wordpress is the best for this) and you update it regularly this will help your ranking in google. It’s worth booking time with a local online marketing expert to have them assess your online profile and see how it can be tweaked. Best of all, you can likely pay them in a meal at your farm or basket of your finest wares.

Hannah Hamilton shares why this matters, “So often I visit a vendor at a farmers market only to go home, look for them all over the Internet and can’t find them.”

IDEA #2: Make a video of your farm.

Consider getting a 3-7 minute video done that tells the story of your farm in a beautiful, evocative and compelling way. It can speak to the deeper reasons that drove you to start it and that still drive you today. It can lift up the unique perspective and approach you bring to farming. Can you show people how you grow food, where your food is served and have well known locals speak about it?

Here’s a video from Meadow Creek Farm.

Here are five examples from Calgary’s Verge Permaculture:

Please leave any thoughts, tips, resources or ideas that could help farmers grow their businesses in the comments section below. After a few weeks, I promise to read through them all and weave anything relevant and useful into the blog itself so that they can be of the most use to the most farmers.

IDEA #3: Have an email list.

You might not send out emails that often. But, in this day and age, why not have it for the people who want to sign up and hear what’s going on for you? is free up until you have 2000 people on your email list and so that likely means it will be free forever for you. Just a clipboard and pen out on your table where people can sign up. Even if you just got one email per week, that’s 50 emails in a year. That’s 50 people who want to hear more about your farm and business. Your email list, over time, can be a huge asset.

Shelly Juurlink suggests, “Start a “friends of the farm” electronic newsletter where they send out a quarterly blast on what’s happening on the farm.

You could let them know:

  • where you’ll be showing next
  • developments at the farm
  • what’s on sale
  • what’s thriving
  • what crops fails
  • recipes
  • what challenges you’re facing

Again, it goes back to story telling.

IDEA #4: Be an Advocate and Help Your Customers Be Advocates Too.

My guess is that locally and regionally there are issues that affect the land, water and economic viability of your farm (and all of the farms).

Being an active and vocal advocate on those issues will not only win you more attention and respect but also create a deeper bond between yourself and your customers as they feel, more deeply, that you’re both on the same team working for the same goal.

Simon Sinek gave a powerful TED talk about this notion that ‘people don’t but what you do, they buy why you do it’:

If you want some help in honing in on what your bigger why is, here are some questions you can ask yourself.

Let your customers know how they can take a stand on local issues affecting farmers. Give them petitions to sign, pre-written Facebook posts they can share, phone numbers they can call and rallies they can attend. Let them be a part of the solution. I promise you that they want to be.

You could have petitions you invite them to sign at your booth. You could mention it on social media or on your email list.

IDEA #5: Hire a Photographer & Graphic Designer.

Having beautiful photographs of your wares, yourself and your farm can go a long way.

Kelsey Falle suggests a way to save money in this, “Find a local graphic or web designer who will work on trade, and have them do business cards, flyers, website, social marketing, etc. I am a hoping to find a farmer in my area to do just this!

Trade them for produce or a big dinner at the farm.

For more thoughts online marketing for Farmer’s Markets, I recommend reading Adam Helweh’s piece on Online Marketing Tips from the Farmer’s Market which explores how lessons learned from the Farmer’s Market can apply to social media .

Please leave any thoughts, tips, resources or ideas that could help farmers grow their businesses in the comments section below. After a few weeks, I promise to read through them all and weave anything relevant and useful into the blog itself so that they can be of the most use to the most farmers. 

Farmers Market Marketing Series #2: Six Overarching Ideas for Success


IDEA #1: Quality. 

First of all, obviously the bottom line is that you must have fresh and good quality products. And secondly, I’m assuming you’re not an asshole. If you don’t offer the former and are the latter, this blog post won’t help you. You need quality control and years of therapy. This is usually a non-issue but I’ve heard a few horror stories from people about their experiences at Farmer’s Markets. If these two are handled (and in 90% of cases they are) then you’re well on your way.

IDEA #2: Decide what you want to do yourself and what you want to outsource.

It’s important to remember that, just because marketing needs to happen, doesn’t mean that you need to do it all. You’re in control of that. Some you’ll want to do yourself and some you’ll want to outsource. Once you’ve sorted out how you want to market yourself, it’s wise to sit down and look at how much time and money each option would cost if you did it yourself vs. hiring someone else to do it. Do you want to do your own book keeping? Your newsletter? Running the Farmer’s Market stand? Your photography and web designer? Or would it be better to bring someone else in? Sometimes hiring someone else to do it is actually the more profitable thing to do.

IDEA #3: Get more support. 

