When people are working on their marketing, I think that, often, they don’t really understand the role that their marketing needs to play. Or I should say ‘roles’ because there’s more than one.
To give credit where it’s due, I learned this first from the incredibly useful marketing book Monopolize Your Marketplace by Richard Harshaw.
The Three Roles of Marketing
The First Role of Marketing: Get their attention.
This one is, of course, primary. If we don’t have people’s attention, there’s no conversation to be had. Marketing must, first and foremost, get their attention.
This is much harder than it looks because of the sheer number of marketing messages people get every day. And the number of stimuli people receive even outside of that (e.g. social media, texts, friends, emails etc.). People are already overwhelmed and in a bit of a haze. To break through that haze is difficult. Certainly you can use the shock factor to do it. But that doesn’t last. You can use pictures of naked people. You can use expletives. But those lose their effect over time. You can write a shocking (but ultimately misleading) headline, but it will result in people feeling tricked and then you become the little boy who cried wolf. You say in your email subject line, “A vulnerable secret I’ve never shared with anyone before . . .” and then the secret you share is clearly not that. People feel duped. It’s why we hate and distrust marketing so much. We are feeling constantly lied to and played with.
But here are some thoughts that are vital.
- do a good job and get word of mouth: this is the bottom line. If you help a lot of people solve a problem they have or get a result they’re craving, they will tell everyone they know about you. That’s how word of mouth works and, ultimately, how the most sustainable businesses grow.
- have a niche: nothing gets attention better than good old fashioned relevance. If your headline speaks directly to their life, they will want to read the rest. If they can see, right away (from your business name, the headline of your ads or the images you use) that you specialize in people just like them . . . you will have their attention.
- figure out where their attention is already going: the core of everything I know about marketing is all about identifying and working with hubs effectively. Meaning . . . getting attention is hard when you take the cold approach of cold calling, direct mail etc. They already see you as marketing. But, if you can figure out where their attention is already going, you’ve got a much better chance. If you can figure out where they’re already looking for solutions to the problems you solves, they’re more likely to notice you. If, instead of sending a direct mail piece out to a list you bought, you got someone who your ideal clients deeply respected to send out a letter endorsing you . . . You’ll likely be flooded with business. There are seven general types of hubs.
The Second Role of Marketing: Help them figure out if it’s a fit.
Once you have their attention, you don’t have it for long. Now they’re noticing you but . . . are you actually relevant to them?
In direct response marketing they talk about the AIDA formula. Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. Once you’ve got their attention you need to move on to interest.
But, here’s where I disagree with many of my colleagues. I don’t think that the role of marketing is to get them interested. After all, who is ‘them’? Them could be anyone. Them is everyone. And you don’t want everyone as a client (you really, really don’t).
Not everyone is going to be a fit for you. And, if they’re not a fit, they will be clients from hell. They’ll have bad experiences and tell their friends about it. Too many clients who aren’t a bad fit will kill your business.
You want clients who are a perfect fit for your business.
So, the purpose of marketing should not be about convincing everyone to buy from you. It should be about helping everyone decide if you’re a good fit for them or not. In the book Monopolize Your Marketplace, they word it as ‘facilitating the decision making process’ meaning that your marketing should help make it easier for potential customers to decide whether hiring your is the right thing or not.
But to do that, we need to understand who would be a perfect fit for us. And to do that we need to really understand what it is we are offering and how we want to offer it because, ultimately, your ideal client (and this is so incredibly obvious that we often miss it) will have to be (absolutely, truly has so to be) someone who needs what you’re offering and loves how you offer it.
And that level of clarity can take time to come to.
But, once that clarity is there, then marketing becomes less about seducing and more about filtering.
I wrote an epic blog post you can use to ask yourself some key questions about who your ideal client might be here.
The Third Role of Marketing: Lower the risk of taking the next step.
This is something that used to be the core of what I teach and that I haven’t written about much but intend to in the coming year.
I first came across this concept from Jay Abraham. But it shows up everywhere in marketing.
Here’s why this role matters.
Someone could come across what you offer (you have their attention) and totally fall in love with it (it’s a fit) and still not buy.
Sometimes that has to do with timing. Sometimes it just takes awhile for it to be the right time. I imagine there’s a workshop or two you’d love to attend but the timing hasn’t worked out yet. Normal.
But very often it’s a matter of risk. Meaning: they’re scared that if they buy from you they’re going to either lose out on something they have or they won’t get something they want.
Those risks can be everything from: the fear of looking stupid, having to explain such a big purchase to a spouse, losing money on it, it not working and being a huge waste of time, the fear of getting ones hopes up only to be disappointed (again). So many risks.
And most entrepreneurs are totally blind to this. They’re never put themselves in the shoes of their clients and asked themselves, ‘what might be scary about making this purchase?’.
It’s why bakeries, grocery stores and perfume shops give out free samples. It’s why you see so many ‘enter your email to get this ebook/video/free gift’ on people’s websites (I wrote a guide on how to build your email list by doing this for your website here). It’s why ice cream shops let you try a pink spoon of ice cream before you buy. ‘Try before you buy’ is not a new idea. It helps people move beyond just an intellectual relevance into action. It’s why you see so many websites with lots of videos. It’s why blogs work. They build the know like and trust factor. It’s why it’s important to not only offer big expensive things, but to also offer less expensive ones – so people can get to know you and take a step towards working with you.
So, that’s it. Those are the three steps.
Look at every piece of marketing you ever do through the lense of these three roles.
Look at every part of your marketing strategy through the lense of these three roles. Every tactic.
Whether you like it or not, as an entrepreneur and business owner, you have a second role. That role is to market your products, your services and your business. I often say, “A funny thing happens when you don’t market or advertise …nothing!”
When you have a BIG mission, you want to make sure you get mission into the hands (or heads) of as many people as possible. To do so, you will need to create marketing messages that truly resonate with your core audience. In essence, you need to find a way to turn your BIG mission into a palatable marketing message.
For years marketers, advertisers and copywriters have been pushing techniques that don’t really facilitate deep conversation or change. I’ve always known intuitively that something was “off” with this approach. The intent has been to push a product, create more sales and basically treat people like numbers. People are not numbers. People are people. Since this is clearly a universal truth, doesn’t it make sense to create your marketing materials in a way that really connects on a deep level?
