This ad is amazing. Save the bros. Before it’s too late.
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.
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.
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 create the most wonderful and creative offer she could.But, for this to become a solid business, one of those needs to move.
- 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.
Here’s the PDF of his notes.
by Tim Emerson of KwanYinHealing.com
A 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.
Kwan Yin Healing
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.
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 ; 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].
Best Photo Awards go to: Yahya Bakkar, Audrey Wong, Kevin Gebert, Debra Graff, Ruth Schwartz, Claudia 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).
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 Steinbachs, Joanna Free, Lorraine Watson, Monika Denes, Manal 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|
|Jennifer||Seitzer (fruit picture)||9.5|
|Jennifer||Seitzer (forest photo)||8.75|
|Rev. Faye||Thornton. M.Msc.||8.5|
|Janet||Matthies (“unique 1 on 1”)||8|
|David||Jurasek (for men)||7.5|
|Janet||Matthies (Asian-inspired imagery)||7|
|Manal||Khalife (flowers painting)||6.5|
|Janet||Matthies (girl stretching photo)||6|
|Janet||Matthies (flowers photo)||3.5|
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Question: Has your niche changed since you began your business?
Most entrepreneurs I know are convinced that the word entrepreneur might just be a French word for failure. They’ve tried so many things that haven’t worked. In my experience, this is normal.
Most of my colleagues (who are now very successful) went through a number of niches before they landed on their current one.
My mother Laura and her husband Sherwood run a tree farm near Edmonton, Alberta. Of course, it your name is Sherwood and you run a tree farm – you basically have to name it Sherwood’s Forests. When they first began their business, they felt pretty clear about who two of their target markets were – garden centers and landscapers.
Niching problem solved.
But, it wasn’t so easy as that.
It turned out garden centers had their own suppliers already and wanted trees for less money than made sense to them to sell and weren’t as concerned about quality as they were. And landscapers had their own trusted suppliers too and needed bigger trees because, when someone hires a landscaper, they want an instant landscape. They don’t want little, healthy trees that will eventually grow big and strong. They want larger trees (that will likely die).
But then, they began to be approached by reclamation companies who told them, ‘your trees are the perfect size for us!’. They had to spend a few years spiraling around their niche before it was clear.
When I first began my career, I thought my niche would be helping green retail stores and restaurants. But it ended up being almost entirely service providers.
I could give you this exact same story for countless entrepreneurs who began their business imagining that Audience A would be their people, only to find out it was really Audience Q. In the beginning, we’re only making educated guesses about what our best niche will be. If your niche has switched a number of times – it’s normal.
If your niche has changed, can you fill in the blanks below and tell us about it? I’d love to include it in my new ebook I’m working on called The Niching Spiral. By posting it below you’re giving me permission to share it in my ebook. Please include your website if you like.
“When I began, I thought my niche would be _________ because _______ but it turns out it’s _________ because __________.”
This is a different kind of blog post, written by a colleague of mine, Seth Braun, from Fairfield, Iowa.
I like it because it speaks to the unintended consequences of trying an experiment.
I’m currently in the middle of running my Niching for Hippies program. The core of that program is the idea of ‘niche projects‘. Before committing yourself to a niche and getting married to it – go on a date first. Before you plant a garden, try a potted tomato plant. Start small.
My colleague Alex Baisley was the first one who really opened my eyes to the power and importance of experiments in life. He pointed out how even beginning the process of following your big dreams wasn’t a luxury. It was a doorway. That by even starting the process you discover new things.
I think about myself. I wanted to learn Scottish Gaelic. So I took five minutes to look for audio courses I could buy. I found one (which ended up being useless) but, in the process of that, I also came across the Celtic Studies program at St. FX University in Nova Scotia. Three years later, I was a student there. The next year I was a student at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the Gaelic college on the Isle of Skye. Four years later, I co-starred in Canada’s second ever Gaelic language film. Two years later, I hosted the first ever Cape Breton Jam – a gathering for young leaders in the Cape Breton Gaelic community.
All from just taking five minutes to try to find some Gaelic learning programs.
If you’ve got an idea, just start exploring it. Don’t wait to be 100% ready. Just begin.
In Edmonton, we’re in the middle of our municipal election. And I can see how, over the course of the campaign, candidates are getting better. You’re never ready for a campaign. The campaign makes you ready.
Much of the time, the ideas you start with won’t be the ones you end with. But maybe the point of our inspirations isn’t about achieving them but about inspiring us to move to find something else that we’re unable to imagine when we begin.
In fact, for the linguistically curious, the verb ‘commit’, in Latin, means, ‘to begin’. All too often, people let the perfect be the good. I see it in niching all the time – needing to have everything figured out before even beginning to move on things. Just move. Try things. Start small. They probably won’t work out (the way you think they will). But try anyway.
