The Three Roles of Marketing

three fingers The Three Roles of MarketingThis is one of those things that is actually very important to get about marketing that I talk about really seldomly but should probably talk about more. 

When people are working on their marketing, I think that, often, they don’t really understand the role that their marketing needs to play. Or I should say ‘roles’ because there’s more than one. 

To give credit where it’s due, I learned this first from the incredibly useful marketing book Monopolize Your Marketplace by Richard Harshaw.

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

 

The Three Roles of Marketing

 

The First Role of Marketing: Get their attention.

This one is, of course, primary. If we don’t have people’s attention, there’s no conversation to be had. Marketing must, first and foremost, get their attention. 

This is much harder than it looks because of the sheer number of marketing messages people get every day. And the number of stimuli people receive even outside of that (e.g. social media, texts, friends, emails etc.). People are already overwhelmed and in a bit of a haze. To break through that haze is difficult. Certainly you can use the shock factor to do it. But that doesn’t last. You can use pictures of naked people. You can use expletives. But those lose their effect over time. You can write a shocking (but ultimately misleading) headline, but it will result in people feeling tricked and then you become the little boy who cried wolf. You say in your email subject line, “A vulnerable secret I’ve never shared with anyone before . . .” and then the secret you share is clearly not that. People feel duped. It’s why we hate and distrust marketing so much. We are feeling constantly lied to and played with.

But here are some thoughts that are vital.

  • do a good job and get word of mouth: this is the bottom line. If you help a lot of people solve a problem they have or get a result they’re craving, they will tell everyone they know about you. That’s how word of mouth works and, ultimately, how the most sustainable businesses grow. 
  • have a niche: nothing gets attention better than good old fashioned relevance. If your headline speaks directly to their life, they will want to read the rest. If they can see, right away (from your business name, the headline of your ads or the images you use) that you specialize in people just like them . . . you will have their attention. 
  • figure out where their attention is already going: the core of everything I know about marketing is all about identifying and working with hubs effectively. Meaning . . . getting attention is hard when you take the cold approach of cold calling, direct mail etc. They already see you as marketing. But, if you can figure out where their attention is already going, you’ve got a much better chance. If you can figure out where they’re already looking for solutions to the problems you solves, they’re more likely to notice you. If, instead of sending a direct mail piece out to a list you bought, you got someone who your ideal clients deeply respected to send out a letter endorsing you . . . You’ll likely be flooded with business. There are seven general types of hubs. 

 

The Second Role of Marketing: Help them figure out if it’s a fit. 

Once you have their attention, you don’t have it for long. Now they’re noticing you but . . . are you actually relevant to them?

In direct response marketing they talk about the AIDA formula. Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. Once you’ve got their attention you need to move on to interest. 

But, here’s where I disagree with many of my colleagues. I don’t think that the role of marketing is to get them interested. After all, who is ‘them’? Them could be anyone. Them is everyone. And you don’t want everyone as a client (you really, really don’t). 

Why not?

Not everyone is going to be a fit for you. And, if they’re not a fit, they will be clients from hell. They’ll have bad experiences and tell their friends about it. Too many clients who aren’t a bad fit will kill your business.

You want clients who are a perfect fit for your business.

So, the purpose of marketing should not be about convincing everyone to buy from you. It should be about helping everyone decide if you’re a good fit for them or not. In the book Monopolize Your Marketplace, they word it as ‘facilitating the decision making process’ meaning that your marketing should help make it easier for potential customers to decide whether hiring your is the right thing or not. 

But to do that, we need to understand who would be a perfect fit for us. And to do that we need to really understand what it is we are offering and how we want to offer it because, ultimately, your ideal client (and this is so incredibly obvious that we often miss it) will have to be (absolutely, truly has so to be) someone who needs what you’re offering and loves how you offer it. 

And that level of clarity can take time to come to. 

But, once that clarity is there, then marketing becomes less about seducing and more about filtering. 

I wrote an epic blog post you can use to ask yourself some key questions about who your ideal client might be here

 

The Third Role of Marketing: Lower the risk of taking the next step. 

This is something that used to be the core of what I teach and that I haven’t written about much but intend to in the coming year. 

It’s vital.

I first came across this concept from Jay Abraham. But it shows up everywhere in marketing.

Here’s why this role matters. 

