What if I Can’t Guarantee a Result?

GuaranteeThis is a blog post I’ve been meaning to write for years.

Fairly often, in workshops, the question (and it’s a very good one) comes up: “What if I can’t guarantee a result?”

That question usually emerges from the shiny palace of conversations about creating guarantees, and better than risk free guarantees, doing clever and bold risk reversals etc. But, of course, not all kinds of work are suited for these kinds of marketing manoeuvres. 

Recently, in the Meantime Program I’m leading, someone shared the following comment which contains this same admirable problem.

“It’s difficult/impossible to predict an outcome from Reiki treatments. There are 2 reasons for this: 1. If I did identify a specific condition that Reiki could help people with I probably couldn’t advertise the fact due to the Advertising Standards Agency not accepting that Reiki is effective for any medical condition (without the ‘robust’ research to back it up they say it’s not acceptable). 2. Probably the stronger reason is that what happens as a result of Reiki treatment is not predicable because it’s not under my control: what the Reiki energy does for each individual depends on their sub-conscious need on that particular day. I cannot, in all integrity, promise any specific result, because I don’t know what it will be. I know that I can offer a compassionate, non-judgemental healing space where change is possible, but nothing can be guaranteed.  There’s a more predictable outcome for people I teach Reiki to: that they will have healing in their own hands. So should I focus on this instead? However that doesn’t really work in terms of the funnel because most people need to receive treatment first.”
So, you can see the sticky wicket here. 
 
Let’s retrace our steps a bit.
 
Your business is like a boat that can take people from Island A (where they’re suffering from some problem) to Island B (where they have some result they are craving). These are the basics I delve into in the Marketing for Hippies 101 program.
 
That’s the essence of a business, that journey.
 
Stated another way: without the journey, there’s not much of a business. There’s just a boat. 
 
Stated another way: every business exists to solve a problem. If there’s no problem to be solved, there’s no business.
 
Stated yet another way: if there’s no result being offered, then it begs the question if there is a problem or if what one is offering is, in fact, a solution in search of one.

So, in this case, she can’t advertise to treat a specific condition because a) it’s illegal and b) it’s unpredictable.

What to do?
 
Consider this, as it is always vital to do, from the side of the customer and imagine how it might feel to them for someone to say, “Pay me money. Then you’ll lie down. I’ll do some things on you. You may or may not notice anything. It can be very subtle. But, if, in the next few weeks, something good happens, then I’ll take credit for that. If nothing happens or something bad, I’ll say it’s either so subtle and powerful you can’t notice it or that your fear is getting in the way.
 
Consider how that might sound less than accountable or desirable to most people. 
 
So, what does that tell us? First of all, that her ideal client is not going to be most people. That her ideal clients are going to need to be people who are already open to, at worst, and irresistibly drawn to, at best, energy work – in particular, Reiki. These are people who will understand the idea that energy work is unpredictable and not be bothered by it.
 
That’s distinction number one.
 
Tied to that, fundamentally, her target market is going to need to be people who want to get on her boat (even just to sail around). They will need to be people who want a reiki session and be happy to pay for it. They need to be people who wouldn’t need or even want any kind of guarantee. People who want to enjoy a “a compassionate, non-judgemental healing space”. And she will absolutely get clients based on this alone. There will be people who want those things. There will be people who meet her and think she’s so lovely and want to hire her. She will meet people who have been dying to try out reiki and say ‘yes’ to her. That will all happen.
 
The only question is, will it be enough to sustain her. If it is, then I would encourage her to just enjoy that.
 
But if not, it’s likely got something to do with what we’re left with in her scenario. We’re left with someone saying, ‘My boat is beautiful. I can’t promise to take you anywhere, but it’s cozy inside. And everyone is welcome.’
 
Which isn’t bad (truly). But it’s not great (double truly). 
 
That offer is the offer of a ‘generic healer’. Of which there are likely hundreds, if not thousands, within 50 miles of where she lives. And more and more every year.  
 
