Graciousness, Permission and Hijacking in Marketing

Graciousness.jpgGraciousness isn’t always noticed in marketing but its absence is usually keenly felt.

The notion of permission marketing was coined, so far as I know, in Seth Godin’s blog post Permission Marketing. His notion was that we need people’s permission to market to them. Without permission, our marketing is spam.

Susan Hyatt wrote of this dynamic in the coaching world in her piece Unsolicited Coaching. Please. Make it stop and it’s a thread I wove into my extensive blog post on Empathy in Marketing. Unasked for advice is the spam of social relationships.

When it’s missing, it feels like a keen violation.

Years ago I hosted, as I often do, a potluck. A fellow came, I think brought by a friend. He was a fitness trainer keen to build his business. Clearly, somewhere along the way he learned that building your email list is the most important thing you can do these days. And so, he spoke to all twenty five or so people at the potluck and invited them to sign up for his email list and get a free, healthy recipe for a chocolate and peanut butter dessert.

It was so blatant, so hijacking of my party and using the trust in the space for his own purposes. Most people, I am sure, signed up because it felt incredibly awkward to say ‘no’ to his face. I imagine most of them thought, “I’ll just sign up and then unsubscribe or ignore him.”

The approach was forceful. It didn’t authentically grow out of the conversation. It was smuggled into every conversation.

Another example: I was recently in Kelowna where I led a day long workshop. When I got back from lunch I saw that one of the participants, a realtor, had left his business card and a pen (with his contact info on it) on every seat. I went up to him and let him know I felt uncomfortable with it and would appreciate it if he removed them, which he then did. On one hand, there’s something commendable here – hustle. He’s not just sitting back and hoping people call him. He’s being active.

And, the way he’s doing it isn’t, in my mind, gracious.

I am the one who brought everyone together. It was my efforts and the trust I’d built with people that had created that room full of people and by not asking me if it was alright, he was hijacking those efforts and using them for himself. But he certainly doesn’t need my permission to market himself at my event. The real permission he needed was from the people to whom he was marketing. They didn’t ask to find the pen and business card on their chair. What are they going to do with it? He spammed them.

If the realtor had wanted my endorsement, he could have courted it by showing up early and helping to set up and paying attention to how he could be useful to me. He could have bought everyone lunch at the workshop. He could have brought a gift for everyone at the workshop. He could have reached out to me in advance and shared his appreciation of my work and some useful links to things. He could have honoured the incredible time and effort it took me to get the people there and build my business.

The nonchalantness of trying to benefit from other people’s labours without acknowledging those labours is being a parasite, not a guest.

In short, he could have built a relationship with me based on giving and generosity first which would have, almost certainly, been reciprocated.

Antoine Palmer is one of the finest men I know. I met him at a large picnic I was hosting. He helped carry tables into the community centre afterwards. He was just incredibly helpful without being asked. It’s a fine way to introduce yourself to someone, not by trying to impress them but by paying attention to what’s needed and trying to be helpful to them.

I remember meeting Julia Butterfly Hill, who was on her book tour for her book The Legacy of Luna about her two year tree sit, with my friend Michele at Bookshop Santa Cruz and really hoping to impress her because we thought she was kind of the coolest and we were hoping she might come to an event we were organizing.  So we just helped out with her book signing. The next night, she was in Berkeley. I showed up and learned that she was mostly raw vegan and went grocery shopping to salad supplies figuring that she might be hungry after the event. She was and her face lit up with delight in seeing what I’d done. We’ve been friends since. And she came to the event.

While I was staying at my friend Sean’s in Vancouver, I noticed they had an empty, large jar of coconut oil. So I picked up a new one for them. I asked them casually if they’d ever tried Hendrix Gin (the best gin of all times) and when they said ‘no’ I knew to pick up a bottle of it the next day for a dinner we were having.

This can look so many different ways. I’m sure you’ve had your own experiences of both sides of this coin.

The bottom line: When you are gracious in your marketing, then your marketing doesn’t seem like marketing, it occurs to people for what it really is: a generous spirit building relationships – which is what all marketing should be.