Someone could come across what you offer (you have their attention) and totally fall in love with it (it’s a fit) and still not buy.

Sometimes that has to do with timing. Sometimes it just takes awhile for it to be the right time. I imagine there’s a workshop or two you’d love to attend but the timing hasn’t worked out yet. Normal.

But very often it’s a matter of risk. Meaning: they’re scared that if they buy from you they’re going to either lose out on something they have or they won’t get something they want.

Those risks can be everything from: the fear of looking stupid, having to explain such a big purchase to a spouse, losing money on it, it not working and being a huge waste of time, the fear of getting ones hopes up only to be disappointed (again). So many risks. 

And most entrepreneurs are totally blind to this. They’re never put themselves in the shoes of their clients and asked themselves, ‘what might be scary about making this purchase?’.

It’s why bakeries, grocery stores and perfume shops give out free samples. It’s why you see so many ‘enter your email to get this ebook/video/free gift’ on people’s websites (I wrote a guide on how to build your email list by doing this for your website here). It’s why ice cream shops let you try a pink spoon of ice cream before you buy. ‘Try before you buy’ is not a new idea. It helps people move beyond just an intellectual relevance into action. It’s why you see so many websites with lots of videos. It’s why blogs work. They build the know like and trust factor. It’s why it’s important to not only offer big expensive things, but to also offer less expensive ones – so people can get to know you and take a step towards working with you. 

So, that’s it. Those are the three steps.

Look at every piece of marketing you ever do through the lense of these three roles.

Look at every part of your marketing strategy through the lense of these three roles. Every tactic.

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Principles & Seven Practices on Empathy in Marketing

1488065 10153719189940195 1474907090 n Seven Principles & Seven Practices on Empathy in MarketingI want to make the business case that empathy, in a bottom line way, matters to your business.

That your business will grow faster and that you will get more of the kinds of clients you want with it. 

I want to make the case that really listening to people until they feel ‘gotten’  is a skill worth learning (and that it’s not what we often think it is).

I submit that your capacity to genuinely put yourself in the shoes of your existing and potential customers will make your business grow more than just about anything else.

Most of us think we’re very empathetic people – but I want to suggest that we often aren’t as much as we think we are. I think for most of us, myself included, there is a lot of room for growth here. 

I’ve written a lot of posts that weave around the theme of empathy. But I’ve never really written one that addresses it head on.

So, here it is. At size 12, Georgia font, it’s 33 pages long. It’s the result of my lifetime of understanding on this topic. It contains dozens of examples and stories. If you open up each link, you will have 29 new tabs opened up with dozens of pages of additional insights on this topic.

Once you’re done, it would mean the world to me if you shared your own stories and strategies in the comments below.

Let me get straight to the point of what’s in it for you to really get to grips with this empathy business.

 

How can developing your skills around empathy grow your business?

  • when people know that you really ‘get’ them they will relax and feel safe around you. Until people feel safe with you they won’t hire you.
  • when people feel safe around and understood by you they will tell you the truth about what’s ailing them which will allow you to make a better diagnosis which will mean you produce better results for them which will leave them more happy and telling more people about how great you are
  • empathy allows you to write the most compelling marketing materials possible. I would argue that, until you can put yourself in the shoes of your potential clients, your marketing materials will be lacklustre.
  • empathy, really knowing what it’s like for your potential client, allows you to design products and services they would love because you know what you would want in their shoes
  • you’ll get more honest feedback that will help you improve your business rapidly
  • potential clients who end up not working with you will still refer you because they felt so respected and understood by you

 

Let me start with a story . . .

A few weeks ago, I was looking for someone to help me through some recent trauma I’d gone through. I’ve been reading the fantastic book, ‘Waking the Tiger’ by Peter Levine about healing trauma and went online to see if there was anyone locally who was practicing his technique. There was and I sent her an email. She replied back and, in doing so, received my typical email autoresponder (context: sometimes my email inbox has 250 messages in it. Messages that I want to respond to personally rather than leave it to an assistant. I have no hope of getting back to all of them right away. Sometimes it takes weeks for me to. I could do it faster but I wouldn’t have a life. So, it’s important for me to let people know there may be a delay in me getting back to them and I try to sweeten that with some nice music and images). 

hello there,

a friendly automated response to you. 

thanks for emailing. i’m often a bit behind on my emails. 

