What if you’re not offering your clients enough?

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Less.

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

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

They’re terrified of ‘over-selling’.

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

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

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

It’s a strange sort of thing.

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

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

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

And so it is.

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

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

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

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

You get the idea.

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

And sometimes that ‘more’ might be less.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do your clients want from you?

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

More.

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

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

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

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

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

Who, specifically, is this program designed for? 

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

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

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

Why is this program relevant to those people? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

 

Educating vs. Selling

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Educate when you educate.

Sell when you sell.

Don’t confuse the two.

Don’t promise an education and then deliver a sales pitch.

Don’t promise amazing content when they opt-into your list only to deliver something shitty and then bombard them with marketing for your incredible content.

Don’t bait and then switch.

I recall a colleague of mine releasing a new eBook on how to get more clients to say ‘yes’ to your coaching program offers. It was going to be one of the free give-aways in the launch for his sales training program. I read it before agreeing to send it out to my list. It was a sales letter. It wasn’t a book at all.

I recall hosting a colleague for a tele-seminar where he promised to share nuts and bolts content and his presentation was that he seemed to be reading, literally and actually, from his sales letter. He never really delivered on the results he promised. To get that content you have to sign up for his program.

When you do an intro workshop promising education don’t have it be a covert or overt sales pitch for your weekend workshop or coaching program.

Educate when you educate.

Sell when you sell.

There will come a point when it’s time to share what you have to offer. Do it. There’s a moment, and you can learn to know when it is, where the appropriate and respectful thing is to cut to the chase and say, “Here’s the deal. You pay $__ and you get _____.

There’s a point where you can just say to someone, “You know… I think you might really dig this workshop I’m leading. Can I send you the info?

Educate when you educate.

Sell when you sell.

People will trust you more. People will be able to relax into learning from you. They will know that what they are learning from you isn’t a subtle, sophisticated and sneaky attempt to set them up for a purchase. They’ll know you’re not positioning them to buy something from you. Their defences will go down and they’ll be willing to engage in an honest to god human conversation with you.

Most of the people I work with, these conscious, hippie entrepreneurs, are delighted to realize that there’s a moment where you can just say to someone, “Can I pitch you on something? I think this might be a good fit for you.” or “You know, I have no idea if this is a fit, but let me run this past you in case it is because it feels like it might really help on that issue you were just telling me about.”

You can be so direct.

Additional Reading:

Directness and Transparency in Marketing: A Vital Interdependence. – Lynn Serafinn

Mastering the Graceful Art of Directness – Lynn Serafinn

The Real Reason To Do Intro Workshops – Tad Hargrave

Enough With The Crappy Opt-In Bribes – Do This Instead – Bradley Morris

How I Write eBooks

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The other day someone asked me, “How do you write so many eBooks?”

I’ve written thirteen so far. Plus hundreds of pages of other essays and articles that aren’t about marketing.

This fellow asked me, “Would you be willing to share on this, on the way you write, your organization …?”

What follows are my answers to his more specific questions:

How you define the subject? 

I’ve already got the topics for my remaining eBooks complete. I’m not sure how to answer this except to say that, once I start getting the same question a few dozen times and become some combination of tired of answering it and feeling like I’ve got a lot to say on the topic, I start wanting to just get an official version of it done so that I don’t have to repeat myself over and over again. Plus, if I write it as an eBook, I get to make it perfect. I’ll never be able to say it in person so well as I will be able to write it up.

How you constitute your plan?

It is, of course, always immensely flattering when people assume you have a plan around the whole thing. I regret my plan resembles something more along the lines of a dam bursting. I’ll sit on things for years sometimes until something happens and I finally realize I have to get started on the endeavour.

I’ve currently got notes gathering for another seven or so eBooks that I hope to write in the coming year or so. We’ll see how that goes.

How do you write the content?

This is the big thing. I don’t write it all at once. I have a place where I put my ideas. I use a program called Things to keep track. Some people use the text notes on their smart phones. Some people type their ideas in documents in their laptop. Some write in their journals.

However you do it, you must create a system to capture your ideas as they come.

By the time I actually sit down to write an eBook, I’ve already captured hundreds of ideas to incorporate. So then, writing becomes more a matter of organizing ideas and connecting them.

And, in the articulation of these ideas, I begin to see more. When I began to write the Point of View Marketing eBook, most of what has become the core content (e.g. the POV Pyramid) didn’t exist yet. It came as I wrote it and tried to make sense of it all. Writing these eBooks better resembles a game of Connect the Dots than writing a novel.

I have never written an eBook by sitting down with a blank page and starting from there. I always already have a sack full of ideas that, like puzzle pieces, I dump out onto the table to begin to piece together. As I do that, I begin to see that there are huge gaps and begin to wonder about how I might fill them.

