What am I being asked to see here?

20104219_s“The greatest and most important problems of life are all fundamentally insoluble. They can never be solved but only outgrown.” – Carl Jung

Sometimes in business things go wrong.

Sometimes it’s because we are out of integrity. Sometimes it’s because others are. Sometimes, everyone’s in integrity and it still falls apart.

However it happens, there’s a certain amount of heartbreak that can occur. It can leave us feeling shame, regret and hopeless.

The questions we ask ourselves in these moments shapes everything.

We are often tempted to ask ourselves questions like, “What’s wrong with me?” or “Why does it never go right for me?” or “Why didn’t anyone respond?” or “How can I fix this?”

Here’s a different question I recommend asking: what am I being asked to see here?

If things have gone wrong, there’s a good chance that there’s something you didn’t see that led to it. Maybe it was something in yourself. Something in a business partner. Maybe it was something in the marketplace.

But this is a question worth setting aside a quiet, undisturbed 20 minutes for with a pen and paper. It’s worth wondering about. This question isn’t interested in making you or anybody wrong. It’s not interested in fault finding. It’s just interested in helping you to see more.

And then, once you see what you haven’t seen before. Look at that piece and ask yourself, “What am I being asked to see here?”

 

When we have a problem, the instinct is to move faster to solve it but it’s often wise to slow down and see if we can’t see more first so that any actions we take might be better informed and less full of drama.

We often get into trouble because we have some blinders on. And, before breaking into a problem-solving sprint, it’s usually a good idea to see if we can’t take them off, or at least open them up a bit.

26 Min Video: Point of View Marketing Overview

19882902_sI’ve been working on a new eBook called Point of View Marketing: The Subtle, Underestimated & Credibility-Building Power of Articulating Why You Do What You Do the Way You Do It.

I’m really proud of how it’s coming along. I think it will be done by the end of the month.

So I thought I’d sit down to record a video distilling the key points so you could get a sense of where I’m headed with this and so that I could get your thoughts and reflections on it as I work to finish the eBook.

You can watch the video below.

I have three, upcoming teleseminars delving into this material. You can learn about them here: marketingforhippies.com/povteleseminar

I also have a 30-Day Point of View Challenge starting on May 17th. You can learn about that here: marketingforhippies.com/pov30day

If you have any ideas, stories, reflections or questions, please post them below and there’s a good chance they’ll make it into the eBook or at least help to shape it.

Trust and the Taxi Driver

13618562_sI caught a cab the other day.

Actually a TappCar (Edmonton’s response to the terrible taxi cab industry and Uber). They have priced themselves in between the two. I could give you ten reasons why I love them.

But there are always issues.

I was heading to visit my grandmother in the hospital.

“I want to stop at the Booster Juice on 104 St and 78 Ave.” I told him as we pulled away from my home. I knew I’d be at the hospital for at least six hours tonight and I hadn’t eaten much lunch and wouldn’t be able to get away for dinner.

“By the Save On?” He asked.

“That’s the one!”

After a few minutes I looked up from my phone and realized he’d never made the turn to go to Booster Juice. I was hungry and he was busy following his GPS taking me to the hospital.

“I asked you to go to Booster Juice first.”

From his response, it was as if I’d never asked him about it at all. I sat there confused. It was the first thing I’d told him. He’d seemed to understand and, as we were clarifying the issue and how that had been missed, which I never figured out, he kept driving down 109 St. taking us further and further away.

“Do you want me to go back?”

I shook my head and pulled out my phone. “I’ll see if I can find one closer to the hospital.”

It’s not the first time this has happened to me in a cab. Maybe it was that their English wasn’t good and they didn’t want to admit they’d not understood me. Maybe it was that they didn’t listen. Maybe they had something big going on in their life and they just weren’t able to listen. Maybe all of that. Maybe something else. But result was the same.

The trust was broken.

And I know it’s a small thing. I know that any upset I had was, in part, fueled by being hungry. I also know it’s petty and emotionally small of me. I get all of that. But it’s how it is for most of us.

This happens all the time in business and in life. A trust is given and then it’s broken. It happens in big ways like infidelity in a relationship and in very small ways like this.