 

Further Suggested Reading:

31 Paths of Graciousness – Tad Hargrave

Groundhog Day – Take Two – Vicki Robin

Interview: Success for Artists & Creative Professionals with Dan Blank

unnamedI’ve known Dan Blank (pictured here) over a number of years and he has become my go to resource for clients who are aspiring authors. Dan brings and incredibly down to earth, brass tacks and honest approach to business building.

Recently, he hold me that he’d now branched into the broader field of helping people find and market their creative work (i.e. they’re worried that their career isn’t going anywhere; that they need to build a following; that they want to learn how to market their art) so I asked if I could interview him about it all and his new program Fearless Work for my blog. He graciously accepted. I think you’ll be glad of it.

What’s this new project you’ve got on the go?

It’s a program called Fearless Work, which is a course to help creative professionals find more time and energy to work on their art or craft. It focuses on helping people prioritize what matters most, work smarter, make creative habits stick, and manage their fear around big risks and a packed schedule.

Who would you say are the top three groups of people it’s for?

Anyone who is trying to find more time to do creative work amidst life’s many professional and personal demands.These could be artists, writers, designers, photographers, entrepreneurs, illustrators, musicians, and many others.

Working creative professionals. People who are entrepreneurial around their art and craft, and have turned it into a business.

They are finding success, but also finding barriers, and looking to break through to the next level.

Those who have dabbled with turning their art & work into a career, but want to now take it seriously.

Why did you create it? What need did you see? What’s the story?

After spending my entire life surrounded by those doing meaningful creative work, I always hear about their challenges — the things that prevent them from practicing the work they care the most about. In the past five years, I have run my own company helping these people, really being in the trenches with them as they strive for their goals.

Fearless Work is my way of creating a resource to re-shift aspects of one’s life to allow for more creative work.

What are the top three aspects of life that seem to get in the way?

  1. Yourself. What is most astounding is how many of the barriers that stand between someone and their creative work is often their own internal boundaries. They refuse to give themselves permission, or they are driven by narratives that kill their work before they can create it.
  2. Reacting to the demands of others and things external to you. This could be your day job, but it can also be the everyday demands of laundry and dishes.
  3. Being a parent. While most people I meet who are any age, whether they have kids or not, are very busy, I find that becoming a parent offers unique challenges. When you have kids, many of the process you have honed for yourself go off the rails because you are now fully responsible for other human beings. It’s impossible to overstate how much work this is: you literally have to wipe their asses. And, while this is a responsibility done with the deepest levels of love, that is also why it can be taxing in ways we never quite imagined before having children.

Fearless Work is also about ways to establish habits that allow for more creative work to be done each day. It is the culmination of everything I have learned in working with hundreds of creative professionals, as well as my own company.

I hear from people every single week, about how profound their struggles are. They feel they work more hours, give more of themselves, only to feel as though they are treading water, their dreams unfulfilled. The course delves into the practical actions that one can take (both internally and externally) to not only feel more fulfilled, but focus on what matters most in their creative endeavours.

Everyone feels overwhelmed, and 99% of the time, the only thing holding you back is yourself.

Everyone has challenges, and some of them are breath taking in their complexity: the person who is coping with a debilitating illness; someone who has suffered through a traumatic event; the single parent of 5 kids; the sole caregiver for ailing parents. Yet, I always speak to people who, despite these very real responsibilities, can manage to also find room for their own identity, and their own work. That all of these things are a part of who they are, and that even serious responsibilities don’t have to sidetrack who you want to be.

There are others who do a similar type of thing, what did you see was missing in it all that had you want to create this?

I love the various resources that are out there, and how inspiring each can be in their own way.

For my own experience working with creative professionals though…

I find that the business side of creative work is overwhelming for many people. While I always put the art first, I have deep experience in turning one’s creative vision into a viable business. It’s an obsession, really.

When I look back on both my professional and personal experience, it is across a wide range of arts. When I was a kid, I went to art school, and growing up, I did illustration, photography, poetry, sculpture, pop-up books, music, writing, a newspaper cartoon, trained to be a radio DJ, published a zine, did design work, and eventually I became an entrepreneur working with writers and creative professionals.