Do you record classes & transcribe or give classes in topic after writing? Or some other process?
 
I do transcribe some things. The Way of the Radical Business, The Heart of Selling which is almost ten years old and The Top Ten Blunders Holistic Practitioners are all augmented transcripts. This means that I’ve done a hard edit on the transcript to remove anything that doesn’t serve and added other pieces that weren’t a part of the call to fill it out.
How do you organize your writing into daily organization? When? How long? A ritual? What sort of goals do you give yourself for writing such as words or pages per day or timetable?
It tends to be a bit more a binge. I’ll do nothing but that eBook for a few days and then set it aside for a week.
For example, I’ve got my Hub Marketing eBook about 20% done right now. I spent a few days working on it and then had to move onto other things. I’ll be coming back to it in about a month.
What’s your editing process?
The first thing is that I just begin to write the thing and I get as far as I can.
But there’s a certain point where I can’t bear to look at a computer screen for a second longer and so I will print it all off, go to a nice cafe and do some editing with my pen. This allows me to put pages side by side. It allows me to see the writing in a fresh way.
I’ll take those notes and use them to edit on my laptop.
After that, I usually need a week or so away from the piece.
It goes like that: working on my laptop for as long as I can, then printing it and editing, then incorporating those edits.
The whole while, I’m having new ideas that I capture as well and weave into the piece.
There comes a moment where it feels done.
That’s the point where I send it to my trusted assistant Susan,(who happens to have a decade of magazine editing and publishing experience at her fingertips), to give it a read over to see if it makes any sense at all. We don’t do spelling and grammar at this point. We’re just looking at the structure and content of it – this part is called the substantive edit. 
She’ll send me back a version that’s marked up with notes for me to consider. This often requires a significant restructuring of the eBook.
Mark Silver once came to Edmonton and, excitedly, I showed him an early draft of The Niching Nest. He sat there on my couch, with my laptop on his lap, for twenty minutes, looking over it carefully. Then he looked up and said, “Are you open to some feedback?”
And something in the tone of his voice had me vacillate a dozen times between “yes” and “no” before I said, “Sure.”
The feedback required an utter restructuring and reimagining of the eBook and made it ten times better.
That cycle can happen a few times until it feels as done as it’s going to get.
Then we do the spelling and grammar and fancy formatting, which involves engaging an independent copy editor who edits for spelling, grammar, convention, and in-house style. I then get my assistant to do a final proof read, and the layout/formatting of the book.
How long do you spend planning, writing, editing? 
Writing an eBook will likely take you much longer than you think it would. It really depends. I’ve finished some of the shorter ones in a month. Others have taken years.
How long is your average eBook?
Somewhere from 100-200 pages.
Do you pick your topics based on what you think will sell or what you are passionate about at the moment – or maybe it’s both?
What I’m tired of talking about. What I think is important to say. What I’m fascinated by and want to explore more.
How do you make them look pretty?
My assistant finds images on 123rf.com and inserts them where she thinks it they look best to support and add to the ideas and text. 
How do you publish it?
I print it as a PDF and email it to my assistant who uploads that to the shopping cart so it can be sold on my products page.
Why the choice to distribute on your website and not on amazon or other?
It seems like eBooks sell for about $5 on Amazon. I want to charge around $40. Eventually I will write the official Marketing for Hippies bookstore book.
Is distribution difficult?
I’ve not found it so. I just email it to my list and whoever buys buys.

How do you decide how much they cost?

I just sort of sit with it and see what feels right. If something is highly tactical, I might charge $50-$70. If it’s a strategic opus like The Niching Nest, The Art of Relevance, The Art of the Full House or Point of View Marketing then I charge around $40. If it’s more of a 30,000 foot view on a topic like The Top Ten Blunders Holistic Practitioners & Life Coaches Make, or a beginner piece like How to Start, or a short workbook like Don’t Market Yourself. Market Your Message then I’ll charge $20.

But prices are just made up. That’s the truth. The key thing is that you feel good about what you charge.

Do you ever use a pen name?

I will finally admit that I do. It’s Stephen King. I hired an actor to do interviews and kept him quiet by offering him plum roles in my films.

 

The real reason to do intro workshops (and what this can teach you about the rest of your marketing).

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I’m a big fan of the intro workshop – that two to three hour experience that gives people a good taste of who you are and what you do.

In the first seven or so years of my business, these kinds of workshops were my bread and butter. I did them for free and used them as a way to fill up my weekend workshops (which I offered on a Pay What You Can basis). Sometimes I still do them.

The model, though lean, worked well enough and I toured happily for years.

Of course, in the first few years, I was still sorting out what exactly it was that I had to say about marketing. It took me five years for things to really gel. And then I felt it. It all came together. My intros felt more clear, coherent and solid.

