Eight Business Building Thoughts from Rebecca Tracey

Rebecca_9202_Cropped_SmallRebecca Tracey of The Uncaged Life (pictured right) is one of my dearest colleagues. She’s produced solid, reliable content with an attitude and personality that is unique to her.

She’s getting ready to launch her program Uncage Your Business in a few days and I wanted to do the best possible job at introducing her and her content.

So here are eight, big business-building thoughts from her.

The first six are quick, straight-to-the-bottom-line blog posts (I’ve included some teaser text for each of them but you can click on the links to read more).

The last two are videos that require (and are worth) an email opt-in.

Thought #1: Don’t Make A Website for Your Business Until Your Read This

“Unless your business is super solid and you are crystal clear on what you do, who you work with, and how you do it, any efforts to build a website or come up with a great logo are a massive waste of your time.”

Thought #2: 3 Reason You Need to Be Selling Packages

“If you’re a coach or any other kind of solopreneur who wants to be able to work online, you might have heard me bang on and on about how to create your packages for your business. But after chatting with some people in my free Facebook community, I realized that the idea of packages may be new to you, and not entirely clear.”

Thought #3: Why Choosing A Niche is So Hard (and how to make it easier)

“My take on niche is simple. Forget avatars. Forget ideal client. Forget age ranges and demographics. Focus on PROBLEMS.”

Thought #4: Your Message And Why It Matters

“The only way you will get clients is if they can understand what you do and see that it’s something they need. If you can’t describe it or get all wordy and stay with the higher level stuff, no one will get it and their eyes will gloss over and they will head for the drink table before you even finish your 5 min rambling elevator pitch.”

Thought #5: The Best Way to Get More Clients Quickly

“I’m all about the slow build and taking the time to build something solid and sustainable – but I’m also all about paying your rent and being able to eat and stuff. So here’s what I recommend for getting clients right NOW in your business, while you work on the more sustainable methods in the meantime.”

Thought #6: 3 Ways to Sell More

“We have all seen it (and let’s be honest, we’re all sick of it). The vague, wishy washy, “sounds nice but I’d never buy it” kind of offers. The ones promising you authenticity, your best life and business, that promise to help you thrive, or raise your vibration, or find vitality, or claiming they will help you leap over the hurdles in your business (and life!), help give you energy for new possibilities. And so on. Hell, you might even be sick of your OWN packages and descriptions of your services (you wouldn’t be the only person reading this who feels that way). And being sick of your own work is NOT good for business. So how to we clear away all the clutter and actually create packages that offer results, and then sell those packages in a way that actually speaks to people?”

Thought #7 (12-min video): Why you’re not making any money in your business

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Thought #8 (20 min video): How I Grew My Business Quickly

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If you haven’t already, I encourage you to check out her Uncage Your Business program.

The Power of Sticking Around Long Enough

patience1-1It’s happened a number of times to me now.

I meet someone or some across a business which provides a product or service that I see as needed and that I might want to recommend.

And then they go out of business. Or they stop doing that thing.

And it’s often before I’ve really had the chance to get to know them or had much occasion to spread the word about them. It’s frustrating because I love knowing who to send people to if I can’t help them.

I’d be speaking with someone and say, “Oh yeah. John does that kind of work. He’s great.”

And then someone would overhear me and say, “Oh. John stopped doing that a few months ago. Now he’s onto this other thing.”

Niche switching is a natural thing to do. It happens all the time. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s often exactly what you need to do.

But it takes a while for a reputation to be made. It just takes time and most people quick or change direction before they get there. They’re digging a well and, a foot before they hit water, discouraged, they stop digging there and start digging somewhere else and so they never reach the life replenishing stream under the ground.

In business, those waters are the natural flow of word of mouth that sends you business without you even lifting a finger. It’s the power of becoming a hub, becoming a trusted advisor, expert or ‘go to person’ in any particular arena. That does the marketing for you. If you stick around long enough, hustle while you do it and connect with other hubs in a good way, without three years, everyone knows who you are and what you’re about.

If you work on the issue of trauma for three years in a community and do your best to get the word out there, keep at it.

If you do a unique kind of yoga, have a niched permaculture business, have a business based on a particular target market, or based on a particular thing you’re offering, if you have anything even close to resembling a niche, you do a great job and you stick around long enough in business, you will develop a reputation as someone to go to for particular issues or for particular things. Just by having stuck it out long enough you will have a name in town for doing things. Most people give up on this too soon.

But it takes time.

Most entrepreneurs don’t stick around long enough to really get known for anything.

Most entrepreneurs do not persist and play the long game.

Get Rejected Faster

sales-rejectionSo many people are scared of getting rejected in business.

I get it.

But the fear of rejection comes from the idea that there’s a way to move through this world without being rejected which isn’t true. What’s really going on in those cases is that the people have figured out only how to delay the inevitable rejection and make it more painful for everyone. This is often a case of collapsing.