I’ve found that the traditional copywriting formula of “Problem. Agitate. Solve.” isn’t resonating with consumers, especially women. This is vital information because the landscape of marketing and consumerism has changed over the years. Women now make or influence 85% of all purchasing decisions and purchase over 50% of traditional male products, including electronics home improvement products and automobiles. A study shared via The Next Web claims 91% of women feel like advertisers don’t understand them. Consumers (especially women who are now wielding a majority of the buying power) don’t need to be agitated to make a decision. Women are looking for solutions to their challenges. What’s really working is my marketing and copywriting formula of “Challenge. Solution. Invitation™.” In fact, this formula works for business, marketing and relationships (even promoting your book).
Here are three ways to incorporate the “Challenge. Solution. Invitation™.” formula into your communications.
- Acknowledge the challenge. When you know who your ideal client is and what their challenges are you can begin to build relationships with your products and services.
- Offer your solution. Once you’ve identified the challenges of your ideal client you can clearly illustrate your solution. Show them HOW you can help.
- Extend an invitation. Be sure to invite your prospects to become paying clients by clearly letting them know the next step to doing business with you.
In the traditional marketing and copwriting formula you’re taught to highlight the problems, agitate the pain points and then solve the problem. People are in enough pain and don’t need to be agitated to make a decision. That’s why I teach my clients to market in a different way – a way that challenges the norm. When you acknowledge the challenge, provide a helpful solution and extend a friendly invitation consumers are more likely to take action. The “Challenge. Solution. Invitation.™” gives you a simple, 3- step formula to create marketing messages that really connect. This is especially important for mission-driven entrepreneurs and business owners who have a big MISSION and have, until now, struggled to create marketing messages that come from a place of true service and get results.
Marketing is all about relationships. In order to build solid relationships you need to have strong content and strong strategy. That’s why I challenge the age-old advertising adage that copy is king. Instead, think of copy as QUEEN and strategy as KING. They are feminine and masculine energies of marketing and just like a relationship, they must work together to get results. Marketing is an intricate dance. You must know who your ideal clients are, what motivates them and how to connect in an authentic way.
It’s time to make sure your mission, values and the needs of your clients are taken into consideration… It’s time to create marketing messages with integrity that come from a place of true service. This is how you’ll engage and entice your prospects to become paying clients.
Quick marketing message tips:
- Copy is QUEEN and Strategy is KING. Think of them as the feminine and masculine energy of marketing. Just like a relationship, if they are not working together, it will not work.
- Most marketing messages miss the mark because people fail to infuse values into their personal mission statement and business mission statement and intentions are incongruent.
- By incorporating the “Challenge. Solution. Invitation™.” formula you’ll build relationships that come from a place of service first and marketing really is all about relationships.
- Trust your intuition. If you follow some of the traditional copywriting formulas, your marketing may just miss the mark.
- Nothing truly flows when it comes from a place of pain and fear…
Lisa Manyon is “The Business Marketing Architect” a content strategist for mission-driven entrepreneurs. She’s the creator of the new marketing model for success as featured in Inc. Magazine. She teaches a relationship based approach to marketing with integrity with her “Challenge. Solution. Invitation.™” formula. Her big vision and ability to see all the pieces of your marketing puzzle allows her to help you reverse engineer your big ideas into tangible action steps to turn your dreams into reality. Lisa is a regular guest expert on Experience Pros radio, her philosophies are featured in the book Wonder Women: How the Western Woman Will Save The World and beyond. Lisa is available for speaking engagements and you can learn more by visiting her media kit lisa.instantmediakit.com. She offers free marketing resources on her award winning blog www.writeoncreative.com/blog
There is a BIG shift occurring. Several years ago I was asked to contribute to a book and write about my thoughts on marketing on the Internet. Even then I felt the collaborate shift in marketing and business. I highlighted this in a chapter titled “How the Ever Changing Landscape of Internet Marketing Affects Your Message and Why You Must Adapt.”
I noted that many of the standard marketing techniques, especially in the copywriting arena, were antiquated and not as effective as they once were. The list included hyped-up claims, overly “sales-y” spiels, hard-sell tactics, broad-based messages, scare tactics, stretching the truth, false claims of scarcity, over-dramatizing pain and problems and more. All tactics that don’t resonate with me and that I felt deeply were not resonating with conscious, heart-based entrepreneurs in general.
Several years later, my predictions continue to hold true. There’s a shift from competition to collaboration and the Internet allows us to reach more people, connect with other creative, conscious business owners and do the work we love from the comfort of wherever we might be. This shift also requires a different approach to marketing. It requires creating marketing messages with integrity.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to writing, marketing and advertising. I grew up in a home in very rural Northern California. I was blessed to have both my mom and dad in the home. When I was a small kid, we only received signals from two television stations and watched the tube on an old black and white model with modified rabbit ear antennas (keep in mind, we were one of the houses ‘in town’ that actually had electricity). The old rotary dial telephone is still the trusty standby in power outages and life is pleasantly simple there. My exposure to advertising and marketing was limited to the two television channels and few radio stations. I can still remember watching commercials at a very young age and thinking “I can do better than that”. Even then advertisers and marketers were missing the mark (and even as a child, I could see that).
In fourth grade a gal pal and I created the first school newspaper for our elementary school. We produced it on a mimeograph machine (yes, I know I’m dating myself). Even then I knew I had a voice and that I needed to share it to make a difference. I also know I am very blessed to have parents who supported me in that pursuit.
For women especially, it’s hard to share our voice. I was shocked to find that the saying “Children should be seen and not heard” “is a Victorian-based idea that obedient, quiet children are superior to other children. Interestingly enough, it originally applied specifically to young women.
With history like this, it’s not surprising that the societal and generational impact of specific sayings like “It’s not polite to brag,” and rhetorical questions like, “Who do you think you are?” continue to hold back women (and men, as well) even today. It’s hard to imagine a time when keeping to yourself was seen as a superior quality. I imagine this programming makes it difficult for many women to create marketing messages to support their businesses.