Farmer’s are profoundly overworked and constantly in need of more hands on deck to pull everything together. Getting seasonal interns (in exchange for boarding or on the farm experience through the WWOOF, local agriculture students, local permaculturists who are thinking of getting into farming, market patrons or your local community) or volunteers for workbees can be a godsend and free up a lot of time.

IDEA #4: Do more of what works.

If you’re a farmer and have vended at a farmer’s market even once, you’ll have already learned something. You’ll have tried some things that seems to work. Do more of those things. This seems obvious but I can’t tell you how many entrepreneurs I’ve met who, when I asked, “How did you built your business in the beginning?“, tell me a brilliant strategy that they no longer do. When I ask them why they stopped doing it, I get blank looks and they finally say something like, “Huh. I don’t even know!” This is often the easiest thing to do. Go back to what worked when you were getting started and full of hustle.

IDEA #5: Educate and tell your story.

This is, perhaps, the biggest overarching theme. Every chance you get, tell your story. This idea overlaps with many of the others to come in this series. People love to hear the stories behind what they are buying. It’s easy to assume that people know more than they do about your farm and your food.

Marketing is about establishing the value beyond the immediately apparent.

I can promise you that 99% of the most compelling parts of the story of your business and your products are not clear to your customers. You’d be amazed at what they don’t know. Don’t assume that everything you put into your farm and your products is immediately apparent to anyone. Marketing is fundamentally about story telling and educating.

You can tell the story of:

  • how your farm started
  • why you choose to grow one type of produce vs. another
  • why you choose x method over y?
  • why do you grow the food you do?
  • what’s the story of the land you’re on?
  • what’s the history of farming in your area?
  • why do you charge what you charge? why does it cost what it does? what are your margins and how much do you need to even break even (very few people will understand this).
  • what are the extra things you do to make sure the quality stays high?
  • does your farm have an ethnic heritage?
  • what sets you apart and makes you different from other farms?
  • always confirm what is thought to be known (fresh, organic, local)
  • the specifics about crop varieties. Why did you choose it? Where is it from originally and how did it get to be here? What are the traditional uses of it and stories about it?

How do you tell your story? There are so many ways. It might be bit by bit, in conversations with your customers. It might be through social media or your email newsletter. It might be at talks you give or in newspaper articles about you. There are so many ways and you’ll learn more as you keep reading.

IDEA #6: Specialize in something.

This is another big one.

Figuring our your niche might just be one of the toughest nuts to crack in the business world. Tough enough that I created a whole website, The Niching Spiral, dedicated to it.

It’s a bit overwhelming going to a Farmer’s Market and seeing everyone offering all of the same things. If every table has beets, squash, lettuce and carrots, for example, then how do I choose from which table to shop? At that point, the answer might just be, which one is closest to where I am standing but it also might be some combination of the other things.

If you offer something that no one else at the market is offering, you will become known for that. If you’re the only one who makes mango lhasis, sells honey, has the best heirloom tomatoes, grows your food bio-dynamically it will be a big help in people remembering you and make it easier for other patrons and vendors to direct people to you.

Consider all of the different ways people have created niches in the field of permaculture.

Lisa Kivirist of Hobby Farms writes, “How is what you’re selling different than other vendors at the farmers’ market? Sometimes it helps to specialize in selling varietals of one distinct item, such as garlic. Another route is to creatively package your items. Sure, a lot of farmers may be selling red, ripe tomatoes, but what if you sold green tomatoes, along with your recipe for fried green tomatoes?

Shayla Mihaly says, “I know where to get the best greens (Star Route Farm) and the best Peaches (Frog Hollow). Then there is the wheatgrass and sprout guy, the place to get lavender, the organic non gmo soy, the honey people….. and Cap’n Mike’s smoked fish. So, what are they known for?

Brian Parsons adds, “Also, you have to remember that if you have 10 farmers stands, all selling eggs and potatoes, then you basically have 10 competitors… so you can have potential conflicts, tensions within the farmers market itself… in fact, that is the same with any market environment. And so it is not just a question of how you differentiate yourself from the large supermarket, but also from the stand next door selling the same stuff as you.”

Deb Vail shares her experiences of  having her farm in NC which outgrew her and her family in nine years, “We sold it two years ago because we got too big too quickly and couldn’t keep up at our age. We did no advertising at all… but I will pass on one thing that helped us tremendously – We divided out our CSA for only veggies and then sold only flowers at market. I suppose that’s niching. It worked well to be the only farmer at market that only sold flowers – we were the experts.”

Daleen Adele Thomas sums it up, “Only grow/farm what you love/are good at. If you grow great lettuce but small turnips, why grow turnips?