Imagine you romantically like someone but, rather than telling them and making it clear at some point early on in the proceedings, your fear of rejection highjacks you and you pretend that all you want is to be their friend. And so you pine away and suffer in their presence until one day you finally speak up and… are either rejected or embraced. The rejection (or embrace) was coming anyway. You were only delaying it.

The strategy to delay rejection is all about being neutral.

It’s about evoking a maybe response from people. We never ask for the business so they can’t say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. We never really put out our point of view so we’re always seen as a ‘maybe’ candidate but no one ever hires us. We live in the land of fuzziness but what we don’t see is the cost of this. What we don’t see is that people might actually be rejecting us for our mediocrity. The idea that you can be everything to everyone is a myth. There are those who won’t like you because you’re such a generalist. There’s no way to win the entire marketplace. And so, given that there’s no way to avoid being rejected, given its inevitability…

I recommend the fine art of getting rejected faster.

10891943_10155030148285195_5263621552349272916_nTo be clear, I’m not suggesting your court rejection or seek it out.

But I am suggesting that you take risks that could result in your being rejected.

This means seeing marketing not as being about convincing anyone to say ‘yes’ to you but rather about filtering people out as efficiently and artfully as possible.

In practical terms, this could look like many things.

It could mean that, you start off your cold calls by cutting right to the chase of the problem you help people solve to see if they’re needing help at all.

It could mean that you get really clear about your point of view and clearly communicate it in all of your marketing material.

It could mean tightening up your home page so that people who aren’t a fit leave faster and stop wasting your time.

It could mean being much clearer about what it looks like to work with you.

It could mean creating an Are You Sure? Page that people visit after your sales page so that anyone who isn’t a fit doesn’t sign up.

It could mean letting loose and writing a really good rant.

It could mean saying to someone, “You know… I think I might be able to help you with this issue. Would you be open to hiring me?” and seeing what kinds of conversations it opens or closes.

It likely means getting clearer about your niche.

And it always means being vulnerable. It means having your outcome being to get to the truth of if it’s a fit as directly as possible.

Here’s what else getting rejected faster means.

Less wasted time.

Less suffering.

The end of ‘hope’ being used as a drug as you convince yourself that ‘there’s so much potential business in the pipeline’.

Time freed up to find and work with people who are a better fit.



Farmers Market Marketing Series #2: Six Overarching Ideas for Success


IDEA #1: Quality. 

First of all, obviously the bottom line is that you must have fresh and good quality products. And secondly, I’m assuming you’re not an asshole. If you don’t offer the former and are the latter, this blog post won’t help you. You need quality control and years of therapy. This is usually a non-issue but I’ve heard a few horror stories from people about their experiences at Farmer’s Markets. If these two are handled (and in 90% of cases they are) then you’re well on your way.

IDEA #2: Decide what you want to do yourself and what you want to outsource.

It’s important to remember that, just because marketing needs to happen, doesn’t mean that you need to do it all. You’re in control of that. Some you’ll want to do yourself and some you’ll want to outsource. Once you’ve sorted out how you want to market yourself, it’s wise to sit down and look at how much time and money each option would cost if you did it yourself vs. hiring someone else to do it. Do you want to do your own book keeping? Your newsletter? Running the Farmer’s Market stand? Your photography and web designer? Or would it be better to bring someone else in? Sometimes hiring someone else to do it is actually the more profitable thing to do.

IDEA #3: Get more support. 

Farmer’s are profoundly overworked and constantly in need of more hands on deck to pull everything together. Getting seasonal interns (in exchange for boarding or on the farm experience through the WWOOF, local agriculture students, local permaculturists who are thinking of getting into farming, market patrons or your local community) or volunteers for workbees can be a godsend and free up a lot of time.

IDEA #4: Do more of what works.

If you’re a farmer and have vended at a farmer’s market even once, you’ll have already learned something. You’ll have tried some things that seems to work. Do more of those things. This seems obvious but I can’t tell you how many entrepreneurs I’ve met who, when I asked, “How did you built your business in the beginning?“, tell me a brilliant strategy that they no longer do. When I ask them why they stopped doing it, I get blank looks and they finally say something like, “Huh. I don’t even know!” This is often the easiest thing to do. Go back to what worked when you were getting started and full of hustle.

IDEA #5: Educate and tell your story.

This is, perhaps, the biggest overarching theme. Every chance you get, tell your story. This idea overlaps with many of the others to come in this series. People love to hear the stories behind what they are buying. It’s easy to assume that people know more than they do about your farm and your food.

Marketing is about establishing the value beyond the immediately apparent.

I can promise you that 99% of the most compelling parts of the story of your business and your products are not clear to your customers. You’d be amazed at what they don’t know. Don’t assume that everything you put into your farm and your products is immediately apparent to anyone. Marketing is fundamentally about story telling and educating.