Of course, the immediate response is often going to be something like, “But this can heal anyone! That’s the best part of this modality! It’s for everyone!” 
 
It’s for everyone? Maybe so. But you could make the same case for yoga and I could give you a lot of examples of different niches people have found in that world. Or permaculture. Or Traditional Chinese Medicine.
 
The ‘it’s for everyone!’ approach will work if you want to do reiki as a hobby for friends, but you are unlikely to build much of a business out of it. To continue the boat analogy, it would be like someone going down to the harbour and seeing thousands of identical boats. How are they supposed to choose? I’ll tell you how… price. They will go for the cheapest one.
 
In terms of the Four Stages of Business Growth, this is classic stage one.
 
What that means is that, as it stands, her marketing plan needs to be geared towards finding people who want “a compassionate, non-judgemental healing space”.
 
Huh.
 
And where would you find those people? Is it possible that this is actually code for every human on the planet? And why would they want it from her vs. someone else? And, if they want that but haven’t tried reiki yet, how do you get them to try?
 
It could also be that her target market, a bit more narrowly, could be those who just want a straight up reiki session. But, again, many of the same questions arise. Where do you find them? What makes her different than the thousands of others who do reiki?
 
You see the marketing questions that immediately arise. 
 
So, what’s clear is that, to make the marketing planning easier, a bit more focus and definition in her niche could be useful.
 
There are, fundamentally, two different approaches to this. The Artistic approach and the Entrepreneurial approach. I got into these in much more depth in my book The Niching Nest.
 
The Artistic Approach: I would encourage her to clarify what it is she most wants to give and how. I’d encourage her to look in the marketplace and notice what she sees is missing that she’d like to offer. I’d want her to clarify her point of view, find her voice, bring her personality more to the forefront, tell her story and speak about why this work matters to her so much. And I’d want to know all about what kind of lifestyle she might want. I’d be so curious about which parts of her work she loves the most and which parts she wouldn’t mind losing. I’d want to know which conversations come up between herself and clients that she’d love to explore more. I’d want to see her try to sum up her platform in a page. And then to weave that together into the most clear and beautifully offering she can manage. It would end up looking something like these.

Then, the basic pitch is, “Here’s the art I make. If you like it, great. If not, I bless and release you.” 

And, once she was done that, I’d invite her to consider who might be most interested in that.
 
Thomas Leonard, the grandfather of the modern life coaching movement operated in this way. And he was a business coach. People would ask him what results he would guarantee and he’d tell them he didn’t guarantee anything but that he was pretty sure they’d be happy with the results. They’d ask him why on earth they should hire him at his high rates then. He’d tell them, “You probably shouldn’t.” And often they’d hire him anyway. He refused to get caught in the trap of promising something that was out of his control.
 
But, and this is an enormously important part of it, he had the skills and competence to back that swagger up. He was incredibly good. 
 
The Entrepreneurial Approach: I would encourage her to hone in on one particular target market (i.e. a particular group of people struggling with a particular problem). She might ask herself, “who needs a compassionate, non-judgmental healing space who I most want to help?” and then focus her marketing efforts on them. Then, the basic pitch is, “I’ve created this thing to help you solve your problem and here’s why it’s so good.” It would end up looking something like these
 
And, once she was done that, I’d invite her to create the most wonderful and creative offer she could.

But, for this to become a solid business, one of those needs to move. 

Until one has a solid niche, it’s difficult for much to happen. I can promise that, as her niche gets clear, many of these questions will answer themselves. 
 