Please leave any thoughts, tips, resources or ideas that could help farmers grow their businesses in the comments section below. After a few weeks, I promise to read through them all and weave anything relevant and useful into the blog itself so that they can be of the most use to the most farmers.

Farmers Market Marketing Series #1: What This Series is and Why I’m Doing It.

farmer's marketHow this Farmer’s Market Series came to be…

Over the coming days, I’ll be releasing a series of blog posts full of marketing ideas for farmers.

I was recently asked to put together a workshop on marketing for farmers at Farmer’s Markets.

A volley of emails went back and forth that sounded mostly like me saying, “Are you sure you want me? I don’t really work with farmers… Ok. Wait. Are you really sure? I have no idea what I’d even say… You think my stuff would be relevant? Ok. I guess let’s do it then. But wait… can you put me in the afternoon after the other two presenters so I can hear what they say first? That works? Perfect… Are you sure?

But somehow it all came together.

And, in getting ready for these presentations, I decided to reach out to my colleagues and do some research to see if I can get my thinking together and share it here so I can get your feedback as well before the big day comes.

One thing is clear, as Bright Spark Media points out, the number of Farmer’s Markets is on the rise.

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 4.16.28 PM

And since local food is on a meteoric rise over the past few years, it feels important that we take the maximum advantage of it. The more successful farmers are, the more people will want to get into farming, the more local food we’ll have, the less development we’ll have as farmers no longer want or need to sell off their land and the more genuine food security we will have.

So the importance of this all is clear.

Farmers-Market-Old-Strathcona-1024x607What’s also clear is that farming is impossibly hard work.

Deb Vail shared, “… don’t ask me how to work in the fields 70 plus hours a week, get produce ready for a 150 person CSA delivered to three locations and go to market once a week, do all the bookkeeping, write a newsletter once a week and raise a family with 5 kids without hurting yourself. Organic veggies and flowers are so underpriced… Long live the farmer who’s reward is being in Nature all day long. Peace upon our souls is the true measure of success.”

Jason Guille who runs Sunset Labs in Victoria said, “I’ve spent some time in that conversation.. in my experience, typically speaking, the common state you’re speaking into is one of buried in work, disinterest in marketing and overwhelm in computers/technology.”

As my dear friend Corin Raymond says, “Mercy this hustle.”

Ester Balekjian commiserated that she wished everyone who attended the Farmer’s Markets would learn a bit more of what it’s like to be on the other side of the booth – the etiquette of being a customer. “I don’t think the farmers need to do more work at marketing. It is the customers that are hooked on supermarket fare that need to be targeted and made seen the importance of local food and supporting farming locally. It breaks my heart how farmers at stalls get treated by customers that compare them to the service they get at supermarkets. These people don’t bat an eye spending $200-$300 at the supermarket and yet are seen taking every single free sample and walking around with one pear, an apple and a small bag of baby carrots in their bags….. and spend all their money at the baked goods stalls.”

So, if you’re a farmer, this series is for you.

But I know a secret…

Despite everything that was said above, I know you got into farming because it’s easy money. Nothing but profit. You may not think we know about the billions of dollars your making but a farmer in England leaked your secrets in this video.

Still, one can always make even more billions of dollars… So the following posts in this series are my ideas to help you do that.

Please leave any thoughts, tips, resources or ideas that could help farmers grow their businesses in the comments section below. After a few weeks, I promise to read through them all and weave anything relevant and useful into the blog itself so that they can be of the most use to the most farmers.

Seven Reasons to Sign Up for the Meantime Today

Meantime30ChallengeBUTTONJust a brief courtesy reminder that my 30 Day Cashflow Challenge – The Meantime has launched as of today. But we’re accepting new participants until next Monday night if you’re willing to catch up.

Seven Reasons to Sign Up Today:

REASON #1: It’s Super Affordable.

This program is only $300 and I can promise you it’s worth much more than that.

If this content helps you get even one new client, just one, you will have likely immediately made back your money for the program. If they come back more than one time, you will have made a handsome profit. My guess is that the combination of the material you’ll be learning in this program and your intensive focus on applying it for thirty days will get you much more than one client.

REASON #2: I Won’t Be Doing it Again Until January, 2016.

‘Nuf said.

REASON #3: Fast Acting Content.

Of all my programs, it’s the one designed to bring in new income and clients the fastest. You’ll be learning more than 30 proven approaches that bring in clients and money fast.

And a lot more.

If you’ve been struggling to get out of the vicious downward spiral and start bringing in some income fast, you could be starting on that path in just a few days.