Right around that time, people started paying me money for these free workshops.

I would look up surprised as they were filling out a $50 cheque to me, “This is a free workshop.” I’d tell them.

They’d look at me, nod and say, “Uh huh…” and then finish filling out the cheque.

After that point, I began to charge for the intros.

I’ve led dozens if not hundreds of these kinds of intro sessions over the years and so I’m well acquainted with them. Of course, I never went to a workshop on how to do them or structure them. I just mucked about until I landed on something I liked and that made sense.

But it wasn’t until a few months ago when it really clicked for me as to why we even do these intro workshops in the first place.

It’s a good question to ask:

Why bother? What’s the point of doing an intro workshop? How would you know if they were successful? What are we trying to accomplish in doing them?

Well, it’s good to contextualize all of this in a bigger picture of marketing.

I imagine you want to have a sustainable business and fill up your workshops and coaching programs and so you’re doing intro workshops to support that. The intro workshops are a way of getting more clients.

Fair enough.

So let’s step back a bit. There are three things that must be established in your marketing for it to work: relevance, credibility and value.

Relevance means that they see a fit for them.

Credibility means that they trust you.

Value means that they see what you’re offering as a good deal.

In an intro workshop, your workshop title, poster, sales letter etc. is what will establish the relevance. People will look at it and say, “Aha! Yes! A workshop for people with fibromyalgia! That’s for me!” Relevance comes from a clear niche.

If you do your marketing right, they walk into the room with relevance established.

This is why it feels so off when you show up at a live, intro workshop and the first half hour is spent establishing relevance. Or the whole event. I remember I went to one workshop about, in a nutshell, how to make more money.

And the first thing the presenter asked when he came out was, “Who here wants to make more money?” And then proceeded, in a variety of ways to ask that question over the first few minutes and to tell us a lot of stories about how making more money was a really important thing. I sat there baffled. I looked down at the handout which had the name of the workshop written on it and thought, “Why the hell would I be here if it wasn’t because I wanted to learn how to make more money?”

So, the content of your intro workshop is not there to establish relevance primarily.

Some people would suggest that the whole point of an intro workshop is to establish the value of your offer (e.g. “Come to my weekend workshop!”, “Come to my retreat!” or “Sign up for my coaching package.”).

And certainly I’ve been to some of these and you might have too. The intro workshop (or teleseminar) promises a lot but delivers on very little. It’s frustrating. By the end, you realize it’s been a long pitch. You kept thinking the substance and content was about to appear but it never did.

I once hosted a colleague and realized part way through that he was, literally, reading out his sales letter. The same colleague was offering a free eBook in the lead up to a program of his and the eBook, despite having a lovely cover, was, very literally, a sales letter for his program. Even formatted as a sales letter. I shook my head at the bait and switch.

When people come for content but get a commercial they’re bound to feel tricked and upset.

So, no, I don’t think that our intro workshops are primarily about establishing the value of our offers. Who wants to sit through a two hour, covert pitch.

So, what is the point? Well, if it’s not relevance or value, then it must be credibility.

And this is the freeing realization: your intro workshops are there to help people get to know, like and trust you. Your intro workshops are there for people to get a sense of your vibe. They are there for people to see if there’s an alignment between the way they see things and the way you see things. They are there for people to decide if you’re a fit for them. They are there for people to learn about your point of view and see if that makes sense for them.

That’s really about it.

If they like you and resonate with your point of view and then you make a good offer of a program, product or package that is high value, they are likely going to say ‘yes’ to it.

If they do not like you or resonate with your point of view and then you make a good offer of a program, product or package that is high value, they are likely going to say ‘no’ to it.

It’s that simple.

Perhaps this is why so many people in their intro workshops, tele seminars, and sales letters skip this credibility piece (beyond testimonials). They skip sharing their point of view entirely.

I’ve read sales letters that, basically, say,

“Are you struggling with _________ problem? Doesn’t it hurt? Let me tell you my story about how bad it was and then some stories of clients. And shit… doesn’t it cost you a lot to have this unresolved? Here’s how it cost me. And don’t you want _________ result? I mean imagine your life without it! Imagine you died without getting this result. Wouldn’t you feel like an asshole on your death bed. But this result can be yours when you sign up for my package and learn my top secret method.”

The whole sales letter is heavy on relevance and value but there’s so little credibility in it. It’s big on hitting the pain points and painting a picture of how it might be and very low on offering any meaningful take on how that might happen.

Your intro workshops are a form of marketing, that’s true. But the next marketing, in my mind, is educational. It teaches them something.

Am I saying that you should give away all of your content for free?

No.

You couldn’t fit it all into an intro workshop.