Fast-forward to present day, and we see that many women still find themselves bound by the invisible chains of antiquated thinking and even familial programming. They shrink, hold back and don’t speak up. They are subconsciously afraid, maybe because they were taught as children that bragging isn’t polite or they simply don’t want to outshine their peers because they crave acceptance. The possibilities are endless, but the fact remains the same: Each of us is born with a unique gift. Our particular gift or talent might be similar to others’ but it cannot be fully duplicated because it is uniquely ours. To take it a step further, we must accept that we are meant to share our gift with the world. When we don’t, without realizing it, we actually do a disservice to the world. One of the ways to get our message out is by marketing. In fact, if you don’t market your business, a funny thing happens… nothing. We must market to thrive.
We’ve got tons of information coming our way about the right way to build our businesses and how we need to go about it. We receive faxes, e-mails, telephone calls, cell phone calls, instant messages, text messages, QR codes, blog posts, social media updates and more. There’s permission marketing techniques, outrageous business growth philosophies that tout being aligned with your customers, qualifying prospects, the need for a website and comprehensive marketing plan and the list goes on. Many of the techniques being taught are dated and no longer apply (they just aren’t working like they once did). On the flipside, getting back to basics has more merit than many are recognizing.
As the landscape of marketing and advertising continues to change there are some tried and true principles that remain solid. My dad taught me some of them without me realizing it at the time. When I started selling ads for my high school and college papers I asked my dad to advertise his woodworking business and he wasn’t interested, I was baffled. He simply didn’t want to reach out to the masses. In fact, he refused to have his business telephone number listed in the phone book (you get one complimentary listing when you have a business line). Instead, my dad was really clear on his values and his mission. He limited his accessibility, accepted work only by referral and he turned down work he didn’t want to do. This in turn increased the demand for his work.
I didn’t know it at the time but my dad was teaching me to create my niche, be uniquely different, work with only people I want to work with, limit my accessibility to be in higher demand and be true to myself while maintaining integrity.
As I continue to step into what I’m truly meant to be doing I’m discovering new ways to market my business (and the businesses of my clients). I’m finding that the formulas being taught for copywriting (the foundation of all of our marketing messages) aren’t working as well as they once were. These formulas are not resonating with women who help make the majority of all purchasing decisions.
I challenge the age old industry adage that “Copy is King.” I’ve found that copy is actually QUEEN and content strategy is KING and together they are the key to creating strong and effective results. Even the best copy in the world won’t work if you don’t have a strategy in place. Think of strategy as masculine energy and copy as feminine energy –both are vital but if they are not working together it’s a struggle.
I’ve also found that the traditional copywriting formula of “Problem. Agitate. Solve.” isn’t resonating with women. Women are looking for solutions to their challenges. What’s really working is the new copywriting formula of “Challenge. Solution. Invitation.™”
In the traditional formula we highlight the issue, we agitate that issue to focus on the pain points and then we solve the problem. I believe people are in enough pain. We don’t need to be agitated to make a decision. In fact, especially for women, when someone acknowledges our challenges (and really understands where we’re coming from), provides a helpful solution and extends a friendly invitation, we’re more likely to take action. Nothing truly flows when it comes from a place of pain and fear…
When we know in our hearts we are meant to make a difference, we owe it to ourselves and our fellow humans to step forward and be heard. More women are choosing to express these gifts by starting a business or becoming an entrepreneur. We create new opportunities as a conduit to share our gifts by providing services and benefits for the greater good. We have the power to share our gifts in many ways, and one of the most important ways is by letting people know how our unique gift can benefit them and creating marketing messages with integrity. The new marketing model for success comes from a place values and service first. Anything else is transparent and not in a good way. How do you choose to market your business? Are you creating marketing messages with integrity?
Lisa Manyon’s new marketing model for success has been featured Inc. Magazine. Her “Challenge. Solution. Invitation.™” formula is changing the way we market forever. She offers content rich articles and a free Copywriting Action plan on her Apex award-wining blog www.writeoncreative.com/blog
She is “The Business Marketing Architect” a content strategist for mission-driven entrepreneurs. She’s the creator of the new marketing model for success as featured in Inc. Magazine. She teaches a relationship based approach to marketing with integrity with her “Challenge. Solution. Invitation.™” formula. Lisa’s Content Strategy Plans and innovative marketing vision have been known to accurately predict marketing trends and generate over $40,000 in the first email campaign when incorporating her methods. Her big vision and ability to see all the pieces of your marketing puzzle allows her to help you reverse engineer your big ideas into tangible action steps to turn your dreams into reality. Lisa is a regular guest expert on Experience Pros radio, her philosophies are featured in the book Wonder Women: How the Western Woman Will Save The World and beyond. Lisa is available for speaking engagements and you can learn more by visiting her media kit lisa.instantmediakit.com.
This is an email primarily about how to build a solid following and, primarily, how to get people to ‘opt in’ to receive your email newsletter.
I want to submit that there have been four generations of approaches to getting permission to be in touch with potential clients. And that what worked four generations ago, isn’t the best approach today.
But let’s start here: A lot of people focus on ‘getting their name out there’ in marketing.
And they justify a lot of useless activity with it. They go to networking events and not only give their cards to everyone but leave them on every table and they think, ‘Yup! Sure got my name out there tonight!’ They put their brochures in bookshoppes and cafes all over town, they put ads in all sorts of places, and try to drive people to their website (maybe even successfully) and they think, ‘Awesome. I am so getting my name out there.’
This kind of thinking might result in some business but I think it’s the wrong goal. I think that we want to get their name in here.
Let me explain: If you’re at a networking event, it is far more powerful to get 10 business cards from others into your pocket than to get a hundred of your business cards into their pockets. Because, if you have their business cards, you can follow up with them. You can take a next step in building a relationship with them. If not, you are stuck waiting and hoping.
And hope is not a strategy.
Put another way, let’s say you got a million people to visit your website in the next month. Sounds awesome, right?
But what if, instead of a million visitors, I gave you 10,000 new perfect-fit people for your email list?
The 10,000 on your email list is more valuable in the long-term. These are people you can stay in touch with and build a relationship with over time. These are the people who will spend money on you, hire you and tell their friends about you.
If I sent a million people to your website not much would happen.
Unless . . . unless you had a system to get those people to join your email list (and get their names in here).
I want to suggest that there have been four generations of approaches on how to get people to opt in to be in touch with you and allow you to be in touch with them.