I hear these challenges everyday because of how many people/orgs I work with. I have to address them because these are the relationships that fill my life. None of this is theory, I am in the trenches with these people every single day.

I suppose, I see the “productivity” and “inspiration” side of this focused on a lot by others, but things such as mental health are often not being address. For example, I am the last person who will ever tell you to do more creative work by giving up some sleep. The idea of robbing someone of sleep in order to gain “productivity” is offensive. It cuts away at the foundations of their physical and mental health — that is NOT progress to me!

My company is five years old and I have established processes that I think others can find value in.

Why is this such a struggle for artists to take on the business side of things?

The answers vary, but one phrase that comes up often is “permission.”

Meaning, that after the artist goes through the struggle of creating work that matters deeply to them, they are confronted with the fear of permission, “Who am I to now ask people to pay for this?” Which is why many creatives wait to be “discovered.” For others to validate their work by sheer magic — without the artist having to proactively put their work out there. I suppose core to this is a fear of judgement, but also anxiety that many artists feel around their identity. Impostor syndrome is pervasive across professions, but I see it crop up often in creative fields. All of this is part of the stew that makes the business side of the arts extraordinarily complex for creative people.

I’d be curious to hear what other terrible advice you see out there for artists and creative types.

Most of the advice I see that turns my stomach are versions of get rich quick schemes. For the arts, it may not focus on money alone as the goal, but on the validation that many creative people seek. So yes it could be, “Make a million dollars with your art!” but it can also be “The world is just waiting for your message!” As many creative professionals will tell you, when they released their work publicly, it was received to dead silence. The distinction between the amateur and the professional in this context is that they took efforts to ensure it found an audience, and that this was truly work that takes time and pushed them passed boundaries.

What are the three top blunders that you see people make in addressing these issues?

Goodness, only three? How about six:

  1. Looking for a tool that will magically fix everything. The real value comes in establishing good habits and new processes. Are tools a part of this? Sure, but they serve the habits and processes, not the other way around.
  2. Thinking it is all in or not at all. Consider how many people start and fail at diets. They are either “on” the diet or “off” the diet, and change of this caliber needs has more layers to the gradient than this. This is about tiny changes a little at a time.
  3. Seeking productivity tips that adds more stuff to their already packed life. You can’t get clarity by adding and adding to your life — you have to SUBTRACT what doesn’t matter in order to find more resources to do the work that truly matters.
  4. Focusing on only time, not energy. Energy is a renewable resource that affects all areas of your life.
  5. Seeking “balance.” To be honest, I don’t believe in balance when it comes to how people traditionally talk about “work/life balance.” Balance is a lovely concept, but if you listed out all of your personal and professional obligations, I think the idea of “balance” gets in the way. Instead, I believe in clarity and priorities. The term I tend to use is this: OBSESSIONS. Making hard choices about what matters most.
  6. Managing their work life separate from their personal needs and goals. You have a single life, and a 24 hours in a day, you have to manage it as a whole.

What are the main good habits you feel like creative folks need most? Could you share a story or example of of a habit you’ve developed that’s paid off?

The habits that most creative people need to establish is taking small actions in a consistent basis. I mean, that is what a habit is, right? Break down a larger creative vision into tiny component parts that you can control. An example would be how I wrote the first draft of the book I am working on. I reserved the first hour of the day to write, with the goal of at least 1,000 words per day.

Now, a distinction I made is that this was about quantity, not quality. I wasn’t judging if my writing was good or not, I just focused on getting words on the page. Within less than 40 days, I had hit my goal of a 65,000 word first draft. Before I put the restraints on the habit (1 hour, 1,000+ words each day), the idea of writing a book was nearly incomprehensible. All I saw where challenges.

Also, I find boundaries to be extraordinarily useful in the creative process, and that they are useful in how we work as well. For instance: I don’t fly. I won’t be shy here: it scares me. So when I created my business, I put a simple rule in place, “No flying for work.” Now, this meant I put a severe limitation on potential revenue streams. I have done a lot of speaking, and this limitation meant that I could never truly seek out a highly paid speaking career, seeking out keynotes and the like. Revenue stream #1 in the toilet. I also do come consulting for organizations, and this limitation meant that I couldn’t seek out large clients outside of those in area around New York City. Any large organization client would likely want a series of in-person meetings, and since I don’t fly, that meant I couldn’t say yes to that. Revenue stream #2 in the toilet.