There’s a power in just starting things and seeing where they take us.
And now, a beautiful story about the importance of this . . .
by Seth Braun
A long dim hallway from a store front suggesting breakfast.
The passage opens to the clink of spoons and the clank of mugs. He can barley see; the smell of strong coffee, fresh pastries – lights fade – chatting diners – speaking Icelandic – in total darkness?
Is this some strange dream?
The Icelandic Diner in the Dark wasn’t some strange dream; But a dream come true and discovery of destiny. But often our dreams require that we take the hero’s journey. That great mythic plunge into the adventure, mystery and the great unknown. Like Frodo stepping out of BagEnd, or Luke Skywalker naively stepping forward to seek Obi Wan. These great journeys mould and shape our psyche. But they are filled with terrible light and darkness. Often, the fear of the unknown we carry with us prevents us from taking the journey.
You don’t have to be afraid to follow your dreams into the unknown… even into darkness, if you bring these with you: Vision, Action, Confidence, Courage.
Let me weave a tale for you…
It started when my friend Brian Rochileau, or Rosh, came to me as a client.
“Seth – I have a crazy dream – house concerts – intimate music venues – in Iceland. I’ve already done them in the states, in Norway and Ireland… I think this is a first… I’m going to book the tour – produce the album and go buy the ticket.” It was more than a dream. Rosh had a vision! A vision he could see. A vision he could write. A vision he could speak. – “… just one thing, I need$10,000!”
I said, “Cool!, let’s do it.”
Spreadsheets. Pitches. Timelines. Strategies. Mindset….we laid the foundation and he hit the ground running… in ACTION… Rosh secured investment, got online and created a tour out of nothing, then recorded the album.
He was on his way to Iceland with consistent, persistent Action in his back pocket to keep the momentum going.
…But not without haters. You know what I am talking about… those voices from people around you, in your head…
You can’t do it…
You’ve never done it before…
Your too flaky…
You never follow through…
You are going to lose money…
The thoughts that dim the light of your enthusiasm.
Fortunately, Rosh brought confidence. CONFIDENCE – from the latin words con and fidelus – with and faithful – he was faithful to his dream. He bolstered his faith by speaking words, speaking truth, and words and the truth became his experience… Confidence… I can do this. Confidence… I am learning what I need to learn… Confidence… I believe in myself. I believe in my dreams… I can… I am… I believe.
Hitchhiking the rugged, volcanic landscape, Rosh’s confidence came through in two great shows.
Waiting for a ride to show number three, the northern solstice sun shone bright and long. Everything about the first four days was perfect… (except that fermented fish they offered him at the traditional festival, another story).
An old Toyota scooped him up at the agreed upon time and rolled to the next venue. A gothic church. Rosh doesn’t speak Icelandic. His chauffer speaks no English. Arriving at the venue, the driver unlocks the heavy doors, hops in the Range Rover and speeds off.
30 minutes before show time. Rosh nervously sets up.
15 minutes before. No host.
10 minutes. 5 minutes. No audience.
1 minute. No one.
And it happens.
All those voices came rushing into Rosh’s brain, hovering there, vultures blotting out the light of the sun, flapping their wings, skwawking, “we told you, you can’t do it, it’s not going to work, you are going to lose money, you are going to fail, you don’t have what it takes…”
It happens to all of us. Dissapointment. Frustration. We make mistakes. Our hearts break.
But this time, Rosh packed courage. He took it out of his bag with a big sheet of paper, captured the vultures, put them on paper and poured his heart out.
I am afraid.
I am angry.
I want this to work.
How can create magical experiences?
How can I have sold out crowds?
How can I connect more deeply, Heart to Heart?
Courage! – from the old French, cour, to take heart. He breathed deep and felt the emotions and poured them into a question… HOW? And then poured the energy into a show, tears streaming down his face, songs echoing into the cavernous sanctuary. His only audience was the waxing moon, passing through the stained glass windows.
He packed his guitar and bags, fell asleep on a pew, spent and hungry, saints watching over his slumber.
A storm passed over that night. A new day dawned… the pre-collapse economy of Iceland was flowing and record sales were strong and the next weeks were all hot springs, cozy living rooms with fireplaces, glasses of wine with the happiest and friendliest people on earth.
Rosh rolled into Reykjavík , the Icelandic capital on a sweet Sunday morning, hungry for a hearty breakfast – no fermented fish. Little did he know that he was stumbling into his destiny.
He made that stroll into the darkening corridor, with the smell of cinnamon rolls and French roast. Walked into that pitch-black café and bumped into a chair. Then he was pulled, almost tripping to his right.
Finding a seat… “What is this place…Who is pulling me?”