I remember hearing my friend Decker Cunov telling the story of an event he’d been at where a man had picked up a woman by her hand and foot and was spinning her around as she laughed and giggled. And then her head hit the concrete pole with a sickening and loud sound. It wasn’t the pain that hurt the most. It was the betrayal. She’s surrendered to the moment, trusting him to look after her and he had let her down. He wasn’t careful with that trust.

It’s what we all want in life sometimes. To be able to relax and know we’re being taken care of. We want to know we’re in good hands. We want to get in the cab, zone out and trust they’ll get us there without our having to direct them. We want to tell the massage therapist what feels good and doesn’t to us and then relax into the massage, trusting that they heard us. We want to go to a therapist and trust they’ll hear what we say and, if we’re really lucky, pick up on what we aren’t saying. Sometimes we just want to surrender to the process.

But, as soon as we realize that someone can’t be trusted, we can’t relax. We have to remain vigilant which may defeat the purpose or rob much of the joy from the experience.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of riding in a black cab in London, it’s remarkable. You’re in such good hands. They spend three years studying London until they know the entire map of the city inside and out. You just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

If you’ve ever been served by a world class server at a restaurant, it’s something to experience. It inspires your utter relaxation. Everything they do says, “You relax. I’ve got this.”

I recall reading an article that suggested that the three sexiest words a man could say to a woman were, “I’ve got this.” And it doesn’t have to be a binary gendered, heteronormative relationship to feel good about hearing those words.

And, when we do, we are incredibly vulnerable.

Your clients are like this with you. They’re coming in scared, ashamed, overwhelmed or heartbroken. Or all of them. If we are very lucky, they trust us. If you’re aware it’s been placed on you, you come to see, very quickly, that it’s less of a gold medal being pinned to your lapel for all the good that you’ve done and more of a heavy, lopsided burden for you to carry into the future.

The trust is not there to make our heads big or gratify our ego. It’s the human making burden that tells you, ‘You have an impact on others. Be careful now.’ It’s not asking us to be fearful, but careful. Full of care for those around us as we know that small touches from us on those people will have a larger impact than others. Being praised or trusted puts the responsibility on your shoulders. It’s telling you that you’re in a different phase of your life now and that something else, beyond your youthful carelessness, is asked for. When someone praises you or trusts you, you should feel the weight of it on you and how it asks you to be stronger. It’s not a badge for you to proudly display – it’s a sort of unasked for

It’s not a badge for you to proudly display – it’s a sort of unasked for thing that you carry with you as you go.

If you do carry it well, you are fulfilling the unspoken promise you’ve made to them. You’re fulfilling the agreement.

If you carry it masterfully, if you consistently under-promise and over-deliver, you will never want for business.

 

 

A 15-Point Outline of a Solid Sales Letter

13285456_sSales letters get a bad rap.

They are often avoided by good-hearted people because they have the appearance of bad things they’ve seen and with which they never want to be associated.

But here’s my take: a sales letter is actually an integrity check.

It’s a dojo.

Sales letters force clarity on what might otherwise remain fuzzy.

Sales letters are like very curious potential customers who are insistent on getting answers to all of their detail-oriented and big picture questions before they buy. And you will either have the answers to their questions or you won’t.

Sales letters are faithful friends who refuse to broker fuzziness. They don’t put up with your generic and nebulous offerings. They are mercifully merciless.

Sales letters work or they don’t. They get a response or they don’t. They are so incredibly honest with you.

Sales letters are a living document. They aren’t something you write once and forget. They are something you update as you get feedback from customers to ensure that they are as clear, clean and honest as possible. They’re things you look at, a year after you’ve written them, like you look at High School photos and think, “Gah! What was I thinking!” and totally rewrite them.

A sales letter is one-on-one conversation with your ideal client in which you do your best to authentically play both sides of the conversation. It’s a letter you’re writing to your ideal client in which you’re anticipating their questions and answering them.

A sales letter does the heavy lifting of playing translator. It takes what you’re offering and translates it into what it might mean for that client in their own context.

The best and simplest guide I know for writing sales letters is Carrie Klassen’s beautiful workbook How to Write a Sales Page With Sweetness.

For this post, I also owe a debt of thanks to Brendan Burchard for his 10 Steps to a Good Sales Message which inspired the rough outline for this.

Sales letters are a chance to bring your own unique style to bear. And everyone has their own style and voice in writing sales letters. So, this post isn’t a definitive set of rules. This isn’t an ironclad structure but a suggested outline and set of elements worthy of consideration when you write your next sales letter.