I am saying to give all of the context away for free.

Now, ‘all’ might be overstatement.

But you can give people the 30,000 foot view. You can let them know how you see the big picture of it all. You can give them a chance to ask you questions for the 100 foot or 10 foot view on places they’re struggling. You give show them your overall map to help them make sense of why they’re so damned stuck.

If they want to sail from Island A to Island B, you don’t teach them how to build and sail a boat in your intro. You bust out your map and show them the route you’d suggest and make your case for that route instead of others. You first make the case for your point of view, not your programs, products or packages. You don’t market yourself. You market your message.

If you do this, you will engender more trust.

If you do this, people will want to know about your offers.

If you do this, people will be more likely to spend more money with you.

If you do this, people will feel confident in your approach to these issues.

And this doesn’t mean that you need to make massive changes in your marketing.

But consider the subtle difference between these two approaches.

Approach #1: Selling Your Workshop – “If you come to my weekend workshop you’ll learn the following seven things!”

Approach #2: Sharing Your Point of View – “If you want to get ______ result, here are seven things you need to understand.” and then at the end of the workshop, “If that approach and those seven things make sense to you, you might enjoy my weekend workshop because we go deeper into all of those things.” Rebecca Tracey of The Uncaged Life fame has done a brilliant job of this with a free checklist she offers of eight things you need to have in place to get more clients. “The checklist itself,” she says, “is a simple list of all the steps we complete in our Uncage Your Business program, with a note at the end that they can work on this with me live and a link to get on the UYB waitlist.”

It’s a subtle shift in framing but the impact is powerful.

To take it back to my friend who was offering the eBook that was, actually, a sales letter. It was selling his course about how to get more clients through offering discovery sessions. That was the orientation of the ‘eBook’ – making the case for them to spend a lot of money in his program.

I emailed them and suggested that they might make a subtle shift and reorientation towards making the case for his point of view. The whole eBook could have been making the case for a business model in which all of the marketing led people to a one hour ‘discovery session’. That’s a solid point of view. There is a strong case to be made for that. Once he had convinced people of this approach, then he might find them very open to signing up for his program.

I was met with a frosty response.

Ah well.

To sum it up: Make the case for your point of view first (credibility). Make the case for your services, programs, packages and products second (value).

Additional Free Resources:

Video Interview on Point of View Marketing (70 min)

Point of View Marketing Primer Video (10 min)

Products to Consider:

The Workshop Package: A collection of my best resources on filling up your workshops and events.

The Art of the Full House

Point of View Marketing

Don’t Market Yourself. Market Your Message.

Everything I know about marketing in a single sentence

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Before someone buys from you, everything in the following sentence needs to be true (and true in the order it appears in this sentence):

There’s a result clients crave that they believe can be attained, and they believe you can help them attain it better than others.

So simple.

Of course.

But we often miss pieces of this in our marketing.

I could even distill that sentence down into three words: relevance, credibility, value.

All too often, we don’t identify and directly name the problem we’re solving (or result we’re offering) and so people don’t see the relevance in what we’re offering.

We ignore the fact that they may be in a state of learned helplessness about solving their problem. They might not believe it’s possible for it to be solved at all.  Period.

They might have gotten comfortable and feel like solving this problem is a could but not a must.

They might believe that it can be solve but not trust that we can solve it.

They might trust that we can solve it but not be convinced that we’re the best option for them.

If you’re trying to market to someone to convince them that you’re the very best there is at solving a problem they don’t believe is solvable, you will get nowhere.

Obviously, our ideal clients, the bullseyes, are those for whom that whole sentence is true. But that’s a very small number of people indeed.

And so, we market. And so, we educate. And so, we build relationships. Sometimes fruit takes a while to ripen.

Danny Iny does brilliant work in this in helping his clients create what he calls a ‘Demand Narrative’ for their launches.

His premise is, if people believe that solving their problem or achieving a certain result is impossible, then the first stage of your marketing must focus on making the case for them that it is, indeed, possible for it to be solved.

Below are five questions that can help you think this through…

Q1: What is possible for them they didn’t think was possible for them before?

Remember: it’s not the first time in their life they’ve thought about this result.

They’ve likely daydreamed about it for years and reality has ground them down. They’ve tried to make it happen and failed. Now they’re resigned. They believe that this isn’t possible to achieve or, at least not for them.

The more specific the result is that you’re offering, the stronger the response will be.

Q2: What evidence can you offer that this is possible?

Case studies and stories are a fine way to do this. Show them how people just like them have achieved what they are hoping to achieve.

Verge Permaculture did a brilliant job of this when they created ten short films about their grads. They knew that many of the people attending their Permaculture Design Certifications wanted to make a living with permaculture. So, instead of just writing a sales letter telling them that this was possible, they showed them. “Here are ten of our grads and how they’re making a living with permaculture.” Brilliant.