I suspect you may make more immediate, financial profit on this program than any other you’ve taken.

REASON #4: Get Meaningful Support.

For thirty days you’ll have my support and the support of peers from around the world to not only encourage and cheer you on but to give you meaningful feedback on your ideas and strategies. From my heart to yours, doing things solo is likely what’s gotten you into whatever pickle you might be in. Whether it’s this program or another, consider opening yourself up to help.

REASON #5: $100 Profit Guaranteed.

Finally, and perhaps most compellingly, I’m offering a double your money back guarantee on this event. Meaning, you’ll make at least $100 in profit on this event, guaranteed. Really, actually.

REASON #6: A Chance to Make Big Changes in Your Business Life You’ve Been Putting Off.

Many of the people who’ve been in this program have commented to me that one of the biggest blessings of being in The Meantime (the program and the cash flow crisis) is that it opens up the opportunity to make big and bold changes to their business. Changes they have known they’ve needed to make for a long time.

REASON #7: Three Pay – Just $100/month for Three Months.

$300 isn’t a lot, but, when you’re in a crunch, it might be more than you have. So, I’ve set up a payment plan option where you can do it in instalments.

I hope you’ll consider joining us, or at least check it out to see if it’s a fit for you. You can learn more (and watch a quick video from me) at the link below.


p.s. Remember, I won’t be leading this program again until January, 2016.

p.p.s. You are guaranteed to make at least $100 profit on it. If you do your part but, at the end of the 30 days you aren’t satisfied, I’ll refund everything you paid plus $100 out of my own pocket. Actually.

Industry Report: The State of Online Course Creation

At some point in your life as a conscious entrepreneur, teaching an online course may be to be the next logical step.

You’ll want to help many more people, without the constraints of space and time. You’ll want to make an impact beyond your live group workshops or one-on-one sessions.

The best thing is, marketing your online course won’t feel gross when you know it will change your students’ lives. As someone who has sold online training programs, I can tell you it feels wonderful to promote and deliver a product when you’re confident it will truly help others.

Many online course creators believe their students’ success is the most important measure of their own success, as a recent survey by Firepole Marketing found. The rest of the findings are summarized in the infographic below. If you’ve tried making your own online course, or are thinking of doing so in the near future, these findings will interest you. You can learn more about what Firepole Marketing is up to here and read the full study here.

firepole OK

Introducing the “Are You Sure?” Page

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 7.09.21 PMHere’s an idea I’ve had for about two years and finally got around to/found a place for in my upcoming 30 day cashflow challenge for hippies – The Meantime.

It’s the idea of an ‘Are You Sure?’ page.

Here’s the idea: putting a page in between them click ‘buy’ and allowing them to buy. And having that step be to slow them down and make sure that they really want to buy – that it’s really a fit for them.

This idea is the weaving together of the notion that the role of marketing is not to get people to say ‘yes’ but (among other things) to help them see if it’s a fit plus the notion of slow marketing.

The problems this is designed to address are varied but can be summed up as, ‘making sure that people who aren’t a fit for your programs never sign up for your programs.’ When they do, you have drama. On your end: you likely get requests for refunds, you get a difficult participant, you get bad word of mouth and maybe called a liar for misleading them into buying. It’s draining. On their end, they spend money on a program they might never use and end up feeling burned and jaded.

One of my colleagues Maya wrote in the comments below,

I wish that some business/marketing coaches had done this for me because it would have saved me a lot of money. Back before I knew enough to read through over-hyped sales letters I took programs that were the wrong fit for me and now I have a bad taste in my mouth about those coaches. I deeply regretted wasting thousands of dollars at a time when money was tight for me. As a result, not only do I not recommend. Those coaches and programs but if asked the best I can do is to say something like “It didn’t work for me” or “I didn’t get what I expected”. And I know people can feel the distrust and negativity underneath those statements. I am sure I discourage many people from taking those classes. What was worse was when I took the classes I learned the exact techniques they had used to get me to buy and used them to sell one of my earlier programs. I followed the manipulative “script” and knew there were a couple of people who were the wrong fit for my program but had been sold the whole “Even if it’s the wrong fit for them you never know what other life lesson they are learning by taking a program that is wrong for them,” (Ick) so I didn’t say anything. Not only were they the most high-maintenance people in the program but I realized I had made them feel the same way I had felt when I bought a program that was wrong for me. I felt *awful*! I love that this page is a way to make sure I am never doing that to someone again as I start my new business. It feels like a way to balance out the necessary marketing with integrity. This kind of safeguard puts the “conscious” back into “conscious business”.