Generation #1: The Contact Me Page
When websites first began, there were no email newsletters. There was just a page with your contact info and, if they wanted to reach you they could email or call you.
The Downside: It’s a viable option but includes a bit of risk for the person reaching out. It also would only have people call you who were very close to being ready to buy. And if people were just shopping around, that’s a lot of your personal time answering questions.
Generation #2: The Free Email Newsletter.
People have signed up to have newsletters mailed to them for many years. That’s not new, but, with the advent of email marketing, those newsletters could be free. I remember the first ‘free email newsletter‘ I saw was something simple like, ‘get a free inspirational quote every day’. And, at the time, that was really novel and exciting. For the first time, you could, for very little money, stay in touch with a large number of people and regularly add value to their lives.
The Downside: The challenge with this approach now is that there are literally millions of email newsletters you could be on. Most of us are on so many lists that we don’t read. Some we got on because we participated in a telesummit or teleseminar and now we’re on their list, or because we joined years ago and have ignored it since. And some we follow regularly.
But the bottom line is this: no one is excited to sign up for another free newsletter. No one. Now, if your website is extremely niched and your newsletter is targeted to helping a particular kind of person with a particular kind of problem people might want to. But, the idea of a free newsletter itself is absolutely no longer compelling.
Generation #3: The Free ‘Opt In’ Gift
So, if an email newsletter isn’t that compelling, but to grow your business you need to stay in touch with people, what do you do? Should you just stop having the email newsletter?
I don’t think so. I think your email list is the most valuable piece of property your business has. Social media lets you stay in touch but it won’t get the kinds of response rates an email list will have (unless you have a huge following). And, if your ideal client were to give it a try, they might really love.
So, how to get them to give it an honest try?
What a lot of people, myself included, have done is to offer a free gift to people for signing up. In some ways, free gift is a bit of a misnomer because what you’re really offering is a fair trade, ‘I’ll give you a lot of free advice and information if you sign up for my email list and give it a try’.
The Free Opt In Gift could be an ebook, audio, a video, a quiz/assessment etc. There are a lot of options. The key is that it costs them no money, asks no risk of them and takes you no time to deliver. It’s a sample of your work that they can try to get a taste of what you do. It’s a pink spoon type offer that I spoke about in my blog ‘do you have a pink spoon in your marketing?‘
And the difference you’ll see between just saying, ‘sign up for my free email newsletter’ and ‘enter your email here to get this free gift and you’ll be added to my email newsletter too’ is huge. You will get very few sign ups with the former approach and many more with the latter. You’ll be shocked at the difference it makes if you take this approach.
The Downside: More and more people are doing this too. The idea of the free opt in gift is no longer rare. It’s almost expected. And, here’s the surprising twist, even resented.
That’s right, increasingly, people might even resent your free opt in gift.
And here’s why.
Imagine you come across a website. It seems like it’s targeted to people just like you! Amazing.
This website definitely seems relevant to what you’re going through. Now you want to find out more. So you read a bunch of generic stuff about the business but then there’s nothing else to read. No blog. No articles. No videos. You want to know more about their point of view and approach. You want to know their take on your situation.
But there’s nothing that tells you that. Which means you’re going to have to go through the rigamaroll of emailing them and asking them and who knows when they’ll respond and . . . WAIT there it is! There’s some free info – they’re offering a free video series on how to take some first steps at handling your issue.
But . . . wait . . . you have to enter your email for it. Shit. You’re already on too many email lists. You resent that, to just check them out, you have to sign up to be on another email list that you aren’t even sure you want to be on.
To make it clearer why this is an issue: imagine you go to an ice cream shop and you ask to try a sample of their ice cream – just a little pink spoon. But, instead of having you the pink spoon they hand you an iPad and ask you to enter your email first. You say, ‘Uhm. Why? I just want to see if I even like this flavour . . .’ And they inform you that you need to be on their email list before you try it. Holy backfiring coercion.
Another downside, a lot of people will just sign up for your free gift and then unsubscribe at the next email. This might be unavoidable but if they see you regularly have new content on your site or at least a tonne of free content, they’ll be a lot more likely to come back of their own accord to check you out.
Generation #4: The Non-Opt In Free Gifts + Opt In
So, what the hell? . . .
What are you supposed to do?
I don’t know for sure but here’s my theory on what’s next: a mix of opt in and non-opt in pink spoons for people to try.
Give people some things they can check out for free, without having to sign up for a damn thing on your website. Let them try free samples of your bread at your bakery or soup at your restaurant. Let them get a taste of you without having to commit to anything. But also give them the option to get some extra special if they’re willing to take the risk to sign up.
On this website you can read over 500 posts on my blog for free. There are case studies. There are over three hours of free video. And there’s also a 195 ebook called The Way of the Radical Business you can get if you sign up for my email list.
I am a big fan of the idea of being a generosity based business. But, being real, I give away a lot more than I need to. You don’t need to offer even a fraction of what I do (out of laziness of turning them into sellable products (actually true)). You just need to offer people a taste. A sample. A way of understanding your point of view. Enough that they can know if it’s a fit to take the next step.
People will respect this. They love it. They love being able to explore your take on things and get a bit of help without having to pay anything and it will build trust in you.
When people email me to ask for coaching, they’ve likely already been following me for years. They don’t haggle over price. They’ve decided they want to work with me. They’re also often very familiar with my approach to marketing which is wonderful and allows me to help them more.
Now, if you’ve got a single teleseminar or course, it’s fine to have a squeeze page – just a simple page where the only option is to sign up. But, I think of your website as more your home. It’s a place where people can come to learn about you and if, overall, you are a fit for them.
And this isn’t even to speak to the benefits of blogging and how that free content can drive traffic to your website or give you little pink spoons you can send to people at networking events and have you feel even more proud of your website.
I want to submit that this fourth generation will build a more solid relationship with your people over time than insisting they sign up for your email newsletter to find out anything about you.
If you want help developing your free opt-in gift, you might want to check out my ‘How To Create Your Free Gift‘ workbook.
A few questions for you:
- When people hit your website, do they stick around?
- Do they sign up to your email list?
- When you meet someone at a networking party who is curious about your work, do you have a way to give them a taste of what you do that doesn’t involve giving away your time for free?