I hope to be able to get back to you very soon. but, until I do, here’s some of my favourite music i’ve discovered for you: http://8tracks.com/tadlington/and also some inspiring and evocative images I’ve collected: http://on.fb.me/KMprgM

warmest,

tad

 
To which she replied, “I do not and will not open links from people I do not know!!!!”

I was genuinely shocked when I read those words. It felt like I was being yelled at and scolded for something that was clearly, clearly not warranting it. 

I replied, “This was an auto response email. i’m not sure the offer of good things offered with good intentions warranted this four exclamation marks response. especially to someone who just reached out to you for support for their trauma. I will likely be seeking counselling and support elsewhere now.”

She replied, “yes…great idea! and good luck!!!!”

Is there any doubt in your mind that she lost my business because of the way she interacted with me?

This leads to . . .

 

Principle #1: How you are with people before they hire you is how they assume you will be once they hire you.

Simply put, if you meet someone at a party and they are an arrogant asshole there you would, quite rightly, assume that they will be an arrogant asshole to work with.

If they really listen to you, ask good questions and you leave the experience feeling totally heard, ‘gotten’, loved and appreciated – you’ll assume they’ll be like this in a working relationship too.

Innately, we all understand the truism that ‘how we do anything is how we do everything.’

This is critical to understand. 

It’s easy to think that the only reason people would hire us is because we solve their problem. But, remember this, there are a lot of people who can solve their problem. You being able to solve their problem brilliantly is critical to establishing relevance and credibility. But it’s not the only thing.

Ask yourself this: have you ever gone to a store, or wanted to hire someone, but they were so salesy, pushy or otherwise unpleasant that you actually walked away? Even though you really, really needed what they were selling?

I know I have. Buying a car. Buying a computer. 

It stuns me how often this gets missed and how much business it costs people. 

There’s a ‘new age book and crystal shop I know of that, everyone who goes into feels more stressed when they leave. There is a constant vibe of panic there. The last time I was there, I was asked three times, by three different people if they could help me find something. I was asked twice if I wanted to sign up for their email list and reminded about their facebook page. On one hand, brilliant! They’re marketing. But . . . the way it was done felt very much like they were asking because they wanted me to buy something. Like they’d come over to ask because their boss sent them. If you buy something, the owner is delightful. If you don’t, she’s snippy. You can tell her business is struggling and she resents people who come in and don’t buy. And so she’s decided to focus on her sales and marketing but she’s doing it in a way that leaves people who go in there with an icky feeling. They want to get out as soon as possible. 

It should be obvious why this isn’t good for business.

Marianne Williamson wrote about her experience of running a bookshop. Her boss told her to focus on selling books. But, she chose to see the bookshop as the Church of her spiritual ministry and just focused on loving people. It created such an incredible vibe that people would come back again and again. She was able to put herself in the shoes of their clients and ask herself what kind of environment she’d want. And then she created it. 

Which leads us to . . .

 

Principle #2: Experience matters as much as results. 

I could talk about this for ages. 

Yes, it matters critically that you actually solve a problem and help them get a result they’re craving. 

But what matters equally as much is that they feel good in the process. 

Do you think they’ll come back to your business if they don’t feel good about it?

Do you think they’ll tell their friends and people they meet to hire if you if they didn’t feel good about the process?

The process matters. How they feel matters. 

That’s obvious. What’s not so obvious is what it takes for people to feel good.

On a surface level, we want to look at appealing to all five senses. If your shop or office looks beautiful, smells wonderful, has beautiful (or no) music playing etc. they’re going to feel better in it. We’ve all been to restaurants where the bathroom was so scuzzy that we never came back.

But, beyond the sensory level, we need to look at people’s emotional needs. You can think of Maslow’s Hierarchy or the list of needs in the Non Violent Communication work, Anthony Robbins’ six human needs . . . which model works for you. The more needs your business meets, the better it will feel for people.

If you help people feel safe, comfortable, help them have fun, feel important and connected and like they’re growing and contributing . . . people will love you. People love people who make them feel good.

But, in a business context, there’s a syntax to what is going to make people feel good. There are four things people need and the order we address them in matters. I’ve written more about it in my post The Four Things People Need Most When They’re Lost. But the very first thing that people need when they are in pain is empathy. They need to know that you ‘get them’ at an emotional level.