You can tell the story of:

  • how your farm started
  • why you choose to grow one type of produce vs. another
  • why you choose x method over y?
  • why do you grow the food you do?
  • what’s the story of the land you’re on?
  • what’s the history of farming in your area?
  • why do you charge what you charge? why does it cost what it does? what are your margins and how much do you need to even break even (very few people will understand this).
  • what are the extra things you do to make sure the quality stays high?
  • does your farm have an ethnic heritage?
  • what sets you apart and makes you different from other farms?
  • always confirm what is thought to be known (fresh, organic, local)
  • the specifics about crop varieties. Why did you choose it? Where is it from originally and how did it get to be here? What are the traditional uses of it and stories about it?

How do you tell your story? There are so many ways. It might be bit by bit, in conversations with your customers. It might be through social media or your email newsletter. It might be at talks you give or in newspaper articles about you. There are so many ways and you’ll learn more as you keep reading.

IDEA #6: Specialize in something.

This is another big one.

Figuring our your niche might just be one of the toughest nuts to crack in the business world. Tough enough that I created a whole website, The Niching Spiral, dedicated to it.

It’s a bit overwhelming going to a Farmer’s Market and seeing everyone offering all of the same things. If every table has beets, squash, lettuce and carrots, for example, then how do I choose from which table to shop? At that point, the answer might just be, which one is closest to where I am standing but it also might be some combination of the other things.

If you offer something that no one else at the market is offering, you will become known for that. If you’re the only one who makes mango lhasis, sells honey, has the best heirloom tomatoes, grows your food bio-dynamically it will be a big help in people remembering you and make it easier for other patrons and vendors to direct people to you.

Consider all of the different ways people have created niches in the field of permaculture.

Lisa Kivirist of Hobby Farms writes, “How is what you’re selling different than other vendors at the farmers’ market? Sometimes it helps to specialize in selling varietals of one distinct item, such as garlic. Another route is to creatively package your items. Sure, a lot of farmers may be selling red, ripe tomatoes, but what if you sold green tomatoes, along with your recipe for fried green tomatoes?

Shayla Mihaly says, “I know where to get the best greens (Star Route Farm) and the best Peaches (Frog Hollow). Then there is the wheatgrass and sprout guy, the place to get lavender, the organic non gmo soy, the honey people….. and Cap’n Mike’s smoked fish. So, what are they known for?

Brian Parsons adds, “Also, you have to remember that if you have 10 farmers stands, all selling eggs and potatoes, then you basically have 10 competitors… so you can have potential conflicts, tensions within the farmers market itself… in fact, that is the same with any market environment. And so it is not just a question of how you differentiate yourself from the large supermarket, but also from the stand next door selling the same stuff as you.”

Deb Vail shares her experiences of  having her farm in NC which outgrew her and her family in nine years, “We sold it two years ago because we got too big too quickly and couldn’t keep up at our age. We did no advertising at all… but I will pass on one thing that helped us tremendously – We divided out our CSA for only veggies and then sold only flowers at market. I suppose that’s niching. It worked well to be the only farmer at market that only sold flowers – we were the experts.”

Daleen Adele Thomas sums it up, “Only grow/farm what you love/are good at. If you grow great lettuce but small turnips, why grow turnips?

Please leave any thoughts, tips, resources or ideas that could help farmers grow their businesses in the comments section below. After a few weeks, I promise to read through them all and weave anything relevant and useful into the blog itself so that they can be of the most use to the most farmers.

Save The Bros

This ad is amazing. Save the bros. Before it’s too late.  

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.”
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 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). I recall being at a networking meeting in Calgary where everyone introduced themselves. One lady shared her work which was so incredibly vague, new agey and ungrounded and, when she was done there was silence and everyone sat there in an uncomfortable trance of trying to understand what she’d said and also not wanting to make eye contact with her at all. Then my friend Adrian Buckley shared about his incredible permaculture work where they’d do permablitzes and install an entire permacultured landscape in a day and the room broke out into applause. People knew something real when they heard it.
  • 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.


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 Your Business Isn’t Telling You – The Eightfold Path of Tracking

by Tim Emerson of KwanYinHealing.com

gI_135471_tim-emersonA few months back, Tad asked me, along with other Niching for Hippies alumni, for feedback on “The Niching Spiral,” and what other suggestions we might have.

I shared that I liked the spiral imagery. 

In my experience at least, a niche isn’t a one time decision, but rather, a process of continually self-discovery and how that relates to your Big Circle (assuming you’ve given up trying to help absolutely everyone as an unworkable fantasy). Part of this journey is uncovering who shows up—for Tad, this was holistic practitioners in his workshops and then, later, permaculture practitioners;  for me, it was recognizing that alternative/socially-conscious entrepreneurs were my primary clients, even though I’m not a business coach (and don’t want to be).  Part of this was trying things to see how they worked—my early “Healing for Healers” program was met with great enthusiasm . . . and little investment.  It’s why we “date” niches instead of asking them to marry us immediately.   Some relationship we repair and heal.  Some we end, moving on.