- When you host a teleseminar or are interviewed, do you have an incentive to offer people to go and check out your website?
- Does your business card get you any business? I mean really?
- Do you have things your clients can pass onto their friends to get them interested in what you do?
If you don’t, then this might be the most important blog post you’ve read in a while.
A lot of people make the mistake of seeing marketing as about trying to change minds rather than seeing who naturally resonates with what they offer.
Or they expect people to jump into the deep end of their incredibly profound work without any shallow end of the pool to explore. They expect people to sign up for their full weekend intensive workshop without knowing anything about them or their work. They have a booth at a craft show with everything flat on the table and wonder why no one approaches them.
Or they just give out a tonne of business cards and brochures and expect people to sign up and buy.
Everything above is all about the same thing – the same blunder committed by countless entrepreneurs.
What we eventually find is that safety is incredibly important in marketing.
The first thing marketing needs to do is get the attention of your ideal client.
But then we need to lower the risk of them taking a first step in working with us. We need to make it so easy for them to check us out to see if it feels like a fit.
So, the main idea in this blog post is about the importance of creating a free gift you can offer to people to help them figure out if your work is a fit for them.
I first really got this from reading PinkSpoonMarketing.com. It is a colleague of mine, Andrea Lee, who is a lovely, lovely lady.
She is the one who introduced me to the idea of a sales funnel and the ‘pink spoon’ in marketing.
You will notice the image on top is like an ice cream store. You have the pink spoon (the literal little pink spoon that gives you a sample taste of ice cream), an ice cream cone, a little bucket of ice cream, ice cream cake, and the calendar which is like for some ice cream stores, believe it or not, have a club you can join where every month you get mailed a coupon for a new delicious flavor of ice cream. It costs a bunch of money because it is really rare, but that’s what you get.
There are different levels of the funnel. You will notice that it is wider at the top and narrower at the bottom. Wider at the top is of course more people are going to try the free thing; less people will try the cone, less people will get a gallon, and very few people will go for the club.
Think of it as a yoga studio. The pink spoon would be a free class. The ice cream cone might be a drop in class. The bucket of ice cream might be a ten pass or a monthly pass. The cake might be a weekend workshop. The club would be the teacher training. Interesting fact, if you take out the teacher training at the sales funnel of most yoga studios, they will collapse within six months to a year. They will just totally not last. It is that important.
There is the bronze, silver, and gold sort of levels. You have seen this all sorts of places. You will see the image below and it gives you a sense of what the price points might be. The pink spoon is free. The next level is anywhere from $5 to $50, then $50 to $200 for the level after that, and then $200 to $500, and then the bottom level of $500 plus, as an example. It may vary.
The important thing is having levels.
There are a few reasons this matters so much.
First of all, consider the impact of trying to remove levels from the sales funnel. Think of it as just pink spoons. Cover with your hand the whole sales funnel and all you have is the pink spoons. You are kind of popular for awhile, but you are broke at the end and you have no ice cream.
And it is actually really frustrating for people who then discover a flavour they like and they want more. You tell them they can have another little sample, but that is all they can have. Eventually, that gets very frustrating for people.
But, on the other side of it, a yoga studio would collapse without the teacher training because that is where most of their money comes from. The yoga studio actually doesn’t make that much money from the regular classes because the teacher needs to be paid, there is overhead etc. Teacher trainings are thousands of dollars so that is where they make most of their money.
Imagine covering the sales funnel, except the calendar at the bottom of the funnel. That would be like walking into a yoga studio and saying, “Hey, I was wondering if I could do a drop-in class?”
They would say, “We don’t do that, but if you would like to sign up for our $3,000 teacher training you can.” You get what a huge leap that is. You walk in to a studio where you don’t know the teachers, you don’t know their philosophy, you don’t know anything about their platform or who they are, and they are immediately expecting you to make that kind of a leap.
Here is the really compelling piece that will just nail some of you. Take out everything, cover up the pink spoon, cover up everything below the ice cream cone. I would suggest that the situation most holistic practitioners are in, most holistic practitioners are in is a position of just selling ice cream cones.
That sounds like this: “Hey, thanks for coming in for the session. Would you like to book another session?” and then when they come back, “Would you like to book another session?” And figuratively, it is just selling ice cream cones.
I want to submit that that isn’t as safe for people as you would think. You don’t know if they want to try a whole cone. They just want to try a sample first. So it is not safe for them and it is not that sustainable for you.
Now you are stuck just trying to get new people in all the time, trying to rebook people, having that uncomfortable conversation. Having a sales funnel makes it much safer for people to engage at the level that feels comfortable for them. It also makes your work much more sustainable for you.
I will tell you a bit about my personal experience with this. When I first started off I was just doing workshops. I had no pink spoons. It was kind of hard to get people in my workshops. I had one workshop, this one weekend workshop called the Radical Business Intensive. Then I started developing some pink spoons.
I came up with my Niche Workbook. I came up with The Horrible Hundred, the Radical Business 180, these early diagnostics that are a part of the eBook that you can download on my Web site. I had those and those were great.
Then I had this intro workshop that I was doing. One day, I thought, I just need to record this, get it transcribed, so I can offer it as a pink spoon as a free thing on my Web site. I had that. People immediately loved having that. It didn’t make me any money but it helped me grow my list.
I combined the quizzes plus the transcript of that plus a few other things into this 200-page eBook (which is overkill). You don’t need that much content for a pink spoon. It might be too much, but a lot of people say they love it.
My blog has become a huge pink spoon. The great thing with the blog is that I am getting to a point where I can take some of those posts from my blog and move them into products. I take them off my blog, turn them into a product that I can charge for, but I got to share it and it got to be useful for people in the meantime, which I feel really wonderful about.
Then I noticed that I was getting a lot of people who were holistic practitioners. I created this workshop, Marketing 101 for Holistic Practitioners. That was another revenue stream. I had this other sort of more green business thing and the holistic practitioner workshop.
Then I created the “How to Create a Free Gift on Your Website”, basically, how to create the pink spoon on your Web site. That was a little bit additional revenue.
