Helping The Helper

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Sometimes you’ve got to ask yourself, “Who is it that’s helping the one I want to help?”

Sometimes your target market isn’t who you think it is.

Famously, FedEx made the mistake of thinking that their clients were the CEO’s of companies when, of course, it was actually the secretaries and executive assistants who would be using their services. Marketing to the CEO’s failed. Marketing to the administrative staff succeeded. The most brilliant ad directed to the wrong person is doomed to fail.

A colleague of mine, a copy-writer, ran into a problem one day. His wife had come up with a relaxation CD for stressed out brides. He’d written the copy himself. It didn’t sell. He asked high-priced colleagues of his to help him out. It didn’t sell. He was flummoxed. When I looked at the situation, it seemed to me that he had his ladder leaned against the wrong wall to begin with. What bride is so self aware to realize she’s becoming a ‘bridezilla’? How likely is it that, in the midst of the madness that is modern wedding planning, that she would look for a relaxation CD rather than downing a bottle of wine or getting a massage. 

Does that mean it’s a terrible idea? Not necessarily. It might just mean that the bride’s mother or the bride’s maids might have been better target markets.

Sometimes you’ve got to ask yourself, “Who is it that’s helping the one I want to help?”

A client of mine works for a mental health organization in a major city in Canada. They would do talks at Universities about mental illness. I suggested that he might get a stronger response if he did a talk about, “How To Help Your Friends Who Are Struggling With Mental Illness,” because those struggling are unlikely to show up at a talk when they could just watch a youtube at home. 

Sometimes you’ve got to ask yourself, “Who is it that’s helping the one I want to help?”

Another client of mine is a death doula in Toronto with a background in Non-Violent Communication (NVC). She wanted to work with the dying but those dying are unlikely, in the turmoil they are in, to reach out and hire themselves a death doula. And, how would you market to them without it seeming crass? 

I suggested she create a workshop about, “How To Be With Your Loved Ones As They’re Dying,” in which she could tie together her background in NVC, empathic listening, healing and her death doula work. 

“If you do that,” I suggested. “You might find that these people want to hire you to support their families in helping them out as death begins its courteous but unwanted approach to their loved ones.”

A client who helps people with chronic pain realized that a target market for her might be caregivers to those who are in pain. If you help people with cancer, surely you could create a workshop on “How To Support Loved Ones Struggling With Cancer”.

Sometimes you’ve got to ask yourself, “Who is it that’s helping the one I want to help?”

And then sometimes those people will connect you with the ones you really want to help.

Be a Flower, Not a Butterfly Net

 

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I hosted a men’s circle earlier this year and a young man said something brilliant: be a flower, not a butterfly net.

It reminds me of something I heard colleagues say for years: be a lighthouse, not a searchlight.

Butterflies run away from nets. People run away from searchlights.

Of course, it’s dangerous to get into dogma about any of this but it’s worth noticing how much energy we often put into a strategy that is fundamentally about chasing potential clients (who might never be a fit in the first place).

I recall a successful life coach being asked, “What’s your niche?”

And he replied, “People who like me?”

On one level, it’s a shit answer. On another level, that’s absolutely where it’s at.

At the end of the day, you only want to work with people who are a good fit for you. They’ve got to like you.

And, if your strategy is to run around chasing everything that moves with your butterfly net, or swinging your searchlight around and capturing everyone you see, you might just find that most of them have no interest in what you’re offering at all.

It’s so much effort for so little reward.

What if you were to out your effort into being a more beautiful flower or a more known and trusted lighthouse instead?

What if you were to work on honing your niche and point of view so that they were clear and well-known?

What if you were to really focus on bringing your own vibe, quirk, personality and aesthetic into your business (instead of going for the generic look)?

You might find that this is what really wins the long-game and that you win, with less effort, in such a way that no one else has to lose.

Don’t be a butterfly net, be a flower.

Other Blog Posts You Might Enjoy On This Theme:

Get Rejected Faster

Polarize

The Real Reason To Do Intro Workshops

Products On This Theme:

The Niching Nest

Point of View Marketing

Marketing for Hippies 101

“What are your favourite books and authors?”

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This is a simple question that I’ve asked more times than I can count of clients to help them clarify their point of view on an issue: “What are your favourite books and authors?”

Now, when I ask this question, I’m not asking generically. I’m asking it in the context of the work they do. I’m asking them, “Look, you help _____ kinds of people get ______ kinds of results. Who are the authors, what are the books you’ve read, that have most formed your opinions around this all? What are the books that you wish your clients would read because they best express your take on things?”

What I’m trying to get at with this question is a more clear understanding of how they see things.