You can find a lot of free help on your niche at www.NichingSpiral.com 
 
Seven Things to Look at When You’re Struggling With, “But I Can’t Guarantee my Offers!”:
 
When people say, “But I can’t guarantee anything.” It’s often code for:
  • competency: real talk. This is the big one. It’s very easy to hide incompetence underneath a blanket of jargon and bullshit and claims that the process is unknowable. Facilitators, consultants and healers do it all the time. But, as shaman Martin Prechtel said, and I’m paraphrasing, “If people don’t get better, don’t call yourself a shaman.” Not that it’s controllable but, if there’s never any measurable or noticeabable result, then who are you kidding? The truth is that if you help people get better, if you help them produce a measurable, noticeable, and meaningful result in their life that they’ve been craving but could not produce on their own, you won’t need to worry much about marketing or worrying about not being able to guarantee your offers because the word of mouth will be so strong. If people come to you with back pain and leave without it, if they come to you suspecting an emotional cause to their physical ailment and you help them solve it, if they come to you with heartbreak and you help them find some meaning or peace in it, if they come to you struggling with their finances and you help them find clarity… they will tell everyone they know about you and, because the recommendation is coming from a friend, asking for guarantees are likely to be the last thing in their mind.
  • niche: as you can see above, the lack of a niche means there’s no particular journey being offered. This makes it impossible to guarantee anything. Because there’s no ‘thing’ to guarantee. After reading a draft of this post, the Meantime participant who had emailed me about the issue with reiki wrote me the following,

Wow thanks for writing the blog about my question Tad. Yes I understand your points. I think my issues are 1) not wanting to opt for a niche in the past, still lingering a bit – because yes Reiki can help anyone with anything if they are up for it 2) Not being clear enough about the niche I want to serve – and perhaps not daring to 3) Not having clear packages/free stuff/funnel although this started to evolve at the beginning of this year and I think more clarity on this will help. Perhaps a shift from seeing what I offer as just Reiki and more as a wider ‘package’ – something about self care and self honoring perhaps. Healing seems too vague as an offering, so I know I have to try to get down to who I really love to help.”

  • your map: If you’re taking people on a journey from Island A to Island B, they may not need a guarantee if they trust your map and the route you have plotted out. Sometimes them just knowing you’ve got a clear plan, process, perspective, approach, philosophy or set of principles on which you base your work is enough to eliminate any need for a solid guarantee. Not sure how to do that? Here are Five Steps to Identify Your Point of View.
  • how safe your clients are feeling: fundamentally what’s being hinted at here is the sense that people perceive some risk in spending their time and money with her. And so, to address it, we offer guarantees. What’s important not to lose sight of is the fact that the guarantees are just a tactics to address the underlying issue of fear. They’re a tactic to help people feel more confident in their investment. And they’re one of many tactics. Other ways to reduce risk include testimonials, online video, writing blogs, certifications, public speaking and leading workshops etc. Any kind of free sample you can create will be a huge help. Creating compelling packages is another way to reduce risk. All of these tactics will do ten times more for you with less effort if you have a clear sense of your niche.
  • are the results you’re offering big and vague?: if you’re making vague they will come across as untrustworthy. If you claim to be able to help everyone with everything, you will absolutely come across as a charlatan. It’s such an unbelievable claim. Sometimes the result we’re offering is too big. And sometimes while we’re not guaranteeing any particular big result, we’re implying it with phrases like, “this can help anyone with anything.” And when people feel uncertain they’re going to want more reassurances from you (such as guarantees). 
  • what can be guaranteed: you can’t guarantee everything, but there are often parts of it that you can. The whole conversation around guarantees is bigger than this blog post can handle but, in this context she might be able to guarantee that she’ll do everything in her power to make the space as compassion, non-judgmental and healing as possible. She could even get specific about how she does that. She could set agreements between herself and her client that would have them feel safe. She could guarantee her part of the process (e.g. ‘I commit to spending 30 minute in meditation at the start of each day and showing up to sessions well rested. I commit to continuing to grow in healing my own life. I commit to continuing education‘).
  • what your clients can guarantee: sometimes we can’t guarantee things because our clients actions are out of our control. You can make it clear what you need from them for the results to happen as promised and, if they’re unwilling or unable to do that, that you are free from any promises you made. That could look like committing to some basic health and stress relieving tactics everyday. It could look like showing up to sessions on time. Being willing to do some reading. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this below in the comments.