Then I was seeing that I had so many of my favourite clients who were just never going to come back to the same old workshop – so I designed a workshop called The HotBox which was invite only for my favourite clients. Five clients per workshop. 100% based in hotseats. Each person gets an hour of the groups time. I’ve done three of them so far and the results have been really powerful. I charge a sliding scale of $250 – $500 for it.
Then I got this crazy idea to package my weekend workshop, the Marketing 101 for Holistic Practitioners, into this six-week online course, which I have been enjoying so much, and that you are a part of. That has been really good financially, sustainably, etc. I charged $200 for a basic level and then offered the group course plus an hour of coaching for $300 and six coaching sessions for $700. I made $8400 or so. That’s more profitable than most weekends I’ve ever done (no costs for venue, travel, accommodations etc.).
Then I led a Niching for Hippies virtual course. The first time I led it, I charged $300 per person and got about 45 people. So, that was about $13,000 when it was all said and done. I did it again six months later and charged $600 for it and got 45 people. In the end, that was about $23,000 of profit.
My situation used to be, “I’m broke. I need to hit the road and do some more workshops.” But now I am actually hitting the road with money in my bank instead of the tank being dry.
As my sales funnel has become more robust, I can’t tell you the relief it is. It feels like the boat is getting so much more solid. It is not leaking as much. Again, not just being safer for people to check me out, but to uphold me. Also, I created a bunch of these case studies that are on my Web site for free.
But, it all starts with the pink spoons. It all starts with the free gift you can offer people. This is not a new idea. Ice cream stores do it. Bakeries do it. Grocery stores do it. Authors do it with ‘free chapters’ of their books and blogs. You should do it too.
It starts with giving people a way to sample what you have to offer with no risk, at no cost and that take zero time from you.
There’s nothing I know of that will help you build your list, deepen trust, connect with people and develop a following that having a thoughtful, well put together pink spoon.
If you’d like some help in creating one for your website, check out the “How to Create a Free Gift on Your Website”. I think you’ll love it.
And if you’re a service provider interested in how to create packages (rather than just selling individual sessions) then I highly recommend check out Rebecca Tracey’s program Hey, Nice Package!
And, if you’ve got a pink spoon you use successfully, please share it with us below in the comments.
PJ Van Hulle thinks that, while it might be lofty – with the right pieces in place, it’s not an unachievable goal.
I really love PJ. She’s one of the most genuine people but also so much smarter about online marketing than I will ever be.
She launching her List-a-Palooza telesummit at the end of May so I thought I’d interview her about the nuts and bolts of this strange beast of building one’s list. The telesummit is totally free to attend but I thought you might like to get the boiled down version of her point of view to see if it’s a fit for you worth exploring further.
Building your email list is a central piece of becoming a hub in the online world and moving from cold marketing (where you’re chasing strangers) to hot marketing (where your ideal clients are coming to you).
Why grow your list? Why is this something worth focusing on as an entrepreneur?
As an entrepreneur, your e-mail list is one of the greatest financial assets in your business. I’ve even heard experts say “your list IS your business.”
With a profitable e-mail list you can:
- Fill your seminars and programs
- Attract more clients and sales
- Turn current clients into repeat clients
- Promote other peoples’ programs that you believe in and earn $1,000?s in affiliate commissions
Having a big, profitable e-mail list provides entrepreneurs with an uncommon level of financial security because you can even out your cashflow and generate more income any time you need to, simply by sending out messages to your list.
Without a profitable e-mail list, being an entrepreneur can be so much of an uphill struggle that many lose steam and eventually throw in the towel.
So, YES! This is something worth focusing on as an entrepreneur. If you’re not focusing on growing your list, you’re setting yourself up to continue to work much harder than you need to.
Also, most of my clients care about making a bigger difference in the world, and having an e-mail list that you regularly provide value for allows you to expand your energy and your message to many more people and make a bigger impact, even if not all of them become your clients.
What’s the story of how you came up with this program? What was the need that you saw in our community around this? You’ve done if for a few years now it seems.
This is my second year hosting List-a-Palooza, even though I was planning on doing it only once.
In my Big List Big Profits program, I walk people step-by-step through how to automate their marketing and sales online, but there just wasn’t enough time to cover the plethora of traffic generation tactics out there.
My intention was to turn the recordings from List-a-Palooza into a product that I could bundle with the Big List Big Profits program so that once people had their marketing and sales infrastructure set up, they would have lots of great training on how to drive traffic into their automated system.
Well, List-a-Palooza ended up being even more of a hit than I imagined it would be, and I received a flood of requests to do it again.
I had a ton of fun doing List-a-Palooza last year, and this is a topic that I’m super passionate about, so I decided to go ahead and do it again.
I’ve seen how people get dramatically better results with specific training, accountability and the support of a community of like-minded people, so I’ve done my best to provide those key elements through List-a-Palooza.
Can you share the story of how you went about growing your own list? When did you start your business and what were the phases you went through in building your own list, where are you now?
When I first launched my business, I didn’t have an e-mail list or an Opt-In page or anything. I manually sent e-mails to people I knew, asking them to spread the word about a live event I was doing.
I knew that growing an e-mail list was important so I invested in a program called Constant Contact, which had done-for-you newsletter templates.
I hired someone to help me get my newsletter out, and I just couldn’t crank out content fast enough so it was hard to get the newsletter going out consistently, and eventually, I gave up on it.
My big breakthrough came when I created the Client Attraction Blueprint system that I now teach in my Big List Big Profits program. I created it for my Platinum Mastermind clients to help them organize all of their marketing and sales ideas together in one simple document.
I immediately applied this system to my own business, and the results were life-changing! I got more done in the next 4 months than I had in the past 4-5 years because that blueprint gave me a level of focus and clarity that I had never experienced before.
When an architect looks at a blueprint, they know what needs to be built in what order and how everything fits together.
Suddenly, I could see my business that way. Once I saw how my e-mail newsletter fit in to my overall blueprint, I became more inspired and motivated than ever to build my e-mail list and consistently provide value.
I finally got really serious about list-building about 6 years after starting my business.
I committed to consistently publishing my bi-weekly e-mail newsletter, Prosperity Express.
Now that I knew that the people joining my list would be consistently receiving value from me, I felt confident in growing my list.
I grew my list from 300 people to over 15,000 using a lot of the tactics we cover in the List-a-Palooza training calls.