The Blind Waiter responded; “It’s a blind café, what can I start you off with…”
In those moments… on the journey of living his dreams, in Iceland, senses sharpened, immersed in the flavor and sounds, eating a rich breakfast in a Blind Cafe, a light goes in the darkness – A NEW VISION – the answer to the question… How can I connect, heart – to – heart.
Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams.
You have something that only you can give.
No one else has it. If you don’t share it with us, we’ll never get it!
Because Rosh took Vision, Action, Confidence and Courage on the volcanic journey into the darkness of the unknown, the World has the beauty of the Blind Café, music and dining in the dark, on tour in, Aspen , Austin, Boulder, Burlington VT, Cincinnati, Denver, Portland, Seattle… touching thousands of people, donating thousands more to service groups for the blind.
“The Blind Cafe seeks to support and create a deeper understanding of community, that inspires people to think differently and examine at how they relate with themselves and others. We help people develop a deeper sense of appreciation and compassion for people unlike themselves. We teach people how to listen to live music and to themselves again…. without the distraction of cell phones, social etiquette and visual conditioning. We partner with blindness organizations to provide community awareness and entertainment for the community. We provide a unique opportunity for the blind and sighted parts of our community to come together in discussion.”
Rosh took an outrageous idea and brought it to the world in over 25 live events across the U.S.
What outrageous dream have your stumbled into?
What vision has alighted upon your mind?
Is there a journey stirring your heart?
Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams, even into darkness of discouragement and defeat…but take these with you:
1. Confidence, – I am, I can I believe.
2. Courage – to face the fear and turn it into fuel,
3. Vision – see it, write it, speak it and
4. Consistent, Persistent ACTION
And if you find yourself in a totally dark place, that may be just the time that the lights go on for your destiny.
Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams!
About the Author: Seth Braun provides speaking, coaching, training and consulting services in support of individuals who want to develop their full personal and professional potential. He is also a devoted father and husband, an avid gardener, a musician, and a chocoholic. http://sethbraun.com/
Sarah Juliusson runs My Birth Business where she helps midwives and doulas with their business and marketing.
I was really excited to chat with her about this whole business of figuring out your niche in the lead up to my Niching for Hippies program.
Below is the audio for the interview and, below that, is the summary of what she had to say.
What do you think is missing in the conversation about niching? What do you see that you think others are not seeing that could help people find their niche?
Niching is a tricky area to explore as on the surface it can seem quite simple. I consistently see examples of niching gone wrong, usually by creating a surface niche, choosing a single characteristic that defines your niche and your care. Initially this may seem like a niche – for example “I am a birth doula serving pregnant women in Seattle.” So here our niche to the beginners eye can seem quite specific: pregnant women in Seattle seeking birth doula care. In fact, this is a broad stroke that doesn’t come close to defining her true niche – using single characteristics such as geography and pregnancy may seem to paint a clear niche, but in fact these are only foundational characteristics for a true niche. Without further definition, this niche will not serve her practice.
When I actually talk with this imaginary doula, however, I may learn that she has a particular interest in supporting families planning a home birth with midwives. As well, her ideal clients will be interested in taking advantage of her complementary skill of aromatherapy. She herself is in her 40s, and has a special draw to supporting women over 35 who are pregnant for the first time. She finds that clients of this nature have a real hunger for quality information and research about birth and loves helping them get connected through her large library of resources. I could go on, but you get the picture, yes? It is easy to paint the niche with characteristics that may seem specific but in fact are only broad strokes that just barely begin to capture her niche and unique selling proposition.
What’s most important in niching? What’s a distraction?
IMPORTANT: Years ago I built a website for one of my childbirth education businesses. As I worked on the site vibe, the phrase that kept coming back to me was that I wanted the site to feel like a really comfortable couch. I wanted my ideal clients to find the site and instantly feel so at home that they would want to have a seat, drink some tea, and take their time learning more. When i think about niching, that comfy couch is really what we’re going for. If I have infused my marketing vibe, language & imagery with key elements that speak to my niche, then when they arrive on my site they will instantly feel at home. Without that virtual couch provided by a clear niche, those ideal clients will arrive at your site or pick up your card and have no particular reason to want to stick around and learn some more.
DISTRACTION: When defining their niche i see many clients hit almost a wall of fear – concerned that by defining a niche for their practice they will be shutting out potential clients. When your income is dependent on each and every client that hires you it is easy to get caught up in saying yes even when it isn’t a great fit. By tailoring online and print marketing materials to a niche, many holistic professionals worry that they are closing off too many options and it keeps them from defining their niche in an effective way. Instead, I find that a well developed niche opens doors.
Can you list three of your favourite examples of successful, niche businesses?
Birth Swell – http://birthswell.com/ – Jeanette & hilary have brought their unique skills & perspective in social media and communications and identified a major gap in the birth industry. Their niche market is a blend of practicing birth professionals and birth advocates who want to learn the theory and the practical how to’s for using new media and social media tools to build a business, change policy, and spread their birth (and breastfeeding and maternal/infant health) genius.