Another way to do this is to share a clear and compelling point of view about your approach to the problem. This perspective needs to be fresh. It can’t be what they’ve tried before. You need to point to a new mechanism, technology or process that you use when approaching this issue. You’ve got to make the case that you have a trustworthy take on this and some track record in helping people achieve this result.

You’ve got to make the case, if it’s true, that your approach to the issue is new. There is often the possibility of saying something like, “It’s understandable that you never achieved ________ (result) because you never tried/were missing _______.”

Before you sell them on hiring you, sometimes you need to convince them that the approach you use is valid.

Before you try to convince them to get a ticket on your boat, you might need to convince them that boats are the way to go (vs. swimming, airplanes, submarines and, of course, dirigibles).

In the 1980’s, before they could market Apple products, they had to market the idea that you could have a computer on your desk.

In the 1990’s, before they could market Palm Pilots, they had market the idea of a Personal Digital Assistant.

Often you’ve got to market the category before you market the brand.

Before you sell them on getting acupuncture with them, you may need to sell them on Traditional Chinese Medicine as a whole.

Before I convince someone to buy my book on niching, I will often need to convince them that figuring out their niche in the missing link in their marketing.

Before you sell them on your offers, you may have to sell them on the type of work you do, your modality as the transformative approach they’ve been looking for.

Q3: What are the main reasons people give for this result being out of reach for them?

Of course, once people see what’s possible, they will get excited and… then all of the reasons why it might work for others but not for them are likely to appear. It’s predictable.

They’re like to say something like the following to themselves, “Okay, this is possible in general but I don’t think it will work for me specifically because ________.”

And you need to know what these objections are. You need to know what they would put in this blank. And you need to address these candidly and directly.

You need to be able to let them know which of those concerns are real deal-breakers and where they aren’t. Sometimes, they will be right in their assessment. Sometimes, given the limitations of their lives, it isn’t possible for them. And sometimes they are wrong.

Q4: Which of those reasons do you agree with and which ones do you not?

This comes down to sharing your point of view. Your take on things.

Q5: How could they achieve their goals even if ______ factors are present/absent?

Once they are open to the possibility that this result might be possible for them, it can be a good idea to really paint the picture for them of what it could mean to their life if they had it. Tell them the story of what might be different. Do your best to put them in the experience. This might already have been achieved by your stories and case studies. But you can also say something like,

“Imagine it… it’s five years from now and you have this result…” and put them in the experience.

My caveat here: do not over-promise. If that possible future for them isn’t compelling enough without your exaggerating then it’s not worth selling.

When you’re launching something, a basic approach is to simply email your list about it (and I’ve done that plenty).

But the only people who will sign up are those who are those where…

There’s a result they crave that they believe can be attained and they believe that you can help them attain it better than others.

So, a savvier approach can be to create layers of your marketing. Danny calls this Behaviour Based Segmentation.

  • Layer One: Prove that it’s possible. If they engage with that content (e.g. open those emails, watch those videos to the end, download those eBooks etc.) then you move them to…
  • Layer Two: Help them understand if it is possible for them. Caveat: Do not over-promise here. Be clear for whom this is a fit for and for whom it isn’t. If they engage with that content, then you move them to…
  • Layer Three: Help them understand your unique approach to solving the issue and seeing if it’s a fit for them. And, at this point, you can make the offer. They don’t even see your offers in those first two layers. Why would you bother showing someone an offer for whom it wasn’t a fit?

And, of course, this means a lot more planning than most of us do and more tech savvy than most of us might have at the moment (though it’s all learnable).

It means a certain amount of savvy in how to keep track of where they are in their process around grappling with this issue and inviting them to take the next step if it’s a fit.

And, if they go to a video and don’t watch the whole thing? You could send them a reminder to come back and finish it.

The big question is this: Where are they not yet convinced? And is there a case to be made? If not, you can bless and release them. You continue to meet them where they’re at making the case for the things you believe to be true. You never make an offer to them that they haven’t indicated they are ready to receive.

If they’re not interested in the result? They don’t hear from you again about it.

If they haven’t indicated that they believe it can be attained? You never mention the product until they indicate they are open to the possibility that it might be possible.

If they don’t believe you can help them? You focus on building that trust, not pushing your product.

There’s a lot of thought we can put into marketing. But, rather than getting overwhelmed, try this: pick your flagship product or service (just one) and run it through these five questions. See what you come up with and take an hour to consider how that might help shape the way you structure your marketing in the future.

Good Hands

43547063 - massage therapist standing by bassage tavle with hands crossed and looking outside the window

Your clients want to know they’re in good hands with you.