Carol shared this:

Thanks Tad. I knew I wanted to take the cash flow challenge and I’m that person who takes on too many programs and either doesn’t finish or lives in constant overload and financial regret. Your letter made me stop and take a moment to reflect on the questions you asked for consideration before committing. I was thankful you have another course running again and that took the pressure of ‘I have to, or else I’ll never have the opportunity again’. I really appreciated your insight and thoughtfulness of your potential client. It speaks so highly of you and how you walk your talk and I for one will be following your lead in my own business and I hope others will also follow suit. Thank you and bravo!

Claudia wrote:

This is the only ethical practice. I work with families who are desperate for assistance, but they need to hear that my approach is not the only one, and that how I work is not right for every family. And I am tired of meeting potential clients who have tried other clinicians who didn’t make sure their style fit the family, and who now feel betrayed by everyone in helping professions. Telling people, “hey, this other person might fit you better,” is a wonderful way to truly help someone, too.

The ‘Are You Sure?’ Page Plays Three Roles:

  • Role #1: it intentionally interrupts the buying process (blasphemy!). When they click on the ‘Purchase’ button, instead of taking directly to the place they can buy, it directs them to a page that does role #2…
  • Role #2: gives them the best information you can provide to help them see if it’s going to be a fit (information that they might have missed in your incredibly persuasive and compelling sales letter).  This page is explicitly not trying to sell them into the program or out of it. It’s just trying to do the heavy lifting of helping them sort out whether it really is the best thing for them or not. The info you’ll see on my Are Your Sure page was gathered over two years of leading this program and figuring out who it’s for and who it’s not for. It was gathered from a few refund situations where those I refunded kindly gave me candid feedback around what would have needed to be in the sales letter to make sure they would not have a bought (imagine that! someone not buying from you could be success).
  • Role #3: asks them to pause and really check in with themselves as to whether this is the right thing for them in this moment

Examples of Are You Sure? Pages:

You can see an example of what such a page might look like here.

My colleague, a film maker, Carolien Oosterhoff, inspired by this post came up with one too.

If you look on her ‘About You‘ page you can buy right away or click the ‘Before You Say Yes’ button which takes you to her version of the ‘Are You Sure?’ page. She said this about it: “last week I met a real ‘old fashioned’ gold smith (I am going to portray her) and she said she had read it all, and really understood me. So, it worked. And for those where it did not work and who leave … they saved me a lot of stress. I am too sensitive to stress, and want to do as much as I can to prevent me + my customer for becoming disappointed, angry .. or worse.”

UPDATE – SEPT 25th, 2015: I asked the people who had signed up for my Meantime program and, thus, had to contend with this page to share their reflections on how it was for them? Here’s what they said,

I loved that! It showed respect for your audience. I plan to use that as well in some of my marketing material.

The impression grew that you are standing being what you do. And I took this time to engage for my own sake and really want to focus on this 30days!

I appreciated this page. spoke of quality and care in who you are, what you offer and how you support others. asked me to be true to myself an dneeds at this time. what i need to move forward in vibrant and supportive ways of sustainable growth. thank you

it made me laugh, pause and I appreciated being given that space to doubt.

I like the opportunity to check out if it really is the right thing for me. I think it shows great integrity on your part to offer that chance to slow down and take a closer look to see if it truly is a fit for the buyer.

Initially it was a real surprise because I had hit the button and made the commitment to pay and here you were asking me to reconsider – this is not the norm. Infant, I’ve never experienced that before. I read through the information again to see if I was a good fit and it made me feel more sure I wanted to do the program. The pause also deepened the level of trust I had for you and it made me smile.

I thought “great, he knows what he’s talking about”. I first heard of this with Marie Forleo, that I really like and respect. So I knew you were part of this no BS tribe. It was even easier to trust you.

Really loved that page and the integrity of being asked that, both for you and for me.

I loved it! It made me really pause, check in with myself, ask a whole pile of “What if” questions and then really commit rather than rote commit (if that distinction makes sense).

Note: This kind of approach presumes that you’ve clarified your niche, have come up with a solid and compelling offer that works to solve a real problem and that your sales copy is good. If you’re missing these things and try to dump this into the mix I suspect it won’t go well for you.

I think this is a pretty great idea. What do you think?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this and how it might be done even better in the comments below.


Sales Letter Case Study: My Hollyhock Retreat Problems

11665645_10155895850875195_2282314407417899631_nI recently sent an email out to about a quarter of my list.

It went to people who had opened previous emails about my upcoming, five day retreat at Hollyhock.

The situation that prompted the sales letter wasn’t great but I thought the sales letter was solid and, after receiving replies from a number of colleagues commending me on it, I thought it might be a worthy case study of a certain style of sales letter that I honestly hope you never have to use.