And yet, 5 years in, my business is doing fine. These limitations allowed me to OBSESS over other areas I am passionate about, such as developing online courses that could reach people anywhere in the world, and be created from my home. For the Fearless

Work course, my team and I have worked on it for months, through an incredible amount of OBSESSIVE research. For much of that time, we had to ignore other potential opportunities to grow my audience or my business. We are all in on this course, and it feels extraordinary to so fully devote yourself to something.

What are the top three things people could do on their own to address these issues effectively?

When approaching the idea of Fearless Work — to do more of the creative work that matters most to you, I find these three things can help you find greater success in working through the process:

  1. Make it social. Surround yourself with like minds. Don’t struggle by yourself.
  2. Focus on clarity, especially around your goals. It is astounding to me how vague people’s goals often are when you scratch the surface. Oftentimes, you find that there is nothing there, just a vague idea. Why? Because they were too afraid of the obligation that comes with truly tackling their dreams.
  3. I would rather see you focus all of your energy on establish a single TINY positive new habit than create some complex system that fools you into thinking you have solved it all. Start small.

For more info on Dan’s program Fearless Work click on the image below.

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Hustle

il_340x270.675722008_7spmIf there is a missing ingredient to success in business it’s not know-how, it’s hustle. It’s the ability to get busy and make things happen.

It’s not having more resources, it’s resourcefulness.

When people are driven and committed they so often find a way to make things work while those who aren’t committed find a lot of excuses (which they will list as ‘reasons it didn’t work’).

This may not seem like a very hippy idea. It’s not a very ‘go with the flow, man’ idea. But, real talk, The Grateful Dead had hustle.

Hustle is what allowed me to start The Jams project, The Local Good, the Edmonton Secret Streetcars Shows, Indigo Drinks, Green Drinks Edmonton, The Nova Scotia Gaels Jam and other projects.

In the fall, my friends and I are launching a project in Edmonton called The Social Yogi (basically, we’ll be hosting a monthly social event for local yogis). Last year, I found a local fellow to take on organizing it. He was excited. And I gave him literally everything he needed to make it work. He had all of the resources he needed. And yet he bailed on or no showed our first three meetings. I told him it was over. But, he took that feedback so well that I decided to give him one more chance.

We had a great meeting and then, when we didn’t get an enthusiastic response from Edmonton’s busiest local, young yoga hubs, he bailed on the project entirely because he didn’t want to do it alone.

Did it cross his mind that other people might have been interested? Or that, as the local hubs told me, that they were just extraordinarily busy and had been waiting for him to actually do something? I don’t know.

But I do know that he didn’t lack a cool idea, a website, a mentor, a plan, a clear niche, a lack of money … any of that.

He just lacked hustle.

To be clear: I’m not saying he should have hustled or even wanted to. I’m not saying him walking away was wrong or an aspersion on his character. He’s a very fine fellow. But, for whatever reason, the hustle vanished. And when the capacity to hustle goes, the success of your enterprise isn’t far behind it.

When people have hustle, they make incredible things happen on a shoestring.

And I wish I knew how to teach hustle or impart it into people.

It’s not having more resources, it’s resourcefulness.

 

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

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Do you have a clear niche? Are you sure?

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

arrow e1357681247481 So You Think You Can Niche? Contest   Win $100 Cash + A Spot in My Niching for Hippies program ($600) for Less Effort than a Tweet

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

Until I begin to ask a few questions.

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

Backstory:

For the past two years now I have run a contest I called So You Think You Can Niche? where people submitted their niche and there were some really good submissions.

2013: You can see the top forty winners from 2013 here.

2014: You can see the winners from 2014 here.

I created a fascinating and really useful, searchable collection of case studies from the 2014 entries, which you can find here.

And, since I’m launching my new Niching Spiral Homestudy Course soon, I thought I would  run this contest again.

So here it is, it’s totally free to enter. But it’s only for the brave . . .