What are the biggest blunders people make in growing their list? What are the things you see that make you cringe in people’s list building efforts?
I think the #1 biggest mistake is waiting to get started.
Growing your list is like taking advantage of compound interest. The earlier you start, the more consistently you make “deposits,” and the longer you nurture your list, the more profitable it will be.
NOT building your list is costing you every day, whether you realize it or not.
It took me 6 years to get serious about building my list… don’t make the same mistake I did.
The #2 biggest mistake is driving traffic only to a “Brochure” type website with a bunch of tabs (Home, About, Blog, Contact, etc.) instead of to an Opt-In Page.
The #3 biggest mistake is only sending out sales and promotions and never providing value for the people on their list.
Here are the things that most make me cringe:
- Seeing entrepreneurs invest $1,000’s on a “Brochure” type website that doesn’t even have an obvious Opt-In Box on it “above the fold” (where people can see it without having to scroll down).
- Receiving e-mails that address me in the second person plural. For example: “Hi everyone! Hi All! Hi Friends!” This is obviously a mass e-mailing, and I’m unlikely to read the message. Instead, I recommend addressing people in the second person singular. If you’re e-mail program can’t mail merge my first name in to the e-mail so that it says “Hi PJ!” at least write something that feels a bit more personal like “Hi there!” or just “Hello!”
- E-mails that are formatted as huge blocks of text all the way across the screen because they are very difficult to read. I recommend formatting your e-mails in short columns for easy reading.
Your 90 day challenge has the claim of ‘add ten thousand people to your list in 90 days’. That seems very bold! I’m curious, what would already need to be in place for someone for that to be a doable goal?
I offer that specific challenge to inspire the participants and get them into action right away.
I was actually shocked how many people joined List-a-Palooza last year that were just getting started with their e-mail lists.
In that case, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll add 10,000 people in 90 days.
However, many of the participants last year were still absolutely thrilled to have doubled, tripled or quadrupled their smaller lists.
In order to hit the goal of 10,000 new subscribers in 90 days, I believe that you need one or more of the following:
#1 – Time AND “Know How”: One of our List-a-Palooza speakers last year shared her exact strategy for adding 10,000 people to her list in only 45 days using Pinterest. She knew what she was doing and invested a significant amount of time and energy in pulling this off. Another speaker last year talked about how to drive tons of traffic to your website for free with Deal Sites (like Groupon or Living Social).
#2 – Money to Invest in Paid Advertising: Over 1100 people joined List-a-Palooza last year from Facebook ads, and I’m challenging myself to add 15,000 people from paid advertising this year.
The key to paid advertising is TRACKING the results from each ad. It’s amazing how wildly the results can vary from ad to ad. I create a separate tracking link for each ad I run so that I can quickly increase the ad budget if it’s performing well or stop the ad if it’s not performing well.
It also helps to have something under $100 to sell right after people opt in so that you can calculate the ROI on your ads right away.
When people opt in for List-a-Palooza, I offer them the chance to get the List-Building Success Kit with all the recordings for an astounding 90% off.
Not only does this provide exceptional value for the investment and build tremendous good will, it also lets me know right away which ads are working and which aren’t.
When you do it this way, paid advertising doesn’t have to cost a lot. You can start out with $5-$10 and go from there.
#3 – Powerful Relationships & Connections
If you are launching a new teleseminar or webinar or hosting a tele-summit (a series of interviews) and you have strong relationships with strategic alliances and or affiliates, you can add 10,000 people to your list in under 90 days by having them promote your launch.
For example, I just spoke on Vrinda Normand’s tele-summit, and over 11,000 people opted in for that event.
The point is…
Whether someone is just starting out or whether they already have a large list, I believe that “What you focus on expands,” and by focusing on building their lists for 90 days, especially with all of the resources they receive through List-a-Palooza, they’ll move forward MUCH FASTER!
And, then how do you do it? How does one go from adding a few people every week to thousands? What do you see as the most effective strategies for building ones list?
Here are the 3 phases of list-building as I see them…
PHASE 1: Getting Started
When you’re just starting out, I recommend reaching out to your sphere of influence and inviting them to receive your special newsletter or tips (whatever valuable free goody you offer on an ongoing basis).
Here are some places to start:
- Stacks of business cards you’ve collected
- Contacts in Gmail (or whatever e-mail provider you have)
- People in your cell phone
- Facebook friends
- LinkedIn connections
Send them an e-mail message to reconnect, inviting them to opt in to your list. I share some specific templates for this in my free report, “How to Jumpstart Your E-mail List.”
By the way, you need PERMISSION to add someone to your e-mail list. Otherwise, it’s considered spam. When someone gives you their business card, it does NOT mean they’ve opted in to your list (unless they specifically say, “Here’s my card… please add me to your list.”)
PHASE 2: Launching
Just like a rocket uses most of its fuel to get off the ground, adding the first 1,000 people to your list is the hardest, in my opinion.
You can accelerate your results in this stage by asking for referrals, regularly posting on social media, public speaking, attending networking events, and investing in paid advertising, like Facebook ads.
If you’re really ambitious, you can add hundreds or thousands of people to your list in a relatively short period of time by hosting a tele-summit where the speakers that you’re interviewing help promote the event.
PHASE 3: Leverage
As your list gets bigger and bigger, it’s easier to find strategic alliances and affiliates with bigger lists to promote you and vice versa.
Once you have an online sales funnel that converts well, it’s less scary to invest more money in paid advertising as well.
Who are the top three email lists (excluding our own) that you think really embody the principles you teach?
I stumbled upon her website online and opted in to her list because she was offering a free goody that I thought was valuable. Her e-mail newsletter captured my attention with good subject lines and useful articles, and I eventually purchased one of her programs.
She did a great job of building relationship with me through her e-mail newsletter, even though we had no previous connection.
Since then, we’ve promoted each other to our respective lists with great results.
I was so impressed that I invited her to speak on List-a-Palooza.
She also does a great job of consistently providing a lot of value through her e-mail newsletter.
She spoke on List-a-Palooza last year and the training she offered was fabulous.
It took me 10 years to find a financial planner that I could whole-heartedly recommend to my clients, and RC is it. He has also built a large e-mail list and a very loyal following (he’s sharing about how he did it on List-a-Palooza this year).