I’m thinking about this because I just came back from a mediocre massage.

The style wasn’t one I liked. A bit too abrupt. Not as flowing and as intuitive as I like.

But that wasn’t the big issue.

In fact, there were no big issues.

There was her walking in on me while I was undressing. The bolster being positioned wrong when I lay down and her not noticing. Her cold hands at the start of the massage. When I flipped over she didn’t readjust the bolster. In other massages, it’s been something different: finger nails not trimmed, going way too hard, not checking in on how it’s going, the room being too hot or too cold. There are lot of tiny things that can add up to a massage not being great.

At the end of this massage, I lay there, face up, with an eye pillow over my eyes, relaxing. Rather than saying, “Ok. It’s over. Take your time getting up. I’ll bring you some water.” and leaving, she abruptly pulled the eye pillow off and me out of what little reverie and relaxation had been achieved. “How was it?”

“It was alright.” I said feeling a bit jarred. This was a question I was wishing she would have saved until after I was up and dressed.

“Oh no!” she said. “I’m sorry. What could I have done better?”

And so I shared my experience with her. She seemed to take it in. It’s how we all learn.

She asked me if I wanted a glass of water. I nodded and said, “yes.” And then lay there waiting for five minutes until I realized she wasn’t coming back. I got up and got dressed. She was waiting outside the door for me having misheard me to say that, “No,” I didn’t want a glass of water. Her English was not very good. She was sweet. It happens.

That she asked me so sincerely for feedback saved the whole thing for me. Without that, it would have been a write-off. That’s good to remember. People are so incredibly forgiving when they feel valued and that their issues have really been heard.

None of those things are big. And yet, put together, they add up to the person on the table not being able to relax, always feeling like they need to manage the experience or be on guard a little, not being able to trust the hands they’re in.

Perhaps you’ve had this with a life coach, business coach, contractor, consultant or therapist. You can’t seem to relax because you don’t trust them.

This all matters so profoundly for marketing.

Remember: word of mouth is based on their experience of working with us (or what they hear about the experience from others) so, if the experience is off (due to big things or a dozen smaller things) the word of mouth will wither up and dry or, worse, become a downward spiral instead.

It’s like that.

Remember: people can be petty. People have a hard time saying, ‘No’. People rarely ever give feedback unless asked. They just volunteer. Your clients are not enlightened sages with impeccable communication and boundaries.

This dynamic of people craving to be able to relax and trust in your guidance is true for any business you can think of. People come in full of stress and pain. They want our help. They want to know they are in good hands and that they can relax those muscles that have been clenched too long.

This doesn’t mean you don’t ask things of them. It means they trust what you’re asking of them.

It doesn’t mean you don’t get them to do some work too. It means they trust this work has a chance of paying off.

It means that, when they’re around you, they can just relax and open to your help.

We all crave to find some good hands into which we can collapse sometimes.

Imagine yourself as your own client: are you relaxed or slightly vigilant?

Imagine yourself as your own client: what kinds of hands are you in?

Additional Reading: 

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

Guest Post: Sliding Scale 2.0 – No One Left Out

By Josh Van Vliet, Director of Community, Academy for Coaching Excellence

1000px-Emblem-scales.svgI recently read a guest blog post by Peter Rubin about Privilege-Based Pricing here on the Marketing for Hippies blog (if you didn’t see it, it’s great – go check it out here). In it, Peter shares about this interesting and innovative way that businesses can help address social inequality through pricing structure.

Reading this, I got really excited, because at the Academy for Coaching Excellence, my teammates and I have thought a lot about this too.

At the heart of it, our work is about building a community, a world, where everyone is supported 100% and no one is left out.

Our contribution to that vision is to provide coaching and coaching skills training to people, so they can bring clarity, focus, ease, and grace to their own life, and empower others to do that as leaders or professional coaches. We offer programs for personal and professional leadership development, as well as for professional coaching certification.

In these times of widening inequality and deep uncertainty, we as a business saw that we have a critical opportunity to be a leader in our profession and our society.

So we’ve been asking ourselves:

How do we price our services to reflect our stand for creating a world where everyone is supported 100%, and no one is left out?

Given the fact that different people have different access to resources, often due to factors outside of their control (such as class, race, socioeconomic status, ability, and gender), how do we include everyone, as much as possible?

. . . And run a sustainable, profitable business at the same time?

Enter the sliding scale.

So how did you arrive at this sliding scale?

We started by creating a scholarship fund.

It helped, but it took a lot of energy to run, because it relied on us ultimately making a judgment about how much scholarship to offer someone.

On top of that, the application was enough of a barrier to entry that some people wouldn’t bother applying, or felt like they didn’t “deserve” a scholarship.