Along these lines, I suggested Tad include tracking as a niching tool.  Tad is always curious and searchingly pointed about new ideas, and after an interesting conversation, asked me to share.   So here I am, but beyond niching, I’m here to make this key point:

If you aren’t tracking, you don’t know your own business. 


And this is true of even the smallest businesses, the ones where of course you know. 

I get that this reads like a bold statement.  Let me share my experience. 

Kwan Yin Healing is a boutique business.   I work with spiritually-conscious people, open to the idea of energy healing, who are struggling with healing needs in a broad context, from physical pain to life path confusion, and who are ready to move forward on a comprehensive map to peace.   For me, that means programs that really delve into working together to successfully resolve problems.  And that means higher end offers with fewer clients than a high-volume/low-cost model.   So in my first few years in business, that added up to a few hundred clients from half a dozen countries.   Not too difficult to keep straight in my head, right?

Still . . . the tax man likes to see numbers, and prefers these numbers based on reality.   So, I sat down to list my clients, what they bought, who was coming back for additional programs, who was referring people, and what everybody spent (including the free sessions I gave away), just to see (since I had to do it to get an accurate income figure anyway).  And, I thought maybe I could see going into the future something helpful in regard to the 80/20 rule.   Just being proactive, I thought. 

What I learned is that I had been clueless.   And I wish I’d known what I learned months earlier.  It really would have helped. 

1) I had no idea who my real clients were.

Turns out, the 80/20 rule was a joke.  Try 95/5.  Yup—95% of my income (vs. my business time) came from just 5% of my clients.   Those 5% were also 100% of my referral sources.    Nearly 100% of my repeat business too. And incidentally, these 5% continually showed up on my free teleseminars, called in when I did radio interviews, participated in surveys and on social media.  

These people are my Tribe.   They like me.  They follow me.  They talk about me to friends.  But all my marketing and outreach efforts were geared to the 95% that was showing me little love.  No wonder building my business was so excruciatingly slow!

I kicked myself.  Then changed course immediately. 

2) I didn’t know what my real work was.

Very early in my business, I went after this idea that “some people get healing, some don’t.”  The standard “maybe they weren’t ready” wasn’t enough for me—it begs the question.  WHY aren’t they ready?  What would they need to get ready?  Why don’t they have it now?

Tracking brought the first answers.  I looked at the many rows of free sessions—and I didn’t mind doing those sessions, and had no high expectations they would lead anywhere.  But I noticed something interesting – these people weren’t getting the results other clients were getting.   I was intrigued by this because other clients were sometimes getting spectacular results from the first session—one client who had been seeing a chiropractor weekly for a year after an auto accident was told that he didn’t know why, but her C1 vertebrae had moved back into place, that her high blood pressure had dropped to normal, and she didn’t need to come anymore.   I noticed, though, that these first session successes were almost all from clients who had signed on for a longer commitment (working through other issues beyond physical symptoms). 

Another client found relief from his tortured back and from the nerve damage in his foot—and went on to deeper work, and had significant realizations about where he was in life and why.  Yet he never followed up and made changes . . . and after a time, the pain returned.   Meanwhile another client, who kept going to the chiropractor for tightness in his back that kept him from practicing martial arts, felt it tightening again on his way home after each visit, until we worked together and brought lasting relief.  

It was following through with each client’s commitment that I discovered the Four Pillars of healing:  Clarity, Connection, Coherence, and Change.  With all four, clients got results.  If one or more was missing, results suffered or vanished.    I never would have seen this (or would have taken much longer to uncover it) had I not been tracking.  These Four Pillars are now the cornerstone of all my work.

3) I got an unquestionable lesson on the quality of my systems.

If you’ve never read Sam Carpenter’s book, “Work the System,” you should. Systems are the difference between struggling and succeeding, between the feast or famine cycle and sustainability.  

Fortunately, evaluating my systems didn’t take long at all—my tracking experience revealed that I clearly didn’t have any.  I only thought I did. 

So how would I track my systems?  First I’d have to decide what I needed to measure, and then, I’d have to set up the systems for achieve those things reliably. 

In short, I realized just what a mess my business model really was.  And how to fix it.

4) I had no idea I was so fiscally irresponsible.

I’ve always held some criticism for those “bean counters” in organizations looking at the bottom line, those perceived as myopic, heartless, soul-less vision-killers.   And now I openly apologize to them, and recommend every organization run out and get some.

The second year, I had promised myself not to let tracking go so long again.  And—once again, found myself doing it the week before my accountant needed the information (see #3 regarding no systems—those systems were clearly going to need some system for accountability). 