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A 15 Point Outline of a Solid Sales Letter

The Headline: the purpose of the headline is to make them a promise of certain results or benefits that they are craving. It’s got to be something that your ideal clients would read and say, “I want that!” The headline could also speak directly to the particular symptoms they are experiencing that you help them with.

Introduction: here you’ll give them an overview of the particular results they will get if they buy. It’s more specific than the headline but it’s not in rich detail yet. If the headline is the 30,000 foot view, this is the 10,000 foot view. Again, you can speak to the problem but it’s good to weave it into the solution and result you’re offering. This can take the form of a subheadline and/or introductory paragraph. I also am a fan of naming the basics of the offer here. No details, but, if it’s a teleseminar, say that. If it’s a five-day retreat in Maui, then say that. If it’s a 30-Day Challenge, say that. Give them enough context to understand what it is you’re talking about.

The Story: this is the heart of any good sales letter. The story is where you get to flesh out the symptoms and cravings your ideal clients are experiencing.This is the place you can introduce yourself and explain your credibility in addressing these issues. Without a solid story, sales letters will read like infomercials full “Are you tired of _____ problem and want ______ result?” In my experience, too much “you” can feel like a pitch whereas storytelling can get across the same points more subtly. This is where you share:

  • the personal struggles you have faced and overcome that relate to what you’re offering, or how it was you came to learn what you’re sharing. You get to share all of the things you tried that didn’t work before discovering what it is that you’re offering and what it meant to you, in real, tangible ways, when you did.
  • the struggles you witnessed in friends, colleagues, loved ones or others and how it felt for you to see that.

Your Point of View: Here you briefly and concisely state your core premise, perspective, and philosophy that you have arrived at for solving the problem. This can be woven into the story and it’s not a bad idea to make it explicit.

Your Offer: This is where you spell out the offer you’re putting forth and name it, if you haven’t already. You give the who, what, where, when, and how.

Who It’s For: The goal of the sales letter is not to have everyone say “yes.” It’s to make it easy for the right people to say ‘yes’. The goal of the sales letter should be about helping people sort out if it’s a fit or not for them to sign up. This section should likely be bullet points. Avoid generic statements like, “This could be a fit for you if you’re willing to take responsibility for your life.” Boo. Go for specifics like, “This is for restaurant owners in Chicago,” or “This is for life coaches who are wanting more clients,” or “You’ll need to be on Facebook to use this.” Ask yourself, “What would need to be true of someone for this product or service to be a perfect fit for them.

Who It’s Not For: This section should likely use bullet points as well. This is such an important part of the sales letter. If there are certain things that would disqualify people from using this, name them clearly. If there is a certain worldview that isn’t a fit for what you’re offering, name that. Again, avoid banal statements like, “This isn’t a fit for you if you’re not someone who is willing to look honestly at their life.” Boo. Whenever someone asks for a refund, ask them, “What was missing from the salesletter that could have let you known in advance that this wasn’t a fit for you,” and then add that thing to this section.

Testimonials & Case Studies: It’s important to make sure people know that this didn’t only work for yourself but others as well. It’s important for them to see that, not only have you gotten the results, but you have helped others to achieve the same results with some degree of consistency. Of course, this assumes that you have. If you haven’t, this might be a good time to re-evaluate the integrity of what you are doing.

Paint the Picture: Tell them the story of what it will be like to use your product, avail themselves of your service, or attend your workshop. Put them in the experience. Use vivid, sensory rich words. “You walk into the room and see all the friendly people.” or “You set down the cup on your favourite coffee on your kitchen table and open your laptop.” Don’t leave it to them to imagine what it might be like, tell them. Put them in the driver’s seat of the car they’re thinking of buying with your words.

Reasons to Buy Now: This is the section where you break down the core features and benefits of what you’re offering. This is where you paint them a picture of how it might look, sound and feel for them to go through your program and enjoy the results it’s offering. You tell them what’s included in the program and what it could mean to their life. If there are only so many copies or spaces, name that. Really sit with this one and ask yourself, “What are all of the real and compelling reasons why someone for whom this is a fit might want to strongly consider for buying now?” This will include all of the facets of the program but might also include early bird specials.