Submitting Your Niche:

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

  • you must write your niche in 140 characters or less (say wha?!). That’s the length of a tweet.
  • if you submit a niche, you must rate at least five other peoples’ niches (it’s only fair) but please do more if you can. Be honest and constructive in your feedback.
  • your photo meme must include your 140 character niche text, your website (if you have one) and the hashtag #sytycn2015. Here’s a great example from 2014:

AuudreyWong

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

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

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

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

fb So You Think You Can Niche? Contest   Win $100 Cash + A Spot in My Niching for Hippies program ($600) for Less Effort than a TweetFACEBOOK: 30 second favour – Give me an honest rating from 1-10 on how clear my niche is to you in the So You Think You Can Niche contest? #sytycn2015 [LINK TO YOUR PHOTO]

new twitter logo So You Think You Can Niche? Contest   Win $100 Cash + A Spot in My Niching for Hippies program ($600) for Less Effort than a TweetTWITTER: 30 second favour – Give me an honest rating from 1-10 on how clear my niche is to you in #sytycn2015 [LINK TO YOUE PHOTO]

 

How to Rate Other People’s Niches:

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

To be clear on the rating system:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thirteen Chances to Win a Prize.

What’s in it for you?

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

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

2nd & 3rd Place: 30-minute coaching session with me ($150 value) + a free hard copy and ebook copy of The Niching Nest.

4th – 10th Place: Win $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course (a discount you can use or pass onto others), which will be launching soon! + an ebook copy of The Niching Nest.

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

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

Good Comments Award: Anyone who gives at least five quality pieces of feedback (beyond just a number) will get $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course.

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

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

 

Contest Ends at midnight (PST) on Monday, August 17th, 2015

 

submit

Exactly What To Say If Someone Asks for a Refund

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Years ago, I got an email from a client that said something to the effect of, “I feel like the sales letter kind of hyped this up and it wasn’t what you said it was. I went back and read the sales letter and there was nothing inaccurate but… it just felt like it wasn’t what was promised. I need a refund.”

Those aren’t the kinds of words I’d wanted to wake up to in my email that morning for my newly launched ebook on niching. It was a slim 30 pager, nowhere near as large or comprehensive as it would eventually become in the form of my book The Niching Nest, and she just wasn’t impressed with it.

And I had to wonder if I should refund her or not.

*

Once you’ve been in business for a while, eventually, someone is going to ask you for a refund.

And how you respond to that moment has everything to do with the growth of your business.

On one hand, you may have been on the receiving end of a stingy refund policy and felt terrible about it or had the refund freely given and felt incredible relief and gratitude. On the other hand, does it make sense to have no boundaries on when and where refunds will be given? Probably not.

But it’s an important thing to figure out because word of mouth is the dominant force in the marketing word. And enough upset customers venting about the terrible experience they had with you because you refused to give them your money and that you’re a big, unfair meanie can do serious damage to your marketing.

But it’s also true that developing a reputation of being a push-over who they can use and then disregard once they’ve received the benefit is also unfair.

So, what you say in the moment (and I promise I will give you some words) is actually the least important part of the conversation.

The first thing is to make sure you’ve got a clear and fair refund policy spelled out and that the customer knows this policy when they buy. This is crucial.

It’s a similar dynamic to the ‘no shows’ I wrote about in my blog post Don’t Mess With Their Rice Bowl in that it’s crucial to have standards that protect yourself as a business.

Simply having a clear policy will handle 90% of the upset. You’ll never handle the remaining 10% because there’s no policy to handle crazy.

The second thing is to understand why they’re even asking for a refund in the first place.

It might be that they’re in crisis or sudden financial desperation. They had the money when they signed up but they don’t now.

It could be that they’ve had a change in what matters. They signed up for a workshop on dating and then met the woman of their dreams. They no longer need it. They signed up to learn how to make money from Donald Trump but then became an anarchist.

But, often, it’s that what they bought isn’t giving them the benefits they’d hoped it would (or they don’t trust that it will).

This is the one I want to focus on.

*

Back to the woman wanting a refund on the niching ebook.

I immediately refunded her money (as I think we should if there’s any chance that the fault was in a lack of clarity in our marketing).