The Four Stages of Business Growth

wood-outdoor-stairs-landscaping-steps-1Business is like a staircase which it’s best not to skip any steps.

One of the things that can put us squarely and repeatedly into what I call The Meantime is not understanding what stage of business we are at (or even that there are different stages of business). A classic blunder is for people to try and skip a stage. They are working a job and quit it to start their business hoping to land right in Stage Three when they’ve barely begun Stage One. And, the reality is that it takes a year and a half (at the very fastest) to three years to develop a solid business – and that’s with consistent focus. All due credit to my dear friend and colleague Mark Silver for introducing me to this idea. 

So, let’s look at the stage of business growth and see if we can’t find where you are.

Stage Four: Independence - At this level, you could go on vacation for six months and your business would still be making money for you. You likely have many people working for you and airtight systems in place.

Stage Three: Momentum – At this stage, you likely have a full time employee or two and your business is generating enough revenue that everyone is getting paid a fair amount. You are thriving. Your have a solid niche and business model. In momentum, there’s a firming up of your business just as plants get that woody growth that prepares them to bear fruit later.

Stage Two: Concentration – At this stage, you might be beginning to get some part time help but you’re only barely paying the bills in your business. You’re squeezing by and the money is up and down. You focus on your marketing and money comes in but then you focus on delivering your products and services and the business dries up. Back and forth. Feast and famine happens a lot here. But, at this point, you’ve figured out your niche and what your business is about. You’re getting the business model down and developing the systems you need. This phase is like the phase of rapid growth of a plant. There’s a lot of hard work and a lot of learning here.

Stage One: Creation – In stage one, you’re doing a lot of experimenting still. You don’t have a clearly defined niche yet. You likely have no help at at all with your business and you are absolutely not able to sustain yourself financially – you can’t make a living at this level. In creation, things are new. You’ve had the idea to start a business and are full of excitement. The seed germinates and begins to sprout. At this stage the plant is far too soft and flimsy to bear much weight. It’s very flexible but not that sturdy.

Which stage are you at?

The enormous payoff of knowing this is the dissolution of stress when you realize that you are precisely where you’re supposed to be (e.g. If you’re in stage one and confused why you’re not making a living, well… be confused no more! You aren’t supposed to be! You’re supposed to be sorting out your niche). 

 

Video Interview: Danny Iny on The Positioning Matrix

As many of you know, I’ve just launched a new website all about how to successfully navigate the often difficult and perilous journey of figuring out your niche. More about that soon.
 
But one of the best tools I’ve ever come across in figuring out your niche was something I heard about from one of my favourite colleagues Danny Iny. It’s called The Positioning Matrix. I recorded a 45 or so minute conversation with him about it where we tried to figure out the niche of Danny’s ideal massage therapist. Good times. The film quality is pretty fuzzy but the sound’s good. 
 
This tool is so simple but can have such a profound impact. Go watch the video and then give it a try and let me know, in a comment below. what you come up with because I’d love to include your example in a thing I’m working on.

 

Here’s the PDF of his notes.

Guest Post: What Packages Are, Why They Matter, Three Big Mistakes People Make With Them (and what you can do instead)

 

2417_2by Rebecca Tracey of The Uncaged Life

This blog post is about the three big mistakes you might be making with your packages.

Of course, this assumes you know what I mean by the word ‘package’ and, if you do, that you are currently offering packages.

But let’s start with this…

Since I started my business 3 years ago, I have worked with hundreds of holistic practitioners (particularly service-based folks like life coaches and nutritionists) in the online space, and I have noticed that one commonality between most of them that really holds them back in business –  They are fantastic at what they do, but they aren’t offering it in a way that is best suited to help them grow their business.

Of course, this isn’t their fault.

They went to school, learned how to master their craft, and then were sent out into the world to figure out this whole business thing on their own. No one taught them how to sell, or how to market. If you’ve been reading Tad’s blog for a while, you know the story.