I heard about this style of sales letter first from Jay Abraham. The headline, and core thrust of the sales letter was, “My Problem is Your Opportunity”.

Here’s the unfortunate reality is business: not all of your offers are going to work out as you planned. That’s just how it is. Sometimes it will be because your offer wasn’t good and sometimes it will be due to factors outside of your control. There will be times in your business where you find yourself a bit stuck.

It can be easy, during those times, to want to just give up and throw in the towel.

The provocative premise here is to look at whatever you’re problem is and ask yourself, “How could my problem be an opportunity for my clients?” You often don’t have to dig very deep to find it. And, once you find it, you tell your clients the honest truth of the situation and offer them a deal.

And, if there’s a benefit to the clients, then that’s good for you. What if your problem was actually a chance to make some money where you thought there was none to be made and build goodwill and connection regardless?

What I like about this approach is that it is very direct and candid. It’s not resorting to hype. It’s just making an honest offer and giving the rational behind it. It’s telling the truth (even if the truth is a bit embarrassing). As the old saying goes, “If you can’t fix it, feature it.”

It could be that you’re a holistic practitioner who booked off two weeks to go on vacation but then a volcano erupted where you were going and you can’t get your money back because the hotel you already paid was swallowed by lava and you had to cancel the trip and now you’ve got two totally open weeks that you need to fill with clients pronto. That’s your problem and maybe it could become an opportunity for your clients when you offer a discount on those sessions because you’d rather make some money than nothing.

Maybe you’re a furniture store who ordered in a bunch of new stock but then there was an illness in the family and you had to shut your business down and weren’t able to get rid of the old stock in time and the shipment of new things is coming in in a month but you don’t have room for it all so you need to get rid of the old stock. That’s your problem and maybe it’s an opportunity for your clients because it means you need to have a fire sale to get rid of stock at steeply discounted prices rather than paying to put it all in storage. If someone is going to benefit, why not your clients?

Maybe you showed up in a town to lead a weekend workshop and, by the time you get there, no one has signed up at all but you do have 16 people coming to an intro. That’s your problem. And maybe it can be turned into an opportunity for your clients when you decide to not charge money for it but to offer the weekend on a pay what you can basis because you might as well make some money on your visit rather than nothing.

Or… maybe you’ve got a five day retreat coming up at Hollyhock but you’ve not had a lot of people signing up for it. That’s my problem. And this letter below is where I articulate where I see the opportunity for my clients…

So this is a fairly classic, “My Problem Is Your Opportunity” sales letter. I invite you to consider where in the past you might have used this and if there are any problems you’re experiencing right now for which this kind by an approach might be useful.

Hey there,

I’ve got a big, fat problem.

But it might just be to your extreme and selfish benefit.

In this introduction, I’m wanting to hook the reader. I’m about to tell them a story that may not seem relevant to them and that could lose them. I so I want to hook them with the promise of something I’ll come back to later that could be to their benefit.

It’s about my retreat coming up at Hollyhock at the end of September.

Months ago, I committed to leading a retreat at Hollyhock.

I couldn’t have been more excited. I’ve attended so many events there and read through their calendar every year wishing I could go to even more. Hollyhock is one of Canada’s best kept secrets and also a hub of Western Canada’s positive change making scene. I can’t even imagine how many collaborations have been started there that have made this world a better place.

So, to be featured in the catalogue had a real feeling of having ‘made it’.

My plan was to host a gathering of my favourite colleagues. I sent our a preliminary email and got excited responses of ‘of course we’ll come!’.

“Do you think you’ll be able to fill it?” asked the staff at Hollyhock.

I was almost offended they even asked. “I’m going to have no issues filling it.” I teach marketing. I have an email list of 11,000 people. I’ve got a strong following on the West Coast. I’ve been in business almost 15 years. Filling one, very special workshop? Easy.

Boy. Was I Ever Wrong.

One by one, my colleagues sent their regrets that the timing wasn’t going to work for them this year. Even ones who’d expressed an excitement and commitment to go ended up needing to change their plans.

This happens in business. You come up with an offer you’re really excited about and then it flops. Not much response. It happens to the best of us.

But then it leaves you needing to pivot.

And with a Spring and Summer that had me travelling and then utterly burned out and in need of replenishment I wasn’t able to pivot as fast as I would have liked to.

The idea came finally: I’d turn it into a regular workshop/retreat for folks on my list. I’d open it up wide.

And so out went the emails but, still, the response wasn’t as large as I was needing.

Again, this happens in business. Things don’t work as well as you would hope.