Well, I knew my clients and their situations better now.  What I didn’t realize was how much money I had made.  I stared in amazement, and reran the figures, thinking I must have made a mistake.   Then I wondered—if I made that much, what did I do with it???

Then I ran expenses.  I knew I had spent more than I’d have liked, and had hung on too long with a campaign.   But when I had the figures in front of me, I wished I’d had them months earlier, because I would have pulled the plug 2/3 sooner than I did.   And there were a number of categories that totaled much more than I would have guessed.

Just as the bean counters warned – you can increase your profits just by paying attention to income and expenses.   I wish I had started doing this sooner.

5) I didn’t even know what I knew.

My most successful marketing to date has been teleseminars.  They always have generated new clients, and they’ve generated nearly all of my high end clients.  

I promoted these primarily through Facebook (a third of my email list found me there).  But Facebook keeps changing the rules of the game, and a series of these changes turned a lucrative strategy into a worthless one.  Now what?

Enter tracking.   My teleseminar strategy isn’t necessarily dead—only one part of it.  I have good data on how many people will sign up, how many of those will be on the call, how many of those will convert.  I can go back and add the missing data—how many people did I need to reach to get those sign ups.   Since the rest of this is solid, all that’s missing are new paths to the teleseminar sign-up.    The rest I already know—and know well—from tracking.

6) I didn’t know which were the weak links in my marketing.

Once I finally got the message that tracking was important, I started to pay attention to other things as well.  

A lot of activities and options sound cool, but are they helping the bottom line (See my new-found kinship with the bean counters?  I’m already learning the lingo)?

I have a press release package – do clients find me that way?  Do they click over from social media?  Do they click the links from guest blog posts?  

Not that the bottom line has to rule everything – but now I can make the choice.  Am I investing wisely in paid marketing?   What’s the return?  Are my activities worth the time and trouble (and if I just flat out enjoy them, that counts too)?  To what degree? 

Point is, I don’t have to guess.  I *know* what’s working and what’s not, and can move to deciding what to fix, what to adjust, and what to abandon.

7) I didn’t have any way to know how to make my business sustainable.

Without tracking, I had no way to plan.   That left me with no strategies for getting there.

But once I know here’s the financial goal, here’s how many clients that would take under different options, here’s what I have to do to meet that many clients, here’s how many people I need to engage to meet that many clients, here’s how I’ll need to do that, here’s what those activities would take in terms of planning and time, and suddenly, I have a calendar and business plan. 

Just like that.  And I can track it to see how it’s working.

8) I didn’t realize I was mistaken about my niche—or why. 

Tracking keeps me honest about who I think I help.  Because if I’m going to track this, I need something to track.

Remember my Big Circle?  I help spiritually-conscious people who are nonetheless struggling with life path or health.   They’ve taken the yoga and T’ai Chi classes, they mediate, they attend the right seminars, read the right books, eat the right granola – and yet things are coming together for them.  

Great!  So where do these people hang out?  And to address what particular need?

Hmmm…see the problem?  This is too vague to name—and hence track.  But I *can* start naming sub-sets within that Big Circle.  All of these are possible Little Circles, and potential niches, complete with people looking for that help, places to find them:

  • people who suffer chronic pain, are open to energy healing, and want to find relief 
  • small business owners who want to authentically walk with their divine selves in daily life
  • people making the transition from corporate jobs to more spiritual entrepreneurship
  • people working through emotional challenges—stress, overwhelm, trauma, divorce…
  • people in an awkward time in their lives, not really knowing what they want to do 
  • people looking to deepen their connection to and awareness of their spiritual selves 

Now, what’s trackable here?   Notice some of these are clearer than others.   And to find hubs, clarity will be essential.

The clearest of these is the first one – suffering chronic pain, looking for relief.  It’s simple, it’s straight-forward, it’s something people actually say about themselves and actually seek. 

So let’s test it (Wow!  Now I have an R&D department, all from tracking!).   

Do you (or someone you know) suffer from chronic pain?  How would you describe that pain, on a scale of 1-10, ten being unbearable, 1 being barely noticeable?  See how we’re going to track that progress?

If you’re open to the idea of energy healing, and are ready to find relief without medication, then visit to http://kwanyinhealing.com , drop me a note, and we’ll set up a free phone consult to discuss it.   In this consult, you’ll (1) gain clarity about your health and what’s possible for you, (2) identify key milestones and key obstacles to a pain-free life, and (3) leave the session feeling renewed, inspired, and re-energized.   

I’ll be tracking the results.

Tim Emerson
Kwan Yin Healing

And the Winner of our 2014 Niching Contest is . . .


I am so thrilled to announce the winners of the 2014 So You Think You Can Niche? contest!

Backstory: throughout the month of April I invited people to submit 120 character niches (that’s shorter than a tweet!), and if they submitted a niche, then I asked that that they rate at least five other people’s niches from 1-10 and offer feedback to one another. 