Chapter One – Excitement: They get into business and hang up their shingle. They make a website, list their hourly rates, and they are off to the races.

Chapter Two – Vanishing: They get clients, and work with them for a while, and things go ok, but eventually those clients start to drop off. This can happen for a number of reasons – people get busy. Budget becomes an issue. People start to make your work together less of a priority. They need more clients.

Chapter Three – Stress: They stress out, because the income they thought they could count on is up in the air with each client who drops off, so they have to constantly hustle for new clients.? But how many do they need? What if all their other clients drop off soon too?  It’s all a guessing game at this point – income isn’t consistent, there is no way to know how many people you will be working with at any given time, and it feels like a constant hustle.

Chapter Four – Exhaustion: Soon they are exhausted trying to find new clients. Will things ever even out? Will this ever feel sustainable?

Chapter Five – Realization: They realize they need to ask clients to come back. Or they need to find a better way to make sure clients stay committed to the work they are doing. But again – how?

Chapter Six – Asking: They ask. And then they ask some more. And they keep asking with every client they get. But they wonder if there might be a better way than asking individual clients to come back for individual sessions. Something better than will help clients commit to longer term work together, wihtout constantly having to awkwardly ask them if they want to keep going.

Chapter Seven – Packages: Maybe they hear about the idea of creating ‘packages’. Aha! They could ask their clients to come back for not only one session but a series of sessions. They invite clients to book three massages. Or to sign up for a monthly membership thing. They do this but they find the response to be underwhelming. Getting clients to commit to ongoing work together proves challenging, and the result sis till the same – people drop off and they are left back where they started.  They never know whether they will have enough clients to fill their roster, or enough money to pay the bills.

 At the end of this all they feel deflated, like giving up and like their business will never be sustainable (for their energy or their bank account)

 

 They know they need a better way, but what?

 

The solution is to create results-based packages for their services.

A package is a way of putting your services together that allows you to create some consistency in your business.

 

A Package Has Four Qualities: 

  1. a defined length of time
  2. defined results
  3. a defined price
  4. serves as a direct response to your clients needs.

It’s created to help give your client understand the full value of your services, and often includes more than just  your time (ie. you may include worksheets, or email support, or weekly homework – something that happens outside of the time they spend with you). It could be just a one-time session, or it could be a six month agreement – the key factor is that it is creating an experience for your client that is based on getting them a defined result.

YOU are the expert in your business, and it is up to you to tell a client how long they will need to get the results they want. Afterall – if a client drops off midway through your work together, they won’t get the full benefit of your service. Similarly if you are selling one-time sessions and billing by the hour. if a client doesn’t see results right away, they may not come back.

Packages ensure that clients are on board for the full experience with you.

 

Three Reasons That Creating Packages is a Fantastic Business Model: 

Reason #1: Packages are easier to sell. Like ten times easier to sell. Packages are results-based, which means instead of selling your time, you are selling results. Clients love this, because it helps them trust that they will get the help they need.

Reason #2: Having packages lets you predict your income. By charging clients the package price instead of an hourly rate, clients sign up to commit to the whole package, which means they are less likely to change their mind of drop off midway through your work, because they have already committed to a set amount of time and set price.

Reason #3: Packages can be a part of your sales funnel, and can encourage repeat business. Once a client has gone through one package with you, they will have (ideally) achieved the results they want. But that doesn’t mean ALL their problems are solved. You can have different packages that cater to different parts of their problem, which means that after they finish working with you (assuming they loved it – which they will!), you are able to make sure you have something else to offer them.

Creating packages is a great next step if you have been dabbling for a while and are ready to create consistent income and streamline your processes.

But not all packages are created equal, and there are ways that you can tailor your packages to make them unique in your marketplace, and easier to sell.