Contextualize the Price: This can be the trickiest bit. This is where you name the price and help them see the value they’re getting for the money. Of course, this assumes you are offering them value that is equal to, if not greater than, the cost. This can be done by contrasting the price of a group program to the price of working with you individually. You can speak to what you have charged for it in the past.

Bonuses: Once you have established the value of what you’re offering, it can be a wise idea to offering an additional bonus to lower the risk of signing up for them and sweeten the deal.

Lower the Wall of Risk: There they are, wanting to walk over to you now and hand you their money but there is this wall of risk in between you both. That risk can look like a lot of things. It can look like, “Will this be worth it?” or “What if it breaks or doesn’t work?” or “What if it makes things worse?” or “What will others think if they hear I’ve spent money on this?” At this point in the sales letter, it’s important to name those risks and directly address them. Now, if you’ve written the rest of the sales letter well, you’ve been subtly assuaging these as you’ve gone along. But now it’s time to be very blunt about it. This is typically where you would put a strong guarantee. This is where you say, “Hey. I know you’re not sure about this. I know it’s a risk for you, so here’s what I’m going to do to reduce the risk/eliminate the risk/take the risk off of you and onto myself.”

Call To Action: Here’s where you let them know how to order and remind them of any important and time-sensitive reasons to do so. Make sure this is very clear and unmissable. I’ve read sales pages where, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out where to buy. Not good. Note: on my sales letters, when they click on the “Buy Now” button, they aren’t taken to the payment page. They are taken to what I call my “Are You Sure?” page. It’s a practice I commend to you for your consideration.

The P.S.: The two most read parts of any sales letter will be the beginning and ending, the top of the page and the bottom. So make sure that, in the very end, you remind them of the most important points of why they might want to sign up now.

Suggested Additional Reading:

Nine Thoughts on CopyWriting for Hippies

Blog Posts I’ve Written About Sales Letters

My Sales Letter for The Meantime 30 Day Cashflow Challenge

My Sales Letter for my Marketing for Hippies 101 Program

My Sales Letter for my Niching Spiral 90-Day Homestudy Program

Getting Unstuck: The Five Minute Support Asking Blitz

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If you’re on this list you’re an entrepreneur but, if I know my people at all, that really means you’re a solopreneur.

Emphasis on the word ‘solo’.

That means you’re doing almost everything alone.

And you think that you should be doing better.

This is insanity.

What if, instead of beating yourself up for not being more successful, you were to step back and see the truth of the situation: you need more support.

In fact, you need a lot more support than you might think you need.

How much?

Well, you’ll be happy to know I can give you an exact quantity.

You need an embarrassing amount of support.

Possibly a mortifying amount.

I mean that, if you don’t feel embarrassed and humbled by how much support you’re asking for, it’s probably not enough.

My take on it: if you could have done better on your own you would have. Period. You haven’t done better and that tells me that something is missing. Maybe you’re needing support:

  • with social media, your website or other online presence issues
  • to get clear on your goals or where you’re currently stuck
  • tidying up and organizing your workspace
  • learning how to have sales conversations that feel good instead of terrible
  • do you need better business systems? Great. What support do you need to make those happen?

Isn’t it true that you need more support?

The big question to me is, why haven’t you asked for it yet?

When you sit with that you discover that you’ve been scared to because of what others might think of you.

Here’s my assignment for you (and it’s a favourite part of participants of my Meantime 30 Day Cashflow Challenge):

Part One: Take five minutes and brainstorm all of the different kinds of support you’re most needing right now.

Part Two: Take five minutes and go on a support asking blitz. The rule is that, for those five minutes, you can’t stop asking for support. You must keep at it. You can text, email, message or post a request on Facebook. Keep at it. Keep asking. Note: if you don’t feel embarrassed by the end, start over. Ask big. Ask for what you really need.

Part Three: Schedule to return here to comment on what happened as a result of this in 24 hours.

What if the people I most want to help are broke?

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There are three main criteria of a viable target market.

First, it needs to be clear. I should know immediately if I’m in that group or not.

Second, we need to be able to find them. There should be hubs.

Third, there need to be enough of them who can afford to pay you full price.

Ah.

That third one.

What if the people you most want to help don’t have much money?

If that’s true, hand over my heart, what you have is a non-profit. I suggest you legally structure yourself as such and generate your salary through fundraising. Stop making yourself and your clients suffer by pressuring yourself and them to pay you with money they don’t have.