 The results were staggering. We had 126 entries, over 1000 facebook “likes” and over 2500 comments – amazing! I am blown away by the quality of content and interaction, it’s been a wonderful success. 


And the winner is: Audrey Wong!



Audrey received an overall rating of 10, and of the four overall 10’s in this contest, she had the most ratings in comments – thus making her our winner and proving that the amount of rated feedback really did matter! Our sincere congratulations to Audrey – she entered an excellent, clear niche for her company Living Lotus. She will take home the first place prize of a 90-minute coaching session with me ($450 value) + she’ll be featured on my blog in the future + a $100 gift certificate at her favourite locally owned restaurant + a free hardbound copy of The Niching Spiral!

Our 2nd and 3rd place winners are Debra Graff and Ruth Schwartz respectively. Each of these women receive a 10 rating and had the 2nd and 3rd most ratings in comments of all the 10’s. They will each receive a 30-minute coaching session with me + an electronic copy of The Niching Spiral.

DebraGraff RuthSchwartz







The lovely nichers who placed 4th through 10th each wins $100 off my next Niching Spiral Mentorship program (a discount the winner can use or pass onto others). And they are: 4th: Shannon Lagasse [10]; 5th: Kim McNeil [9.75]; 6th: Sudha Devi [9.5]; 7th: Shay Sampson [9.5]; 8th: Jennifer Seitzer [9.5]; 9th: Deborah Epstein [9.5] and 10th: Wei Houng [9.5].

fourth to tenth

Best Photo Awards go to: Yahya BakkarAudrey Wong, Kevin GebertDebra Graff, Ruth SchwartzClaudia Richey and Shellie White Light. Each of these people wins $100 off my next Niching Spiral Mentorship program (a discount the winner can use or pass onto others).

Best Photo

The Best Comments Prize go to the people who gave the best feedback to others, and they each get $300 off my Niching Spiral Mentorship program – because they’re the kind of people I want in it. Thanks for the amazing effort and deeply thoughtful feedback folks, my congratulations go to: Jennifer SteinbachsJoanna FreeLorraine WatsonMonika DenesManal Khalife and Briana Barrett-Squirrel.

And lastly, the Good Comments Award goes to anyone who gave at least five quality pieces of feedback (beyond just a rating number). These good commenters will each get $100 off off the Niching Spiral Mentorship program. I was thrilled to see so much thoughtful feedback offered and gracefully received during the contest. Congrats to: Claudia Richey, Michael Moon, Shannon Lagasse, Jennifer Seitzer, Deborah Epstein, Nicci Tina, Tara Jeanine Gilmaher, Rose De Dan, Kari Pickler-Hughes, Erik Arendonk, Mary Reynolds Thompson, David Jurasek, Aga Wiklo, Barbara Steerman, Lisa Marie Haché-Maguire, Stacye Leanz, Grace Gerry, Chelsea Coghill, Sue Burness, Carolien Oosterhoff and Janet Matthies. 


 Below is a list of the final ratings for everyone who entered the contest.

The calculation was made by finding the average score of your ratings and averaging that total with Tad’s rating. Congrats and thanks to all to contestants!