I’ve had so many clients tell me that their ideal clients would be ‘spiritual’. And I have no idea what they mean by that. I could ask them to tell me their entire cosmology but that’s often a convoluted and nebulous affair. So, instead, I ask them,

“What are your favourite books or authors on this spirituality?”

And you can tell a lot about how a person sees and defines spirituality by their answers:

  • “The Celestine Prophecy, Conversations With God and The Four Agreements.”
  • “Loving What Is, Feeding Your Demons and Debbie Ford.”
  • “The Course in Miracles, Marianne Williamson and The Disappearance of the Universe.”
  • “Doreen Virtue and Louise Hay.”
  • “Iyanla Van Zandt, Oprah Winfrey and Rev. Michael Beckwith.”
  • “The Secret, Greg Braden and Deepak Chopra”
  • “Black Elk Speaks, Vine Deloria and Leanne Simpson.”
  • “The Bible, Thomas Merton and Jim Rohr.”
  • “The Tao the Ching.”
  • “Rudolph Steiner, White Eagle and books on Theosophy.”

Each of these compilations gives us a very different picture of what they mean by ‘spirituality’.

What can you do with this list?:

  • Put Them In Your Bio: This list of influences (and, of course, we could ask the same question and have it be about documentaries, websites, blogs, podcasts etc.) could be shared on the About Me page of your website to help people get a sense of where you’re coming from (this is surprisingly effective at helping people figure out if you’re a fit or not). This gives people a sort of mosaic, at-a-glance view of your perspective. They can connect the dots. And, if they’re also into those particular influences, they will be leaning towards working with you.
  • Use Them To Find Hubs: You could also look at each and ask yourself, “Where might I find people who share my interests in these kinds of books?” This could reveal some hubs you’d not thought of before. Perhaps there are book clubs, MeetUp groups, or bookstores that focus on those particular themes.
  • Reach out to them directly: You might be surprised at how accessible certain influencers are. You might be able to foster a relationship with them. Perhaps you could interview them or they might interview you.
  • Use This List to Hone Your Point of View: Sit with this list and ask yourself, “What’s the perspective that these all share? What are the points of overlap? How do all of these authors see _____ issue that I agree with?”

Additional Resources:

Point of View Marketing – Tad Hargrave

Be More Repulsive

 

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A simple, counter-intuitive idea for you today.

You’ve likely been told the importance of niche in marketing. Likely you’ve heard this from myself. You’ve likely heard about the importance of honing in on who you want to reach, to identify your ideal client, chosen audience or target market and maybe even to create a client avatar.

And those are all fine ideas.

But I want to suggest something you might not have considered doing before.

And, until the other day, I hadn’t either.

One of the central roles of marketing is to not just get the attention of your ideal clients but also to make sure you filter out the clients for whom your work will not be a fit in the same way that a window screen allows fresh air in but keeps out the flies.

And so we’re told to write all of our marketing material with our ideal clients in mind. We’re told to write our marketing materials as a sort of letter to them and only them.

And I think that’s good advice. I think it handles 95% of the issue of filtering.

But I’d like to give you an approach to writing sales copy that is the icing on the cake.

Step One: Identify your nightmare client. Get clear on who you never want to work with. Think about all of the worst clients you’ve ever had all rolled into one. Take 20 minutes to map this out a bit.

Step Two: Pick a sales letter or your homepage.

Step Three: Read the sales letter as if you were that Nightmare Client and ask yourself, “Would reading this repel me?” and, if not, rewrite the sales letter so that this person would never even think to call you. Make your materials repulsive to your Nightmare Client, not just attractive to your Ideal Client.

If you’re tired of emotionally needy clients, you might decide to say, “I’m not your mother. I’m not your best-friend. If you’re looking for someone who is touchy feely and who will hold you while you cry for hours and listen to your stories, I’m not it.” Or you might say the opposite, “If you’re looking for a nuts and bolts tactician, that’s not me. I’m here to hold space for your emotional process.”

You might say, “I’m a fundamentalist Christian and so, if my speaking Jesus’ name offends you, then you should stay away.”

You might say, “If you a building a business in the mining, tobacco or oil and gas industry, don’t come to my marketing workshop. This is not for you. I don’t want your business to succeed.”

And you might say all of that less directly but in a more implied manner. I’m not suggesting you intentionally be rude or offensive, but I am inviting you to consider a new level of candour that your ideal clients would love and that your less than ideal clients would be actively repulsed by.

You’ll figure out how but, I can promise you that this will make your sales copy better.

Additional Reading:

Get Rejected Faster

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

So 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.

Freedom.

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

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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.”
 
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 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.