After seeing so many failed packages (and having created a few myself in the past in my business) I started paying more attention to what works and what doesn’t, and experimenting with my own packages. As it started to become obvious that there are common mistakes that many practitioners make with their attempt at packaging, I decided to do something about it, and developed my own system for helping people stop making these same mistakes, and learn to put together their offerings in ways that will sell. It’s called Hey, Nice Package!  – because every good package needs a good name, right?

 

Three Big Package Making Mistakes (and what you can do instead):

Mistake #1. Having open-ended packages with no defined end date.

This happens a lot with life coaches in particular (ie. Work with me 3 times a month, for a minimum of 3 months, and we’ll go from there). Creating packages that have no defined scope is like waiting for your partner to propose when he keeps saying it will happen “someday” – it leaves your clients wondering if they will ever get what they want.

Imagine going to the dentist for a filling, and him telling you that it will take minimum 3 appointments to complete, but that you’ll continue to come in once a week after that, for an undetermined amount of time, because the results really depend on YOU… oh, and each month you’ll pay him a fee. No thanks.

Then imagine going for a second opinion, and having the dentist tell you “Yep – I can fix that in 3 appointments, and it’ll cost ya $500”.

Which dentist are you going to? That’s what I thought.

It’s the same with selling services online. No matter what you do, whether it’s tangible or super vague, you need to outline a timeline for your clients

What to do instead: Create packages that are just that – the whole package. Tell your client how long it will take them to get the results they want, and the total price. Yes, this can be scary, and of course, there are never any guarantees, but YOU are the expert, and people want you to take charge and let them know what they need to do.

One of my clients Sarah made this small change, and it has done wonders for her confidence in selling her services. She was offering really long-term coaching packages (6+ months) helping people who are dealing with grief, because she thought that’s what she was supposed to do as a life coach. But it never felt right to her. After working through Hey, Nice Package! she realized she could have the same impact in a shorter amount of time, so she created her Good Grief 4 week package and has never looked back at the old model. You can check out her package here to see how she did it.

Mistake #2: Having a zillion different package options available.

A confused mind is a non-buying mind. If you have so many options for ways to work with you that people can’t even keep track, or don’t know which one they need, they will turn away, never come back, and shake their fists at you from afar. This would look something like giving your clients the option of a one hour session, or 2 sessions a month, or 4 sessions a month, or one session every 3 weeks, or, or or… Confusing, right? If a client doesn’t know which one they should buy, they might just click away. The easier you make it for them to say yes, the more likely they will do just that.

What to do instead: Start with 1 or 2 focused packages and take your time to fully market those. When you offer something super specific and unique, people pay attention, and it’s much easier to sell! Once you’ve built up an audience and have become known as an expert in one specific area, it gives you some traction to be able to expand your business down the line.

My client Joanna, an intuitive healer, took this approach and it helped her create a waiting list for the first time ever! Her biggest struggle was that she didn’t know how everything she did fit together into a whole. She was offering channelled readings, past life readings, intuitive art workshops, soul messages – all kinds of things, and it was all feeling disjointed and overwhelming not just to her, but to her clients too. Once she figured out how these things work together as a coherent whole, she was able to create a really targeted package called Magic By Email and focused on marketing just that one package – and it continues to sell out weeks in advance!  You can see how she has structured her package here.

Mistake #3: Selling intangible results

This is typically a life coaching problem, but it can show up in other industries too (read: no one is safe.) As holistic practitioners, we tend to be shy about guaranteeing anything for our clients, and really taking a stand with confidence in what we are offering. This problem usually arises for anyone who does work that is more intangible and has somewhat vague, undefined results. Telling someone that you will help them “realize their dreams” isn’t tangible enough of a result. Neither is telling them “You will get out what you put in”. That’s all well and good – but assuming they put in 100%  – what will they get? If you can’t tell them, they won’t buy.