The Nesting Place – http://thenestingplace.ca – While Amanda Spakowski and the Nesting Place team of doulas & childbirth educators are providing similar core services as many other birth professionals in their region, the Nesting Place website does a great job of conveying their focus on parents who are seeking a guide, someone to help them feel less fear, and more confidence and connection, while supporting their birth choices without judgment. Their unique selling proposition stands out within the birth community, representing a model of care that goes far above and beyond standard prenatal class & doula care offerings in the area.
I have a new client right now who is going through an interesting discernment process regarding her niche. While she currently offers group prenatal classes at two great hub locations, she is increasingly feeling that the population at these locations is not a good match for her practice. As well, she is feeling a strong pull to focus her practice on the needs of families who are seeking a private prenatal class, wanting to cultivate a relationship-based practice that allows for more in-depth support than a group class would offer. It’s exciting watching her go through this transformation. It’s a great example of how when we are aligned with our niche, we enhance our own personal journey as a practitioner.
How do people know if they have a good niche? What’s the most important criteria to know if you have a solid niche?
It is very important to me that clients have a solid niche defined for themselves as a foundation before doing any website creation (or revision) or creating marketing materials.
Characteristics I look for include:
How specific is it? Could we create a persona based on this niche description? Personality, relationship, home decor, education level, income, etc… I like clients to create a pinterest board representing their ideal client to get a better sense of who she is.
Is the niche an excellent match for the nature of your care – both the services provided & your practice style and philosophy. Are you excited about working with her? Are you clear on what you have to offer her and why it is a great fit for her needs?
Understanding the relationship between the niche and the community – where is she likely to hang out? What other complementary services is she likely to be using?
Perhaps most importantly, you should feel excited about serving your niche!
What’s the simplest, most direct and most effective approach to finding your niche?
First you have to Believe in your Niche, and know that your Niche wants to find You.
I think the absolute foundation of finding your niche is believing that clients want to find you. Think about the massage therapists you’ve seen in your life – most of us have had a handful of mediocre massages before we find the therapist whose hands & spirit match what our body is craving. We walk in the door each time hoping that this will turn into a long term massage therapy relationship. Years ago my husband did an advanced business mentorship program and one of the lessons learned as he developed interview skills was that the person conducting the interview actually Wants you to be good. People are out there who need and want your help. Not just the service you provide, or the training & skills that you have cultivated, but the whole package of what you offer because of who you are.
The 2nd step is to Understand your Niche.
For me, this means creating an in depth portrayal of your ideal client. Making her so real that that you could meet her at a party and recognize her instantly. Let yourself understand her needs, desires, cravings, what she is seeking and what she will resonate with.
The final step is to Serve your Niche.
This means crafting our practice to truly match our niche. It’s not just about tailoring marketing materials to your niche. It’s also about taking a close look at your services, packages, and pricing to align with your niche. From a marketing perspective we are cultivating as many clues as possible to help our ideal clients find their way to the services they need. And finally, it means getting clear on what it means to serve your Niche – this means taking care as you grow your business to be sure you are adding services & products aligned with your niche, and sometimes saying no to clients who simply aren’t a good fit.
Michael Margolis is my marketing bro. We’ve never met in person but from moment one of connecting with each other we were instant pals. Michael understands the power of story in marketing better than most people I know. And, in the lead up to my Niching for Hippies program, it occurred to me that Michael might have some insights into how story and niche marketing intersect.
And boy did he ever.
You can watch the video of the conversation below and read the summary of his thoughts below that.
What do you think is missing in the conversation about niching? What do you see that you think others are not seeing that could help people find their niche?
Stop trying to be anything but yourself. Storytelling is not about selling shit, its about giving a shit. Same goes with niching. You can’t dominate or own your marketplace but you can own your story. Be the story of who you were born to be. That’s natural authority.
What’s most important in niching? What’s a distraction?
“Believe in yourself, and stop trying to convince other.” – De La Vega
Trying to be something or somebody you’re not.
Can you list three of your favourite examples of successful, niche businesses?
The Lhassi-man at Marin Farmers Market
How do people know if they have a good niche? What’s the most important criteria to know if you have a solid niche?
when they start having fun, their work becomes a labor of love, and they are saying NO more often and more easily.
You feel seen, heard, and recognized. You’re able to say NO on a regularly basis to those prospects and inquiries that don’t fit your niche/focus
What’s the simplest, most direct and most effective approach to finding your niche?
Find the narrative throughline/arc of your life that explains why you do what you (what’s the riddle you’re trying to solve)
For more info or to sign up for the Niching for Hippies program, just go here: http://nichingforhippies.com/