I sat with her words for a while. I felt awful. Here I am, teaching authentic marketing and she felt mislead. Ugh. Worst. 

So, I went to look at the sales page to see just how wrong she was and to be able to point out that she hadn’t really read the sales letter. I mean, sure she had. But not really really. 

But, as I read it, I began to see what she was saying. It was a bit hyped up. I could see that I’d given the impression that it did more than it could actually do and was for a broader group than it actually was. It was humbling to see it. I’d put a list of “This ebook could be for you if…” but I’d not made a similar list of, “This ebook might not be for you if…” 

I realized that this ebook was actually not for people who already knew niching was crucial and the ebook was making the case for it. It also wasn’t for people who wanted a nuts and bolts how-to guide on niching. It was a primer for people who were considering niching but feeling hesitant about it. 

I took an hour, rewrote the sales page so it felt more true to what it was and sent her an email asking what she thought.

“This is great!” she replied. “I wouldn’t have bought it!”

If we see the role of marketing as being about getting people to say ‘yes’ then the result of someone saying, ‘perfect! I wouldn’t have bought!’ is a failure. This is how so many people view marketing. Even in writing emails they try to write a sexy subject line that gets people to open an email that might not even be of any use to them. 

But if we know that one of the main roles of marketing is about filtering people so that only the right people buy, it’s a huge success. We can actually tone down the hype in our sales copy and get more sales to the right people. 

But what do you do when, despite your best efforts, they’re asking for a refund because it wasn’t what they thought it would be?

But, what exactly do you say?

I suggest the first thing you say is, “I’ll absolutely refund your order.”

If there’s any chance that your marketing was to blame for them buying something that wasn’t a fit, refund the money and consider it a business expenses in market research. Because it is.

The second thing you say is something along the lines of, “Thank you for letting me know my marketing wasn’t as clear as I would like it to be.”

Honestly, when people tell us this, we should be getting down on the ground and bowing to them in gratitude. 

The second thing we should say is something like, “Would you be willing to let me know what I could change on the sales page so that you would have known for sure it wasn’t a fit for you?”

That question might seem simple, but it’s actually huge, it will, over time help you hone and refine your sales copy until no one who isn’t a fit buys at all. That’s the goal. And, often, the feedback won’t even be that big. Just a little change here and there but a small change in wording or emphasis or order can make a huge difference. 

If the refund request is for some other reason, I don’t have much advice other than to have clear policies, sit with it, do what feels right to you and always err on the side of generosity, not stinginess. And, regardless of the reason, see if there’s something you can learn, some business system that would make it less likely that it would ever happen again.

Years ago, a woman attended a pay what you can, weekend workshop I was running. She paid a $100 deposit to attend and then she paid $500 at the end of the workshop based on the value she’d received. A month or so later she sent me an email saying she’d received no value at all and demanding her money back. She was also someone I’d give two hours of free coaching to because she’d gotten locked out of the building by accident. There’s more to the story, but the whole thing felt off. I didn’t feel like I wanted to refund her money but eventually gave back half just to get her out of my hair. If I’d had more money at the time, I might have just given it all back. Who needs the drama?

Refunds can also help you hone your niche…

One of the beautiful benefits of people asking for refunds is that you start to see who is a fit for you and who isn’t. Your sense of who your ideal client is comes into clearer relief. Your sense of what you want to do and how becomes more focused. If you will choose to over-respond (vs. over-reacting) to each request for a refund and use it as a chance to narrow in on your role in the community and the niche you want to fill you might be amazed at how much faster your business becomes what it wanted to become all along.

Bonus Thought: Check Boxes

If there are certain catches and conditions of buying from you, it can also be good to list them as boxes to check in the order form. For example, for a weekend, pay what you want, marketing course I might have one for:

DEPOSIT: I understand that my space is not confirmed until I’ve paid my non-refundable $100 deposit. 

PYWY: I understand that the deposit is just to hold my space and, at the very end of the workshop, I’ll be given a chance to contribute more based on a mix of what the workshop was worth and what I can afford. 

Having these as boxes they have to check off help to ensure that important conditions are not accidentally missed by someone skimming over your sales letter (which 95% of people will).