But what if there might be more possibilities here?

They’re broke.

There’s a big question as to whether or not that’s true.

Sometimes it’s not that they don’t have money but that your marketing is terrible and they don’t see the value and you are terrified to talk to them about working with you and utterly collapse when a conversation about money comes up.

It really could be that.Or it might be that your current business model will never be profitable. It could be that too.

Or it might be that your current business model will never be profitable. It could be that too.

Years ago, I met with the good people running Green Enterprise Toronto, an independent, green business network that would, eventually, become Green Enterprise Ontario. I’m not sure it’s even still around now. But as I sat at their Spadina Street office in Toronto, they told me that their business model wasn’t working. They were trying to sustain themselves on dues from their members and it wasn’t nearly enough. They needed more money but their members weren’t able or willing to pay more. It wasn’t until they had a conversation with the Toronto City Council that headway was made. The City saw that G.E.T. was providing a service that properly should have been the domain of the city – supporting local businesses and so they were able to put some funding towards it. Without the funding from the city, that project would have utterly collapsed.

Edmonton had a similar group for years, Live Local, of which I was a founding board member. Same issue but, this time, the Edmonton City Council didn’t step up and the organization folded.

My friend Robindra, runsan incredible project called It’s Time to Bloom. They throw a weekend event for local yogis that has yoga classes and workshops, inspiring talks from big name speakers and sweet, classy dance parties.

Every year, it lost money.

“Did you make any money this year?” I asked him, full of hope that this might have been the year it turned around for him.

“We only lost about $5000 this year!”

Cities need more people like Robindra who do what they do for the love and not the money and bring such fine things in.

But he was stuck. He couldn’t raise ticket prices and he couldn’t guarantee that his events would sell out. It was always so close to the wire.

“I’m sorry to hear that man.” I said, commiserating with him.

“But we’ve got it figured out for next year!” he said.

My ears perked up.

“Festival grants!” he smiled. “We realized we’re a great fit for a lot of these grants and, with them, everyone can get paid and we don’t lose money.” He told me that they were also deepening their exploration of corporate sponsorship.

What he had on his hands was a social enterprise. His project was a mix of business and non-profit. It took him five years to see it. Some people never see it.

Now, with a different business model, they might not have needed grants. For example, if they came up with a ‘Bloom Yoga Teacher Training’ or a ‘Bloom School of Yogi Business’ or ‘Bloom Life Coaching Program for Yogis’ then maybe they could have afforded to lose on the big event if it was an effective marketing tool to fill their higher end programs.

If your people can’t afford to pay you what you need to sustain yourself then you have four options:

  1. Change nothing, try to get water from a stone and burn out in an ashen pit of poverty, bitterness and resentment.
  2. Drop that target market for a more profitable one and simply volunteer your time to help those people.
  3. Focus most of your efforts on a more profitable target market and give it to the people you most love at a discounted rate (e.g. gift economy, pay what you can, sliding scale or barter).
  4. Shift into a social enterprise or non-profit model and raise money through grants, sponsorship or individual giving.

Which option would you choose?

Relevance, Credibility & Value

10682392_sI am struck by how many things I learned from the good Dominic Canterbury.

He and I co-led a marketing workshop in Seattle many years ago. Maybe 2007 or 2008.

The notions of niching, hubs and paths came from him. As do the three notions in this blog post: Relevance, Credibility & Value.

Your business and offerings, to be successful must be relevant, credible and valuable.

Those three things.

Every time.

By relevant, I mean: is this of use to me and my situation? Will it solve my problem? Will it help me get something I want?

By credible, I mean: can I trust this? Does this approach and offering make sense to me? Is this overhyped? Is this all sizzle and no steak? Is it all hat and no cattle? Is it believable?

Be valuable, I mean: is this worth the time and money I spend? What’s the return on investment? Is it worth what I’m paying or more than I’m paying? Will I be glad I spent the money?

Relevance, Credibility & Value.

Those three things.

Every time.

Relevance is established by your niche.

Credibility is established by your point of view.

Value is established by your offers.

If your business is struggling in its marketing it is because of the lack of one or more of these three things.

Every time.

 

 

Hub Marketing for Farmers’ Markets

I recently spoke to a group of 40-50 of the good folks at the Alberta Farmer’s Markets Association meeting in Edmonton.