First Name Last Name Overall Average Rating
Audrey Wong 10
Debra Graff 10
Ruth Schwartz 10
Shannon Lagasse 10
Kim McNeil 9.75
Sudha Devi 9.5
Shay Sampson 9.5
Jennifer Seitzer (fruit picture) 9.5
Deborah Epstein 9.5
Wei Houng 9.5
Carolien Oosterhoff 9.5
Judie Barta 9.5
Yahya Bakkar 9.5
Claudia Richey 9.25
Szarka Carter 9
Tina Cunningham 9
Susan Kendal 9
Monika Denes 9
Lisa Haché-Maguire 9
Jennifer Seitzer (forest photo) 8.75
Jennifer Summerfeldt 8.5
Olga Minko 8.5
Laura Probert 8.5
Manal Khalife (photo) 8.5
Tanja Gardner 8.5
Amelya Cohn 8.5
Lorraine Watson 8.5
Jenn Scalia 8.5
Rev. Faye Thornton. M.Msc. 8.5
Nancy Reilly 8.5
Lyndon Hannaway 8.5
Bettelou Soosaipillai 8.5
Mzima Scadeng 8.5
Chelsea Coghill 8.5
Ortixia Dilts 8
Claudia Ferretti 8
Emily Gardner 8
Sybil Cope 8
Janet Matthies (“unique 1 on 1”) 8
Jane Binnion 8
Nicci Tina 8
Alisoun Mackenzie 8
Barbara Steeman 8
Erica Sosna 8
Megan Devine 8
Makennah Walker 8
Crystal Wilson 8
Shellie White Light 8
Michael Moon (music) 8
Jennifer Steinbachs 8
Nicole Allard 8
Sonia Dabboussi 7.75
Louise Eistrup 7.5
Christopher Shirley 7.5
Mary Reynolds Thompson 7.5
Tahra Makinson-Sanders 7.5
Krayl Funch 7.5
David Jurasek 7.5
David Jurasek (for men) 7.5
Brenda Scarborough 7.5
Sarah Blick 7.5
Aga Wiklo 7.5
Mark Keane 7.5
Jutta Nedden 7.5
Krystal Williams 7.5
Michael Moon (astrology) 7.5
Kari Penner 7.5
Heather Loewen 7.25
Anne Baker 7
Wendy Curran 7
Janet Matthies (Asian-inspired imagery) 7
Tom Ellis 7
Kari Hughes 7
Aline Verheyen 7
Briana Barrett (Squirrel) 7
Rose De Dan 7
Rebecca Allen 7
Mary Choo 7
Umang Goel 7
Michelle Reynolds 7
Kevin Gebert 7
Carrie-Ann Baron 6.75
Nicole Moore 6.75
Sue Burness 6.5
Bradley Morris 6.5
Manal Khalife (flowers painting) 6.5
Ivana Siska 6.5
Joanna Free 6.5
Lisa Manyon 6.5
Narayani   6.5
Stacye Leanza 6.5
Alya Heeds 6.5
Nana Jokura 6.5
Derik Eselius 6.5
Iona McArdle 6.5
Joy Caffrey 6.5
Erik Arendonk 6
Janet Matthies (girl stretching photo) 6
Shell Mendelson 6
Suzanne Walsh 6
Carol Fenner 6
Fiona Hughes 6
Mary-Carla MacDonald 6
Philip Sarsons 6
Patti Obrist 6
Alix Jean 5.75
Bob Reckhow 5.5
Stephanie Lin 5.5
Lara Narayani Golland 5.5
Rae-ann Wood-Schatz 5.5
Grace Gerry 5.5
Angela Davis 5.5
Ling Wong 5
David Dressler 5
Greg Macdougall 5
Tina Huang 4.5
Madeleine Innocent 4
Janet Matthies (flowers photo) 3.5
Tara Gilmaher 3.5
Silke Neumann 3.5
Frederic Wiedemann 3.5
Layla Tahoun 3.5
Don Ollsin 3.5
D. Scott Brown 3.5
Anaiis Salles 3