What to do instead: You need to determine what exactly the tangible results are that you’re offering. And those results have to be something they want. Doing some market research and really tapping into your client’s language is the best way to make sure that you are speaking in terms of RESULTS in your packages. This is pretty easy to do too! Simply find 5-10 of your ideal clients and ask them if you can hop on the phone with them and ask them a few questions. Dig into what they are struggling with, and what they want that they don’t currently have – and be sure to record the call so you can listen back to their exact words, and then use those words in your marketing. Voila – copywriting done for you, and a WAY clearer picture of the tangibles of what you are actually selling.

For example, a client of mine Makenzie is a career coach who was working with people to help them “find their life purpose”. The problem was, most of her clients weren’t really looking for life purpose – they just wanted to quit their jobs and find work they loved. They kept saying they wanted to stop hating their Mondays!

As you can see, there was a disconnect in what Makenzie was selling, and what her clients really wanted. Once she got clear on the tangible, real world results of finding one’s life purpose (that finding life purpose, to most people, really means finding a new career they LOVE), she was able to create a unique system for working with her clients, so she now has an effective system and a streamlined way of working, AND people are clear on what they will get when they hire her, which saves so much time emailing back and forth about what they can gain by working with her. If you haven’t made your packages tangible yet, this is a small tweak that could start bringing in new clients immediately. Check out Makenzie’s package here to see how she did it.

If you’re a service-based business and you’re selling packages online, avoiding these 3 mistakes will go a long way in helping you attract the right clients and stand out in a sea of sameness in the online market.

If you’re still struggling to figure out how to create packages, or want a deeper dive into how to create packages in a way that will help you build a solid, sustainable business model, check out Hey, Nice Package! – an online course that will give you a step by step system to creating your packages, getting clear on your pricing, and learning everything you do fits together so that you’re never left guessing what to create next – you will always have a system to come back to so you never run out of new ideas. Grab it here.

Bio: Rebecca Tracey is the head/only honcho at The Uncaged Life where she works with clients from all over the world who want to have the freedom of working from anywhere by running their own online business. She helps people figure out what their true business message is, helps them create packages that sell, and helps them actually take action on the things they want to do. Rebecca runs an online community of over 2500 solopreneurs. She started her business while living in a van, loves rock climbing and riding her bike around Toronto, and is genuinely obsessed with helping people live their version of Uncaged.

Top Ten Blog Posts on Figuring Our Your Platform (77 pages worth!)

TopTenOver the past decade, I’ve written a lot of blog posts. Over 500. 
 
But there are ten of them that most get to the heart of really figuring out what I would call your platform (what you want to be known for). My guess is that you’ve only seen one or two of them. 
 
Figuring out your platform is the most critical thing you can do in your marketing. Without a clear platform, your marketing will feel clunky and awkward. Without a clear platform (or you could say brand, identity or reputation) success in business becomes extremely difficult.
 
I introduced the idea of the platform in my blog post The Three Foundations of a Thriving Business. It spoke to what your platform is and where it fits in your overall marketing strategy. This is one of the core pieces of my marketing workshop. 
 
So, to help you figure out your platform, here are my Top Ten Blog Posts (which, if you printed them off in size 12, Goudy Old Style (the best font)) would total 77 pages. 
 
 
Blog Post #1: The Three Roles of Marketing: This blog post sets the stage for the importance of having a clear platform as it attacks, head on, the central assumption that ends up making marketing and sales feel bad for all involved. What is that central assumption? It’s the idea that marketing has only one role. What is that role? To get people to say ‘yes’ to buying your products and services. I think that is wrong. I think there are three roles in marketing. And none of them, provocatively, have anything to do with getting anyone to say ‘yes’. You can read that post here
 
Blog Post #2: We Might Be a Fit If: What if one of the three roles of marketing was all about establishing if you and the potential client were a fit for each other (rather than assuming that everyone needs what we have to offer)? I want to submit that your clarity around this issue of ‘who is a fit?’ is the most central question you can answer and that 90% of the marketing struggles I see come down to a lack of clarity around this issue. This post is chock full of specific questions you can ask yourself to get clear on who is and isn’t a fit for you. You can read that post here
Blog Post #3: Polarize: This blog post builds on this idea and takes it further by suggesting that the reason most people’s marketing doesn’t succeed is because it’s acting as a seduction rather than a filtering process. What if the role of our marketing wasn’t just to attract the people for him it was a fit but to actively turn off and repel the people for whom it wasn’t a fit? You can read the post here
 