The topic of the conversation was marketing and the piece I most wanted to bring was that of hubs. The idea that partnership is often better than going it alone when you’re trying to build institutions.

Here’s a video of what I said as my introduction:

Because the room was full, for the most part, of people who ran Farmers’ Markets, I decided to focus our hubs brainstorm discussion on them.

Here are some of the ideas we landed on by the end:

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Let’s break this all down a bit.

The question that I asked them to consider was this, “Where else do the people who go to farmers’ markets (or those who would love them if they went) spend their time, their money and/or their attention?”

In essence: where else can we find your customers? When they aren’t at the farmers’ market, where are they? What other crowds or scenes might be aligned with your market with whom you could partner on some sort of a win/win promotion?

Once you’ve identified a potential hub, then the active questions becomes, ‘how do you work with them? what’s something amazing you could create in a collaboration that would have those people just have to come out to check it out?’

I gave them a few minutes to think about it and then the ideas started flying:

  • Yoga: One farmer’s market director had reached out to the local yoga community and created a Matts to Market event where a morning yoga class was held outside just beside the market and then they all went shopping afterwards. Here’s another example of that from the Tosa Farmer’s Market here and one in Calgary here.
  • Hashtags: An important hub in the age of social media, is the hashtag. One way to look at a hub is ‘where are people having conversations about these issues?’. You can use hashtags to find them on twitter. For Edmonton Farmers’ Markets the obvious one would be #yegfood.
  • Employment Services: When people are out of work from manufacturing, oil and gas or other struggling industries, could they start a Farmers’ Market business? Why not! One market shared the thought of doing a “Build a Business” workshop at the market venue. This could be done in partnership with local entrepreneur groups or employment services organizations. This could bring a whole new crowd to the market.
  • Parent Groups: Parents need to feed their kids. Could you reach out to local parenting groups and create some sort of event to get them out? Could your market offer childcare while they shopped? Could there be attractions for the kids? If those groups organize outings, could some of them be to the market?
  • Permaculture: This is a fairly low hanging fruit. Folks who are into permaculture are already big fans of Farmers’ Markets. But how would you get them out to your market? Well, could you host a permaculture workshop on site? Could you partner on a social event? Could you invite them to do a permaculture installation on site (e.g. a cob bench) where they could come and learn how to build something and then go shopping after?
  • School Fundraisers: I can’t remember this for the life of me. Bah. Why did I stop recording?
  • Dog Owners: Could you have an annual day for dog owners at the market? Maybe offer a free kiln dried bison bone to anyone who comes with their dog? Could you have a Dog Training 101 class there?
  • Community Centers: People who are involved in their local community centers might, indeed, be interested in a Farmers’ Market. Simply putting up some posters in the right places in those centers could help but, certainly, there must be more that could be done. Could your market have an annual Community League Day where the various community leagues and groups compete to see who can get the most people out?
  • Acreage Owners: If you have a more rural market, then this might just be a fine idea to reach out to these people and have a booth promoting your market at the events they’re likely to frequent.
  • Music School: a very charming partnership I heard about was when one market partnered with a local music school. The woman who ran it brought all of her students to perform at the market (which was, of course, adorable). But this also meant that the families of those students came as well and shopped at the market.
  • Seniors: A number of market managers spoke of their successful outreach to mature living communities and other seniors institutions that would bus people in and out. It had me wonder if a market couldn’t also arrange to have a regular event when senior came to the market to play with little kids as a form of childcare for the parents.
  • Libraries: One market manager spoke of how they’d connected with a local library to host many of their classes at the market (e.g. arts and craft classes). This brought in many people who were new to the market.
  • Bachelors: We laughed a lot about the possibilities of this idea. Could a market host some sort of singles event? Could you partner with local dating coaches, matchmaking organizations, speed dating services and come up with something amazing? I bet you could.
  • Food Delivery Systems: In Edmonton, we have The Organic Box, which delivers food to your door. Other services might have pick up at a central location. Why not have that location be your market? Could they have a booth at the market at which people signed up for their service?
  • Universities: I’ve heard of Universities setting up their own markets but there would likely be certain courses and clubs at your local university or college in which there would be students who are supportive of Farmers’ Markets and local food. Could you host an annual event for poor students to come and shop and meet each other?
  • Elementary & Jr. High Schools: Could you do some version of Denver’s Youth Farmers’ Market where students sell what they’ve grown in school gardens? And could that encourage partnerships with local groups that work to foster gardens in schools?
  • Walking & Running Groups: Why not have an annual event where a walk or jog starts and ends at the Farmers’ market and then people shop afterwards? If it was a walking group I might call it March to the Market. If it was a running group, I might just name it Annual Farmer’s Market Run or 5K for the Farmers’ Market. This could bring a whole new group of people to the market, some of whom would become repeat customers.
  • Chefs: This is such a natural fit. Could you host an annual event for local chefs at the peak of harvest season where they could come to the market and get a tour and be educated as to what you have available for them? Most restaurants are wanting to incorporate more local food into their menus but might not know where to start. Wouldn’t there be local networks or associations for local chefs? Culinary schools? Even cooking classes for amateur chefs? Possibilities for partnership abound.
  • Campers and Outdoorsie People: I’m not as sure about ideas for this one but I bet you there are many.
  • U-Pick: People who would drive out to the country to a U-Pick are absolutely the kind of people who would go to a Farmers’ Market. Could you host a trip to a U-Pick that people could sign up for at the market?