Maybe you’re a contractor and someone is exploring working with you on renovations for their home. It could be tempting to want to push and ‘sell them’. Instead, I’d suggest slowing down and empathizing with them. “Wow. It sounds like you’re feeling really overwhelmed and concerned that you’re going to be able to get your renos done on time.” They will melt. 

All of the time, I hear people say, “I totally understand them.” but your belief that you understand them is not the point. The real issue is this: do they feel understood? Do they really know that you ‘get them’. It’s incredibly easy to be deluded by this. How many divorces, fights and conflicts end with one of the parties, dazed and confused, saying, “But everything seemed fine . . .”

 

Principle #3: Empathy before education.

There’s the old saying, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

But all too often, people fall in love with their business, their modality, their newfound ideology or cosmology, their skillsets and technologies more than they fall in love with their clients. And that’s the beginning of all the troubles. 

It’s early 2000′s and I’m in a car driving from Santa Cruz to Santa Rosa to the Harmony music festival. I’m being driven by the child care worker of my dear friends. Let’s call her Rose. 

As we drive up, she begins to vent. Relationship stuff. She’s angry at men but mostly angry at herself. 

Within a few minutes, I feel like I have the perfect spiritual insight for her. Which, for someone reason, I don’t share. My instincts tell me to zip it and just listen (even though I really, really want to share). I start making a mental list of all the quotes from books I want to share and ways she should really look at what she’s going through. 

My list is growing. Man. She is going to be so empowered by everything I have to share when the time is right.

But something in me is sending me the very clearly message to stay quiet. So, for the two hour drive, all that comes out of my mouth is, “Mhhmm.” or “Yeah.” Mostly nods and just listening. 

At one point, she stopped talking. She didn’t seem to have anything else to say. Which would seem to have been my cue. But I stayed quiet. 

After five minutes of driving, her eyes open wide and she says, “And another thing!” and shares a whole other level of what was going on for her. She keeps venting. Why does she always end up sleeping with men when she told herself she didn’t want to go there again? 

And, hearing this, everything I’d been saving up to share felt so useless and irrelevant. 

This happened again and again through our drive. I’d have a brilliant insight and then she’d say something that made it clear that wasn’t what she needed to hear right now.

As we were pulling into Santa Rosa, I finally felt ready to speak, “It sounds like,” I ventured. “That you’re really struggling with how do you meet your needs for sexual expression with your needs for self respect.”

Her fingers tightened around the steering wheel, her eyes widen, she takes a deep breath and she turns to me and says, “YES!” A huge release.

She didn’t even need advice. She didn’t need education. She just needed help clarifying what the hell was going on inside of her. 

Another example: Here’s an actual conversation I had with a recent friend over facebook which left me feeling awful. It began innocently enough with her asking what had happened to me that left me so traumatized. I told her the situation. 

Me: genuinely thought i would die most days

Her: Wow. What a timeless hell. It was teaching you.

Me: i’m going to ask you pause right there.

Her: in order to grow larger and better than ever you must be in alignment with your message

Me: it really doesn’t feel great to have you tell me what the truth is of my experience or why it happened.

Her: darling its none of my business. I just speak from my heart. reciprocating what is told to me. I am just curious if this is what you have learned from the experience as well?

Me: it still feels like early days to say what’s coming out of it

Her: This is how you truly heal from trauma

Me: i do appreciate your care and i notice that when people, and this happens in the new age scene so often, when i share a pain and am immediately told that it happened for my highest good and asked what i learned from it. it’s hard. i notice that when i’m in the midst of it, that approach has me feel defensive

Her: I know it does. You have to be complete with the message, and as you do you will feel peace with it. 