We also offered folks resources, coaching, and guidance on how to successfully crowdfund some or all of their tuition for the course.

We’ve supported people to collectively raise over $50,000 to cover course tuition, travel, and other costs, and it’s helped make it possible for many people to attend who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to attend.

And, we know that this is only part of the equation.

So we looked around to see what other people are doing, and discovered a few different organizations using a tiered sliding scale approach (like the Rockwood Leadership Institute).

How does your sliding scale work?

Here’s how we describe it on our website:

We stand for a world where everyone is supported 100% and no one is left out, and our pricing reflects that vision. Our sliding scale empowers people to participate who could not otherwise do so, and enables us to offer our life-changing work where it can do the greatest good.

We use an honour system, and don’t require you to disclose your income. We also honour that both expenses and income factor into your situation, so we ask that you discern the price truly right for you — whether that is below or above your suggested tier.

So that our work serves those who could not otherwise afford it, please invest the amount that is a “stretch” but not a hardship, factoring in your access to outside support (i.e. family and/or fundraising). Referring to the scale below, ask yourself:

  1. What investment level would be comfortable for me?
  2. What level would be a “stretch” but not a hardship — truthfully factoring in my access to outside support?
  3. Am I willing to register at that level?

This is an example of our sliding scale, for the Thriving Changemaker Intensive, our foundational 4-day course:

Gross Annual

Household Income

. . . OR Organizational Budget

(if your organization funds you)

Suggested

Investment

$90,000+ $10,000,000+ $3,000
$70,000 – $89,999 $4,000,000 – $9,999,999 $2,500
$50,000 – $69,999 $1,000,000 – $3,999,999 $2,000
$25,000 – $49,999 $0 – $999,999 $1,500
$0 – $24,999 Not available $1,000


What’s the response been so far?

Virtually entirely and overwhelmingly very positive. To give you a sense of what we’ve heard, here’s what one person wrote to us in response:

“This helps tremendously – financially, psychologically, spiritually – and actually brought tears to my eyes. Your decision to do this feels within me like a synching in alignment with my intentions and values. Thank you for being the change for social change with your sliding scale offer for The Thriving Changemaker Intensive.”

I think the only issue so far has been that it makes registration a bit more involved, especially for someone who has never experienced a sliding scale like this before.

A big part of the work for us has been to refine the way we communicate this approach, so that it’s as simple and clear as possible.

And, on the other hand, it has made “the money conversation” infinitely more simple, because people understand that A) this is an incredibly valuable program we offer, and B) they are empowered to simply pay at the level that is authentic and appropriate to their situation.

Won’t people just pay the lowest price?

It turns out they don’t. We’ve had people register at every tier — including those who pay at the highest tiers and tell us that they are truly glad to do so, because they are so aligned with our mission of inclusion and accessibility.

What have you learned about effective sliding scales?

In order to make a sliding scale work, you must:

  • Effectively communicate the value of the offering. A sliding scale sometimes becomes a way to handle the worry “no one is going to pay me for this” (of course, I NEVER did this in my private coaching practice when I was getting started…wink wink). If you’re not enrolled in the value you are going to get from whatever the service or program is, it makes sense that you wouldn’t pay a whole lot for it.
  • Effectively communicate your values. If you share why you’re doing it, and how their choice impacts others, it takes it out of the context of “let me get the best deal” and puts in the context of being a part of a community. It gives meaning to what they are paying, beyond a simple exchange of money for services.
  • Give people a clear and simple way to decide what to pay. When we’re confused, we don’t take action. If you have no idea how to choose what to pay for something, you’re more likely to either a) not sign up, or b) pay whatever’s easiest, which will be related to whatever reference points you’ve got, such as the low end of a sliding scale (or whatever you make up, if you have don’t have any reference point).

How is it fair to “force” some people to pay more than others?

The tiers we offer are simply a suggestion. We ask that each person see for themselves what the authentic rate is. We know that there are more factors than just annual income that determine a person’s ability to pay. The truth is, there’s no way we could determine the authentic price tier for someone. What we can do is give people some simple guidelines for how to make their choice, and empower them to do it.

What have you learned?

Trust people.  One of the principles of our work is that people have their own answers. They really do know what’s authentic for them to pay, what’s aligned with who they are, and what they value. And when you give them the choice, plus the context in which they are making that choice, they will generally choose to pay what they can authentically afford.

An appropriately-priced sliding scale helps flatten the “money conversation.” One of the biggest worries people have when considering joining a course or program is “I don’t have the money.” And for some, that may truly still be the case. We know this system isn’t perfect, and there are some people for whom even our lowest tier is out of reach. But for many, the conversation becomes instead: Is this the right thing for me right now? And if they see that it is, money is much less of a concern. Indeed, some people have been very happy to pay more, knowing that it helps others attend who otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

It looks like pricing inclusivity is good for business. Over the short time we’ve been experimenting with this (six months now), we’ve increased the number of people we’re serving, AND we’ve seen a slight increase in the average price paid per participant. Time will tell if this continues to hold true, but we’ve been thrilled with the results and the response so far.