And so this is my problem.

It’s looking like I’ll have about ten folks or so at my Hollyhock retreat at the end of September. I was hoping for 30-50 people.

So, the above is my best articulation of the problem. I’m a fan of telling things in a storied way. I could have said the above in a single sentence like, “My Hollyhock event isn’t filling up like I’d like.” but, for me, that doesn’t have the powerful, relatability or strength of a story.

Whenever you can share honestly about a way you screwed up, misjudged something or made some mistake I recommend it. It doesn’t have you lose credibility. If you’re able to share it without shame and, ideally, with what you learned from it, you will not only gain credibility but, more importantly, connection with the reader. You’ll seem more human. Which will have people trust you more. It’s hard to trust someone who seems infallible. It’s hard to relate to them.

Here’s why my problem could be your opportunity…

I made this a sub-headline because I wanted the reader to know I hadn’t forgotten about them. I’m not writing this letter to share my sob story. I’m sharing it with them because the problem lays the groundwork to understand the opportunity (which is what they really care about here). Whenever someone is reading a salesletter, we need to be mindful that their mind is constantly filtering everything with the question, “What’s in it for me? Is this relevant? Is there any benefit to me for reading this?”

If we lose sight of that central truth for too long, we will lose people.

The main complaint I get for any workshop I do is that people wish it were longer and had less people in it so that they could get more individual attention.

Of course, while that’s understandable, it’s not always feasible or sustainable on my end.

But, in this case, it looks like it’s what is exactly what’s going to happen.

And so, here, I name the opportunity, “This thing you always want when you go to a program? It’s here! This is it!”

Think of the previous examples:

You’ve wanted a massage but it was too much? You can finally afford it with this deal.

You’ve wanted a new couch but couldn’t afford it? Now you can due to this sale.

You’ve wanted to go to a marketing training but never had the money? Come to mine and pay whatever you want at the end.

You’ve always wanted an intimate, small numbered retreat with a teacher you’ve admired for a while? Here’s your chance.

Here’s what my problem could mean for you if you come to Hollyhock:

  • you get five days of my undivided attention on your business. Fifteen years of my experience, working with hundreds of conscious entrepreneurs just like you… and it’s all yours
  • you get all of your important questions answered in depth instead of being one person in a group of fifty who maybe gets to ask one question each day. Most people really only have so many important questions before the well runs dry for a bit.
  • you get solutions that are custom tailored to your situation instead of generic principles you’re encouraged to adapt and translate to your own situation
  • for five days, you’ll have strong access to my personal brain space (and everyone else’s). This is important: in a group of 50+ people the chances of your remembering everyone’s names by the end of five days is almost nil. The chance of you remembering what they do and what their particular issues are? Non-existent. But that means that you’re more or less on your own. But, when the group is this small, you’ve got everyone’s awareness and attention. You’re issues are sitting their in the back of their mind the whole time and waking them up in the middle of the night with an idea they just have to tell you first thing in the morning when they see you
  • there’s a very good chance your business will get hot seated at some point and receive feedback from the entire group (which is small but full of people with a lot to offer).

In the above section I do something that I think it really important. I explain the benefits of the feature I just told them. The feature of this training is that it will have smaller numbers. But still, they’re sitting there thinking, “So what? What does that mean for me? How do I benefit from that?” And, as marketers, it’s easy to assume that it’s totally obvious what the benefits of a feature are. But that assumption is wrong. It’s our job to make that translation as capably and honestly as we can. It’s our job to help lift up what might be in it, selfishly, for them. It’s our job to help them see how the unique facets of our work could benefit their lives in a real and tangible way.

Here’s how I plan to make it even better for you (and I can’t believe I’m offering this).

If you come and join me at Hollyhock, you will also get a 60 minute, private coaching session with me. You would normally pay $300 for this. This coaching session can be used at any point in the future.

This offer came to me in the writing of the letter and I honestly cringed at including it initially. But, when I sat with it, it felt right. And, if it made the offer compelling enough that even one or two more people signed up, it would be worth it.

In this case, I couldn’t offer a discount. And a discount is not always the best way to go. Often times, it’s much better to offer some add on that will add value to the proposition for them without costing you too much. In my case, I went for the very generous end of giving my personal time. But, I could have offered a series of follow up group calls. Or a free product. In this case, the offer of one on one coaching time felt right because I know that I’ll fall in love with these folks by the end of the five days and I’ll be excited to catch up with them after.

But, if you’re going to add something free as a bonus it’s vital that you give a reason why you’re doing it. Without a reason, people will devalue it in their mind. With a reason, the value can be maintained. Certainly people make up reasons that aren’t legitimate all the time but when you actually have a real reason to do so, by all means use it and share it.