Me: again. you telling me what i have to do doesn’t feel great. i’m not disagreeing

Her: Darling trust me. This is how you heal. I am a safe space. I do not come at you with any guns or bombs. I understand suffering, I have entered timeless hells before.I see the bigger picture that to have one man down is harmful to the whole. What you need more than anything is to face the situation and thank it and tell universe that you understand it

Me: can i lift up how you are immediately educating me when i didn’t ask to be educated by you? to have you present your perspective as the gospel truth really doesn’t feel safe or inviting to me. i have been reflecting on this a lot. so much. i’ve been pulling so much wisdom from it. and i’ve been through a lot and . . . i’m hearing you say that you understand suffering but i’m not feeling understood. i’m hearing you say you’re a safe space but i’m noticing i don’t feel safe in this moment. i’m hearing you say you know how healing happens and yet this space isn’t feeling healing. i really want you to stop telling me what I need to do. i don’t want your advice right now. i just need some love. that’s all. some understanding that it was hard and trust i’m working it out

Her: You need to acknowledge that love is in everything. Even in the words that I am saying.

Me: i feel sensitive around this because i encounter it so much in the new age scene. and it doesn’t feel great. and i’ve got just zero emotional buffer space right now. i think you’re remarkable and this convo isn’t feeling good. this article speaks to the dynamic i feel is happening here. http://juliaingram.com/nab. i didn’t ask to be coached by you. i was sharing what came up as a friend.

Her: yes these people do exist, but I am not one of them. I am holding space and that is all. I will say no more, because I wasn’t trying to coach, I was being a friend. But if it’s registered that way. then we are lost in translation, and I respect that.

Me: ok. i need to go for now. blessings.

She is  a remarkable woman, who practices incredible self care and is deeply committed to her spiritual path and who I think is destined for big things. This is one interaction and isn’t a complete picture of her at all. She wasn’t trying to get me to hire her. And I know she loves me. 

And that conversation felt awful.

I imagine if I was meeting her for the first time at a party and she was a healer and we’d had the above conversation. I would never, ever, based on this conversation, hire her. 

The only moment I felt really understood was when she said, “Wow! What a timeless hell.” After that, despite being asked to stop, she went right into education and coaching. When I felt upset, it was my fault for not seeing the love in her words. She has the truth and I don’t. She is seeing clearly and I’m not. This is, unintentionally, the message that I got. 

The message I get from her words is, “It’s so easy! You just know that it’s all love.” which feels immensely dismissive of my struggles. The question is not, “is she right?”. Maybe she is. The question is, “Do I feel understood?”

This dynamic happens all the time. Someone shares a problem and we want to jump on it and solve it. 

But sometimes it’s okay to just let people feel like victims instead of shaming them into working with us, to let them have their experience and not need to change it. Our need to change other people and fix them might be the real problem rather than what we see as their problem.

Yes, people need context as to why they are where they are. And they crave it. And yes, people want guidance and options. But, before they will truly be open to getting any of that from you, they need empathy. 

In the absence of empathy first, we often jump straight to education. And, in the absence of empathy, we often, completely unintentionally, come across as bullies. Julia Ingram wrote a brilliant blog post called New Age Bullies about this dynamic. But, it’s not solely the province of the new age or holistic scene. Vegans do this. Activists do this. Capitalists do this. Everyone does this. I have done this so many times in my life and, sadly, I’m sure I will again. I know that, when I was vegan, I was so arrogant and pushy in the beginning that I turned my brother into a carnivore. I think he ate meat just to spite me. And I don’t blame him. If you push people, they will push back to preserve their own autonomy – even if it means doing something that might hurt them. 

I’m going to say that again: If you push people, they will push back to preserve their own autonomy – even if it means doing something that might hurt them

Years ago, I was in Calgary and ended up meeting a life coach. I mentioned that I’d known Thomas Leonard (one of the grandfathers of the modern life coaching scene). He looked me dead in the eye and said, “I’m the closest thing to Thomas Leonard there is in Canada these days.” And then he proceeded to ‘coach me’. It was a series of rapid fire questions that left me in a daze. Before he left he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I just wanted to show you the power of what I do.” As I drove back to my friends house, my head was still swimming. Then I realized what had happened. He’d put me in a trance and worked me. And it left me feeling emotionally violated. He’d ‘educated’ me. But there was no empathy present. I’ve since learned, no surprisingly, that I am far from the only person who has had this experience with him.

And imagine the cost to his coaching business. I would not only never work with him or never refer him, I would, and do, warn people against working with him.

He skipped a step. He went straight to giving me education and coaching. He completely missed the importance of empathy and connection.

Robert Middleton once made the analogy that marketing was like baseball. Homebase is you being a stranger and a homerun is them buying from you. But, in between those is 1) clarity 2) trust  and 3) excitement. And you can’t skip any of those steps. 