I really appreciate his regular Market Situation Reports and that he provides them in both video and transcription form.
What would you consider to be a good open rate and click thru rate these days for emails?
I think a decent open rate to shoot for is 20%. As for click thru rate, it really depends on the offer so I don’t have a specific rule for that.
Do you think that building an email list is where it’s at these days? It seems like there are so many email lists to be on and I know it’s overwhelming for me (and I’m in the business!). Where do you see email fitting into the larger picture of ‘staying in touch’ with clients? There are so many options for social media now too.
Yes, I do. Many people change their physical address more often than their e-mail address these days. They’re still opening and responding to e-mail.
And just because they’re on your e-mail list doesn’t mean that e-mail is the only way you can communicate with them. I also use text messaging (for people who request it), voice broadcasts, and regular snail mail.
Also, you can use your e-mail list to create a “Custom Audience” for Facebook ads so that only people on your e-mail list see that particular ad.
During List-a-Palooza, we do weekly “Power Hours” to help build each other’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest followings, too.
Ultimately, it’s not about e-mail specifically. It’s about taking amazing care of and providing exceptional value for your “tribe” in a way that’s also scalable for you so that you can make a big difference without burning out in the process.
You’ve also built a pretty incredible following on Facebook, could you share anything about how you’ve gone about that?
It started with a shift in consciousness…
Most people use their Fan Pages to talk about themselves and promote their stuff. Until the middle of last year, my Facebook page was all about me… what I was up to, what events I had going on, and so on.
Then one of my mentors advised me to stop making my page about me, and start making it about THEM (the people who like my page).
People go on Facebook to feel connected and be entertained (not to find out about your latest teleclass).
Give them what they want with funny, cute, beautiful and interesting posts, and they’ll give you what you want (likes, comments, shares, opt-ins, and sales).
So a lot of my posts have nothing to do with my business. I post pictures that make me laugh (like kittens in tea cups).
I know that some social media experts out there teach exactly the opposite and would sneer at me for suggesting such a thing…
But this has made my Fan Page go viral, and these cute and funny posts keep my engagement high so that when I do post about my business, people actually see those posts.
What most people don’t know is that Facebook tracks the “Virality” of every single post and expresses it as a percentage of how many people liked, commented, or shared out of the total number of people that saw that post.
If even one post has under 2% virality, Facebook stops showing your posts to as many people, even though they’ve liked your page!
That’s why most Fan Pages in our industry have NOTHING going on… it’s like a graveyard, which is heartbreaking because the owners of these pages have put all this time, effort, and possibly even money into growing these pages, and it’s they’re not going anywhere.
If this has happened to your page, you can build the engagement and “Virality” back up by posting some viral images (feel free to recycle some of the images on my Fan Page) and investing a few dollars in promoting those posts (click “Promote Now” in the bottom right of the post).
To check out PJ’s upcoming List-a-Palooza click here.
A few weeks ago, I realized how I take almost every client I work with through the same series of five steps. If you want more (and better) clients, you will have to, at some point, engage all five of these things. The bad news is that they’re not easy. The good news is that they’re really simple.
And they all start with knowing who is a perfect fit for you – who your niche is.
My dear colleague in the UK Corrina Gordon-Barnes (pictured right) just wrote a brilliant, brilliant blog post about the whole question of ‘what to call yourself’.
It’s a vital issue because what you choose to call yourself will have a direct impact on how memorable it is or isn’t and how easy it is to tell their friends about you. If word of mouth is the primary engine of marketing (and it is) then what you call yourself and how easy it is for others to remember and share matters profoundly.
If you do something with a funny name (e.g. permaculture, theta healing, appreciative inquiry, non violent communication, ‘the work’ etc.) you’ve no doubt noticed the glazed look people get on their faces when you try to tell them what you do. And you might also just not dig the generic title people in your industry use (even though it is clear). Perhaps you’ve been calling yourself a life coach, counsellor, dance teacher etc. but none of that really feels right or exciting.
So, what do you do?
You read this wonderful piece by my friend Corrina Gordon-Barnes.
To read her article click here.
Mike Rowlands, a Vancouver based marketing and branding expert is asking a group of thirty positive change makers one of the hardest questions they’ve ever been asked. He’s a very fun fellow but the question is serious.
“If you closed up shop tomorrow, who would miss you? And why?”
We’re all sitting in a circle in Olatunji Hall at the annual Social Venture Institute. And a lot of us are stumped. I’ve been teaching marketing to hippies for over a decade and I’ve never considered this question.
But it’s an important question because the answer to it helps you really hone in on the question of what makes your distinct, relevant and different? Why do people work with you vs. someone else offering a similar product or service.
It occurred to me that a lot of conscious entrepreneurs who are more political, locally minded and critical of today’s capitalist suicide economy would miss me. They’d miss getting marketing ideas from someone who shared their perspectives and take on where the world is at. They’d miss getting tactics and tips that didn’t feel gross or slimy to them, that fit within their ‘political analysis.’
It also made me think that some of my colleagues (to whom I refer a lot of business) would miss me because they love the kinds of clients I send them.
The things your customers and clients would miss most are likely the things that make you the most unique, different and relevant to them. And, if no one would miss you, it’s a good sign that there’s nothing different about you . . . yet. If there’s nothing they miss then there’s a good chance you’ve not found your niche yet.
I think about Remedy Café in Edmonton. If it died I’d miss their chai. I’d miss seeing all of my friends who hang out there. It’s a community hub.
When Edmonton’s Organic Roots grocery store died, I missed the opportunity to buy from an independent organic grocery store in town and support local.
If the Artery in Edmonton died, I’d miss the chance to support one of Edmonton’s quirkiest, coolest independent art’s spaces. I’d miss sitting on the stairwell that faces the stage and the incredibly cozy atmosphere it has like magic is happening there every night that the community is lucky enough to participate in.
If your project or business died, who’d come to the funeral? And what would they say in their eulogies?
Think about that. Contact that.
And then bring even more of it to your business. Build your initiative so that they’ll miss it when you’re gone.
Want Help? If you’d like some more direct guidance and hand holding on figuring out your niche then go and check out my Niching for Hippies coaching program http://marketingforhippies.com/niching-for-hippies/