Six Social Media Lessons From Our 2014 Niching Contest

Screen Shot 100Throughout the month of April we ran a contest called So You Think You Can Niche? 2014 inviting people to submit 120 character (yes, that’s 120 characters, not words!) niches in a meme format, laid over a photo of themselves – extra points for non-selfies. Because … too many selfies! 
Participation in the contest far exceeded our expectations with 126 entries (we thought 75 would be awesome!), over 1000 “likes” and more than 2600 comments – what?! And, though I made the blunder of not noticing how many “likes” my facebook page had before the contest, I am pretty sure the contest added 200 people there too.
We’re almost done the exhaustive job of tabulating results from this spectacularly successful adventure, but before we do our last review, confirm all the numbers and announce the winners, we thought we’d share some of the things we’ve learned from this process.
There is much that I learned from the contest about niching but I wanted to share some of what we learned about the technical side of things.
1) Facebook Pages are a terrible promotional platform but an excellent conversational platform.
For me, this was the biggest lesson.
For all of the reasons laid out in the following video, facebook pages are a terrible marketing platform. You are much better off building your email list, using youtube, twitter, instagram, pinterest or other forms of social media that your people follow. Facebook shows everything you post to a fraction of your followers and only shows it to more if people actually interact with it. And, if you want to make sure everyone sees it? You need to pay them. It’s a brutal set up. So, while I recommend having a facebook page so people can find you easily online, I don’t recommend them as a core marketing strategy in the same way I would with other forms of social media. 
Having said that, facebook pages provide an excellent forum for people to have conversations about things. Why? Well, for this contest in particular there are a few reasons that standout.
  1. Most people are already on facebook so that eliminates the barrier to entry of having to sign into a new forum and remember their username and password. 
  2. People know how facebook works. It’s not a whole new interface to learn. This is a big deal. If you try to get people to use a new system and they have to think about it at all, most people will just drop off. 
  3. You can tag people on facebook to draw their attention to things. In this case, when I gave people feedback on their niche, I could tag them most of the time to let them know I’d done that.
  4. Facebook has photo albums built in and you can comment on photos. This is so huge. Last year, when I ran this contest for the first time, I just used my blog and invited people to post their niche statement in 120 characters in the comments below. And then you could comment on people’s niches right there. It worked but it kind of broke wordpress. Over 1000 comments later it was incredibly hard to find what you’d posted or that person you’d been meaning to comment on. I knew that, this year, I wanted to make the contest image based so it would be easy to organize the submissions into a single album (making them easy to find and link to) and easy to comment on.
Facebook is designed for conversations in a way that would be impossible to replicate at this point and the whole goal of this contest was for people to not only post something for my evaluation but to encourage everyone to comment on each other’s work and learn from each other in that way.
This means that the average submission got at least 16 comments on it. 16 pieces of honest and useful feedback from their peers. 
And, if your goal (and I think it should be) is to become a hub then the goal must shift from simply talking at people to engaging in a conversation with them. But if you really, really want to be a hub, then you need to think about ways to make it easier for them to talk with each other. This contest did that. Creating a facebook group on a relevant topic, or for your group program does this. 
Facebook pages suck for marketing but they’re brilliant for creating a space for conversations.
2) Contests can work to engage conversation. This contest is a glowing example of some great community engagement between people who work and offer a wide range of services and products, offering genuine, useful critiques and engaging in useful, respectful, productive conversation. 
Contests have a lifespan. There’s a day they will end. There are prizes. These thing encourage people to actually go and get involved in commenting. A note: make sure you offer prizes for not only the best submissions but the best and most comments. If the goal is to encourage conversation, then you need to reward that too.
Of course, you can simply do the kinds of contests where the person with the most ‘likes’ on their photo wins, but I’d invite you to consider the potential power of not just making it a popularity contest but, also, a learning experience. 
3) Images/memes work well. This is, in many ways, no surprise. While words matter and a well crafted niche will enlighten a reader as to what you do or offer, a great image helps to grab attention. Adding your niche over a colourful, happy, striking, appropriate (etc) photo can really help with face and business recognition.
And you no longer have to be a Photoshop professional. There are many apps that allow you to pop some text over a a photo, as you can see in the variety of niches submitted. Here are just a few (of the many out there) that allow you to add frames of different shapes and dimensions, to overlay text, to use photo effects, to edit images and to collage more than one image together: DipticBeFunky and Frametastic.
I judged 100% of my scores on the words entirely though I couldn’t help but notice the power of the right image and the right design to help bring the words to life. 
But don’t just think of memes for contests. More and more businesses are getting on this whole notion of creating memes for their business as a whole. Simply a great quote followed by the name and website. If they’re good, they get shared far and wide and can act as a path to your website. 
Speaking of which – this also means that headshots matter. Getting a professionally done headshot is, in my mind, a must. You can trade services for it, but get it done. And this photo must capture, somehow, as much of your platform as possible. If your business is about inner peace – can the photo capture that in you? If you have a rebellious, spunky vibe – then your photo can capture that. If you work with herbs, the photo can be of you at a table with some plants and tincture making material etc. 
4) An integrated social media approach works best. This contest lived in an album on my facebook page. But if I’d relied only on that page to promote it I would have had maybe five entries instead of 126. This is crucial. I think the future of social media is not necessarily about any new ‘facebook killer’ social media site but, rather, the integration of them all in your marketing approach.
In this case, I wrote a blog post describing the contest. I emailed me list of about 10,000 people with the link to the submission form. The photos were then put up by my assistant Susan. Once enough were up, we’d email the list again with an update on the contest and some of the best examples from the contest to inspire people. Every time we emailed the list, we got more submissions.
My email list was how people heard of the contest, facebook was just the place the conversations happened.
A huge blunder I see people making these days is trying to build up their social media following and ignoring their email list. Your email list is, and will, for the forseeable future be, the workhorse of your marketing. You are not in control of changes that get made to facebook or twitter. And they make changes all of the time. Not always for the better. Facebook events are wonderful but not everyone is going to see them. Your emails are the most likely to be seen. 
Having said that, an integrated approach works best. To promote this contest we:
  • created a blog post for it that notified people subscribed to my blog
  • emailed our list
  • tweeted about it
  • told my colleagues about it
  • created a hashtag for it and gave people prewritten tweets and facebook messages to share that directed folks back to the album or the blog post  
5) The point is to learn, not to win. In a few cases, it seemed like some people had asked their friends to come and give them a 10. Which wasn’t the point of the contest. The point was to get honest feedback on how strong their niche was. 
6) Being kind matters. A simple but import idea. When offering constructive criticism it genuinely helps the receiver to stay open and consider what’s on offer without feeling attacked. There were numerous great examples of this in the comments on the niches. And this matters. If you’re hosting a conversation and it gets unpleasant, people will leave and not come back. That’s not good for your business. It’s bad news for becoming a hub. It’s why clubs have bouncers and a zero tolerance policy on harassment or violence. You want to make sure your home is a safe home for people to be in. If it is, they’ll come back again and again and again.
Stay tuned for the results, we are working as fast as we can. An invitation to resubmit your niche will arrive soon as well, allowing people who are interested to apply their feedback, distilling and clarifying their niches even further.
Tad and the Marketing for Hippies team