Much of my understanding of formal understanding of empathy came from the seminal book NonViolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg (while my informal understanding came from being really listened to by a lot of people). In his book (which I commend to you highly) he shares a story.

“Believing we have to “fix” situations and make others feel better prevents us from being present . . . Once, when I was working with 23 mental health professionals, I asked them to write, word for word, how they would respond to a client who says, “I’m feeling very depressed. I just don’t see any reason to go on.” I collected the answers they had written down and announced, “I am now going to read out loud what each of you wrote. Imagine yourself in the roles f the person who express the feeling of depression, and raise your hand after each statement you hear that gives you a sense that you’ve been understood.” Hands were raise to only three of the twenty three responses.”

For the most part, people have no idea where to start with empathy. 

I think it’s vital that we respect people’s pain and suffering. That we respect their experiences. If they say they’re in a living hell – they really mean it. It’s vital we don’t discount or minimize their fears. I wrote a whole piece about how to relate to people’s fear in a blog post called Island Z.

But, if the words you hear from them all the time is that going through their divorce feels like a living hell and your marketing materials have headlines like, “Is your divorce feeling a bit uneasy?” you will absolutely lose them. From the headline alone they’ll know you don’t ‘get it’. “A bit uneasy??!” they’ll scoff as they delete the email or throw your brochure into the trash. Empathy means meeting people where they are, not where we think the should be out of a misguided desire to keep vibrations positive.

This isn’t to say you need to use negative headlines.

But it is to say that you’ve got to use plain talk and speak to them like a human being and acknowledge where they’re at whether it’s the pain they’re in, the pain they’re fearing or the future they’re craving. If you do, they’ll feel safe and open up. If you don’t, they won’t. Simple.  

And even when we know empathy is vital, we often aren’t clear on how to do it. We aren’t very skilled at it. 

We think we need to give people some big, TED Talkesque, life-changing message or insight. But usually the messages that mean the most to people, in the beginning, are so much simpler. You can read some of them that I’ve identified in my blog post Five Simple Messages That Can Have Potential Clients Melt and Fall In Love With You. That blog post will also give you a list of twenty common responses to people’s pain that are expressed with good intentions but often feel terrible to receive. 

And, in the end, the most important messages they can get is that you really care and you ‘get it’. And you don’t need any words for that, just some real listening. 

How does this relate to marketing? 

You might find the case study of a communications specialist who wanted to work with teachers in a Muslim school instructive. Instead of focusing on what he thought they ‘needed to hear’ he looked for where they were struggling that he could genuinely help.

Often in sales and marketing, we’re not really listening at all. We’re trying to convince people to ‘say yes’ and work with us. My colleague Howie Jacobson lays out a whole other kind of listening in his guest post Just Listening.

And then there’s this: when we don’t really put ourselves in the shoes of a potential client we are likely to give very bad advice. When your diagnosis is inadequate so will your prescription be. In the holistic world this happens all the time. People become so enamoured with their chosen modality and become so convinced that it can help anyone with anything that they don’t even listen to people anymore. Someone shares the very surface of their problem and they say, “Oh! Craniosacral is amazing for that!” Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.

But consider, again, the marketing implications of giving bad advice to people. They have a problem. You give bad advice based on very little information. They use your advice. It doesn’t work. They are disappointed and their trust in you diminishes or vanishes. They tell others this. Your reputation goes downhill. 

That’s how it works. 

To look at it another way: if you trust their diagnosis, you will be more likely to trust their prescription. 

If you’ve ever been lost and asked for directions you’ve experienced how incredibly frustrating it can be. People have lived there so long, they’ve forgotten what it was like to be new to the area. So you ask for directions and they give you something like, “Oh! It’s easy. You go down to Old Man Salter’s barn, turn right, over two hills, turn left at the big iron gate, go two miles and turn left after Humming Bridge.” And you’re left feeling completely overwhelmed. Even when they draw a map, it’s drawn for someone who already knows the area. I know a number of times, I’ve expressed my concern and said, “Look, I know that these seems simple to you, but I’m concerned I’m still going to get lost.”, only to have them reply, “No no! Trust me! It’s easy.” And then I get lost and I’m upset with them. They didn’t take my concerns seriously. They didn’t really listen. How few people ever really, really listen. 