It’s important to point out that these ideas are the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more that could be done. This barely scratches the surface of what’s possible.

If you did one of these each month, twelve in a year, you’d likely get hundreds of new people out to your market.

And then, if you could give them some incentive to come back,(e.g. a passport for the market where each vendor would stamp their passport and a completed passport could be entered for a prize or a coupon book with deals for various stands) this could be a significant boost to your market.

The key here is to think about partnership. It’s to think about hubs. It’s to wonder about where else your ideal clients might be hiding out.

Admit Your Limitations

Humility-300x300Come and learn the possibilities (and the limitations) of holistic nutrition.”

These remain one of my favourite sentences ever penned in marketing.

I remember reading it, on a poster for a workshop on holistic nutrition at an organic grocery store in town, and being struck at how much more credible and trustworthy the workshop it was describing seemed to me. Such a simple notion: admitting that there are limitations to what you have to offer.

We all know it’s true anyway. Nothing works 100% of the time. And, when people claim it or imply that it does, we trust them less, not more. When people tell us that their modality can help everyone, we take a step back.

Unless we’re desperate. Then we tend to grasp onto anything. Even the heavy stone that false hope becomes in stormy waters. Anything. This is part of the responsibility of marketing: don’t fuck with people. Don’t give them false hopes. Be real with them. Be real about everything that’s possible and that could happen. Be real with them about the limitations of what you can do.

This is why niching matters. When you choose a niche, you’re saying to people, “I can’t do everything. But I have some skill in this area.” That is credible. That is believable.

If you’re real like this then there are plenty of sales you won’t make. But there are enough you will. And, if you avoid over promising, you also won’t have to deal with people wanting refunds, complaining about you, calling you a fraud or suing you. So, there’s that.

I’ll always remember Billy Blanks in his Tae Bo infomercials telling people how much hard work his programs were and making sure people knew that it wouldn’t be easy and not to buy it if they were looking for a quick fix.

If your natural nutritional approach can help people with their cancer treatment but not replace it, tell them that.

If your work can help them find meaning in the heartbreak but not remove the pain, tell them that.

If your work can help them save money but won’t make them rich, tell them that.

If your work can help them feel at home in this world but won’t deliver on the spiritual pyrotechnics they might hope for, tell them that.

It’s a worthy exercise to do. Try this: take two pieces of paper. On the top of one, write the word ‘Can’ and, at the top of the other, write the word ‘Can’t’.  And then take 15 minutes going back and forth between writing out what you feel confident your approach can do and what you know it can’t do.

Ask yourself, “What are people hoping my work with them might accomplish that just isn’t realistic?” and write about that.

Your first answers will be obvious but, as you keep digging and sifting, you’ll find more subtle things. You might do this for your business as a whole. You might try it for a particular workshop, product or service. You will come across as much more trustworthy and comfortable in your own skin.

And then put this on your website wherever it fits best. You might add it to your ‘Are You Sure?‘ page. You might put it in your sales letters or even on your homepage.

Try telling the truth about your limits. Try telling the truth about your weaknesses.

Try considering the possibilities and the limitations of your own work and then sharing what you find.

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)