Blog Post #4: Your Platform in a Page: This is likely the post I’ve sent out to the most clients I’ve worked with as a first step. When people want to work with me, this is the post I send to them as homework to get grounded and ready for our session. Their answers to this help me laser in on where they are clear and where they aren’t. It’s divided into six areas of your platform with the best three questions I could come up with for each. You can read that post here
 
Blog Post #5: Island A – The Painful Symptom: This is the most important thing you can figure out in your marketing platform. Island A represents that problem people are having to which your product or service would be a solution. 90% of clients I work with do not have this figured out. This is simultaneously the simplest and yet most difficult of issues to figure out. But, once you’ve got this nailed, your marketing becomes ten times easier (without exaggeration). This is one of the longest posts I’ve ever written. It’s crammed with examples, case studies, criteria and specific questions to guide you in figuring this out for your situation. It’s one of the most practical posts I’ve ever written. You can read that post here
 
Blog Post #6: Island B – The Results They Crave: This post is the other side of the Island A post. If Island A is about the problems with which they’re struggling, Island B represents that results they are craving the most. Again, this post is deep and extensive. You can read that post here
 
Blog Post #7: Island C – The Unimagined Possibility: Sometimes you’re offering something that’s so new that they didn’t even know it existed or was possible for their lives. If that’s the case then you need to market what you’re doing in a different way. If your work is cutting edge and is usually new to most people who hear it or if you’re offering a result that’s so much better than what most people assume is possible this post is a must read. You can read that post here
 
Blog Post #8: Island Z – The Unspoken Fears: This is a piece I almost never speak about at my workshops, but, if you want to have a clear platform and understand the people you’re trying to reach, it’s essential. Island Z represents the very real fears people have of what might happen if they don’t handle their problems now. These fears are often secret, unspoken but ever present in their lives. Your ability to really understand and empathize with these issues is huge in your ability to build trust. You can read that post here.
 
Blog Post #9: How to Identify Your Own Message: Years ago, I heard one of my colleagues say, ‘Don’t market yourself. Market your message.’ and I sat with that for a long time considering what it meant. Your message is a core part of your platform and it’s something that most businesses haven’t figured out. You can read that post here
 
Blog Post #10: How to Figure Out Your Why: Simon Sinek wrote the brilliant book called Start With Why which lifted up the message ‘people don’t just buy what you do, they buy why you do it’. I was powerfully struck with the truth of this message and, since then, helping people figure out the deeper purpose behind their business has been a core part of the platform work. You can read that post here
 
I hope you find these useful and I’d love to hear your comments in the comment section of the blogs themselves. 
 
 
 

The Three Roles of Marketing

three-fingersThis is one of those things that is actually very important to get about marketing that I talk about really seldomly but should probably talk about more. 

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.

Most ads fail to meet these criteria. They talk all about the business. Which no one cares about. People care about their problems and the results they want. That’s it. 

 

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). 

Why not?

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. 

It’s vital.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: The New Marketing Model for Success to Help you Create Marketing Messages with Integrity

lisa manyonBy: Lisa Manyon “The Business Marketing Architect”

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. Trust your intuition. If you follow some of the traditional copywriting formulas, your marketing may just miss the mark.
  5. Nothing truly flows when it comes from a place of pain and fear…

Brief Bio:

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

Guest Post: A Simple Formula to Create Marketing Messages With Integrity

lisa manyonBy: Lisa Manyon

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.

the four generations of opt in marketing

2182_Four-generations-20120811-1-958x538This 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.

Great!

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.

 

do you have a pink spoon in your marketing?

icecreamfunnel

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.

msfunnel

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.