How can people learn more about your work?

Visit our website: acecoachtraining.com, where you can find free resources, like our online training Hope in Action: Find Your Center and Empower Your Purpose in Times of Trouble, and learn more about the Thriving Changemaker Intensive, our foundational in-person course in Sacramento, California.

JoshVanVlietJosh Van Vliet leads the creation, implementation, and evaluation of programs at the Academy for Coaching Excellence. He is a professional coach, dancer, teacher, and musician, as well as social entrepreneurship coach, and trainer for Move The Crowd. Josh has taught swing and blues dancing; worked as a case manager with Gilead Community Services supporting clients with mental illness to live independently; and led movement classes for kids in schools through Recess Rocks. acecoachtraining.com

On Promises

38592537 - a mother and her child hooking their fingers to make a promise, vintage style

The purpose of marketing is to make promises.

The purpose of your business is to keep them.

Most traditional cultures in the world are overflowing with proverbs around the importance of keeping your word and doing what you say you will do.

It’s certainly true for my own Scottish and Celtic ancestry.

“If I break faith, may the skies fall upon me, may the seas drown me, may the earth rise up and swallow me.” – ancient Gaulish oath of the elements

“We of the Fianna never told a lie. Falsehood was never attributed to them. But by truth and the strength of our hands, we came safe out of every combat.” – Ladaoidh Chunaic an Air, anon. Irish Poem

And the following Scottish Gaelic seanfhaclan (literally ‘old words’ or proverbs)…

B’fheàrr gun tòiseachadh na sguir gun chrìochnachadh.
(Better not to begin than stop without finishing).

Am fear as mò a gheallas, ‘s e as lugha cho-gheallas.
(He that promises the most will perform the least).

Gealladh gun a’choimhghealladh, is miosa sin na dhiùltadh
(Promising but not fulfilling, is worse than refusing).

Am fear a tha grad gu gealladh, ‘s tric leis mealladh.
(Quick to promise often deceives).

Chan eil fealladh ann cho mòr ris an gealladh gun choimhlionadh.
(There is no deceit/fraud so great as the promise unfullfilled).

My guess is that, if you looked to your own ancestry, you’d find similar things. Without the ability to trust the words of others, there is no capacity for culture.

There are four levels of relating to your promises:

  1. You over-promise and under-deliver. This is the worst. It creates disappointment and a terrible reputation.
  2. You promise and deliver. This is solid and will get you a fine reputation as someone who is reliable. This is the bare minimum for being in business.
  3. You under-promise and over-deliver. This is rare. This will earn you rave reviews and endless word of mouth.
  4. You don’t promise at all. You just deliver value for the joy of it. Imagine the utter delight of your clients to get something from you that they didn’t even expect. 

Your reputation, and thus the amount of word of mouth you receive, will be largely be determined by the degree to which you are able to deliver (or over-deliver) on your promises.

What are you promising people? Is this clear?

And what level are you at right now in terms of your delivering?

Additional Reading: 

Are you marketing the journey or the boat?

The Art of Relevance

If Your Phone Keeps You Up At Night

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Like most of us in this modern age, my phone has kept me up late more nights than I can count.

I put it down to go to sleep only to find it, mysteriously, back in my hands, lighting the room with it’s strange, modern glow.

Of course, it’s terrible for our brains and our capacity to sleep.

The first thing I did was to get an alarm clock that wasn’t my phone. And that helped. But the phone kept finding its way back into my bedroom. And then, somehow, turning on and cycling me through Facebook, email, Huffington Post and you name it.

I would curse it. This modern bane of my existence. This addictive entity. This seductive Don Juan of my pocket. This electric vixen slowly robbing me of my productivity and productive life force.

I joined everyone in helplessly bemoaning it. I grumbled.

I secretly enjoyed every minute of it.

I resented it in the morning.

So, I finally decided a different approach.

I decided to love my phone and care for it.

I decided to proceed as if it were alive, just like myself, and needed sleep too.

And so, I made it a nest to sleep in.

And now, each night, I plug it in, say some good words to it, thanking if for helping me stay connected to the world, finding my way around, finding important information and acknowledging how tiring it must have been. I speak these words out loud and then turn it off and rest it in this bowl given to me by my friend Jesse Hahn, cradled in the old Mackay tartan wool scarf I bought years ago.

And then I go to my room, lit by candle light now, and read a book, meditate, stretch or journal and go to sleep.