The forces of the universe have conspired to create something that will be fabulously unprofitable for me but that could be incredibly impactful, transformative and profitable for your business.

I can’t imagine another time where I will…

  • be running a five day retreat (this is the first I have ever done)
  • for a group so small (even most of my day long events are bigger than this)
  • in such a beautiful location

This may, legitimately, be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

To be crystal clear: I would never have set it up this way on my own. I would never, on my own, create an event that takes so much time and effort with so little financial return for me.

If you’ve ever wanted to attend a live event of mine, I can’t imagine creating one ever again that will be so tailor made for you to get value from.

This felt important. To emphasize that this is legitimately likely to be a once in a lifetime situation. It’s rare in marketing that this is said with any candour. But, in this case, I actually get to say it and mean it. I didn’t realize the truth of it until I was writing this letter. If you ever get to say this yourself, I recommend it. It’s immensely satisfying.

So that’s my big problem.

I am hoping that you will take advantage of it.

For more info or to sign up go to:


And there’s the call to action.

p.s. What will your time there be like? Let me paint a picture…

Imagine eating delicious, organic meals grown right there in the Hollyhock garden while sitting in the sun on the wooden deck and looking over the ocean and feeling all of your stress melting away.

Imagine having five days, in paradise, away from it all with a small but might group of perhaps ten entrepreneurs and finally having time to reflect on and do actually work on your business.

Imagine sitting with your laptop over lunch and having a new colleague walk you through redoing your homepage or sales page or taking a walk on the beach while you get feedback on an offer you’ve been thinking up. Or perhaps helping you rework your whole social media strategy.

Imagine sitting in a hot tub under the stars with your new friends with a glass of wine and being inspired by the creative marketing approaches they use in their business and feeling possibilities open up again as big as the sky.

I hope you’ll join us.

This came to me to add when I let the letter sit for a few hours and came back to it (note: always let things sit for at least a few hours and, ideally, overnight before sending them out. You will always see more and make things better). What I’m doing above it doing my best to put them inside the experience. I’m trying to paint a sensory rich experience of what it will be like for them if they come. This is something I’ve written about in my blog post Tell Them A Story.

Sometimes it’s really hard for people to picture what an experience might be like for them. It feels abstract and theoretical. If you can paint the picture and put them it that picture you help them better understand what it might be like.

So, again: whenever you run into a problem as a business owner, ask yourself, “Where might this actually be an opportunity for myself as well as my customer?” You might be surprised with what you find. And try sending out an email like this and see what happens. The best case is that you get some more sales. The worst case is that you build some good will.

The Century of the Self

Century-of-Self1The following text is taken from the incredible site TopDocumentaryFilms where you can find many excellent documentaries you may have missed. I encourage your perusal of this site.


This series is about how those in power have used Freud’s theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, changed the perception of the human mind and its workings profoundly.

His influence on the 20th century is widely regarded as massive. The documentary describes the impact of Freud’s theories on the perception of the human mind, and the ways public relations agencies and politicians have used this during the last 100 years for their engineering of consent. Among the main characters are Freud himself and his nephew Edward Bernays, who was the first to use psychological techniques in advertising. He is often seen as the father of the public relations industry.

Freud’s daughter Anna Freud, a pioneer of child psychology, is mentioned in the second part, as well as Wilhelm Reich, one of the main opponents of Freud’s theories. Along these general themes,The Century of the Self asks deeper questions about the roots and methods of modern consumerism, representative democracy and its implications. It also questions the modern way we see ourselves, the attitude to fashion and superficiality.

Happiness Machines. Part one documents the story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American nephew, Edward Bernays who invented Public Relations in the 1920s, being the first person to take Freud’s ideas to manipulate the masses.

The Engineering of Consent. Part two explores how those in power in post-war America used Freud’s ideas about the unconscious mind to try and control the masses. Politicians and planners came to believe Freud’s underlying premise that deep within all human beings were dangerous and irrational desires.

There is a Policeman Inside All of Our Heads, He Must Be Destroyed. In the 1960s, a radical group of psychotherapists challenged the influence of Freudian ideas, which lead to the creation of a new political movement that sought to create new people, free of the psychological conformity that had been implanted in people’s minds by business and politics.

Eight People Sipping Wine In Kettering. This episode explains how politicians turned to the same techniques used by business in order to read and manipulate the inner desires of the masses. Both New Labor with Tony Blair and the Democrats led by Bill Clinton, used the focus group which had been invented by psychoanalysts in order to regain power.