And the lack of listening kills so many businesses.

One of my mentors was jogging years ago and blew out his knee. He dragged himself home along one mile of hill in agonizing pain. He went to an osteopath who gave him a basic evaluation and diagnosis that he was okay with and suggested that surgery might be needed. The second place he went to, where NBA teams send their players, was very different. The physio therapist walked in with an MRI of his knee and said, without knowing any of the backstory, “I’m going to guess from looking at this that you were running and hyper extended your knee. Maybe got your foot caught in a hole?” My friend’s jaw dropped. It had been a gopher hole. The diagnosis was so bang on that he knew he was in good hands.

If potential clients feel that you really understand their problem, they will be far more likely to trust in your solutions. 

Years ago, I sent an email to my list with a link to a survey. I was asking people to submit their ‘holistic practitioner horror stories and success stories.’ – the best and worst experiences they had had. I got just over thirty responses. And what struck me was that they all said basically the same thing. The horror stories never seemed to have to do with a lack of skill or bad technique. There four client repelling traits that came up again and again. I could sum them all up in three words: lack of empathy.

Remember, if you want them to hire you and pay you money, they need to trust you and your proposed solutions. They need to trust their point of view. They will be far more open to hearing your point of view (in fact, hungry to hear it) once they know you really understand their situation. 

In Steven Covey’s words: “seek first to understand, and then to be understood.”

My colleagues at Authentic World in Boulder base all of their personal transformation work on a model called Circling.Basically, the model is you sit in a circle (though it could be done one on one) and the whole group focuses on really ‘getting’ what it’s like to be the person struggling with something. They reflect their experience of being in the person’s presence, ask insightful questions, reflect what they’re hearing and ‘getting’ from them. It’s a profound experience to be on the receiving end of. Because, the process isn’t there to ‘change’ you (but it does). It’s not there to sell you on a particular new way of being – but people often leave it with a new way of being. Perhaps the most transformative thing we can encounter is the unconditional love and uncompromising truth of being met where we are. 

I recall leading a Circling process at a co-op in Edmonton, The Golden Lentils, where I lived for a summer. I invited everyone to get into a circle and for someone to share something they were struggling that wasn’t traumatic and that had nothing to do with the co-op. There was a bit of silence and then one fellow spoke up and shared, “I’m going home to see my family soon and . . . we always get into fights about politics and I’d like to know how to deal with that.”

I could feel myself, and everyone else in the circle, lean in a bit ready to throw down advice. I could feel some people wanting to say, “Fuck your parents!” and others wanting to commiserate and share their own stories (thus taking the attention off of the person sharing and taking it onto themselves). So, I invited everyone to pause and just breath a bit. Then we went around the circle. I asked the person next to him to reflect what it was that they had heard him say, but in his own words. The first person did alright. I turned back to the original personal sharing, let’s call him Simon. He nodded that it was a good reflection but then added more context. So, we went onto the second person. And the third. Each time, people’s reflections seemed to either catch a detail that prompted elucidation or missed something important he felt the need to restate. And, often, it was hard for people. Often people slipped right into giving advice – which I would immediately stop. Or they’d want to share their own story – which I would stop. Or they’d want to tell him how he needed to look at his experience – which I would stop. And then I’d ask them to simply restate what they heard. And, it turns out, this is hard. It’s a skill. It takes a lot of practice and the experience of being really heard yourself to be able to do this consistently. 

We finally got all the way around the circle. And then I had us go around again, but, this time, all they could do was ask questions. And they had to be questions coming from genuine curiousity, not sneaky advice questions like, “Don’t you think you should . . .” Again, people struggled. But the focus wasn’t on trying to change Simon – it was on helping ourselves understand him and helping him understand himself. 

As an elder, wise woman Whapio often says, “Clarity before resolution.”

An hour later, when we’d gone around the circle twice, Simon found himself saying, ” . . . and you know . . . I’m not even that political anymore so I don’t think it will be an issue.”

Get that. “I don’t think it will be an issue.”

Get how useless all of our commiseration and advice would have been for him. He didn’t need it. 

When we get really good at listening and empathizing and creating a safe space for people, we get to the truth faster. People do not tell us the truth when they feel us pushing them towards an agenda. If they think you are selling them, they will lie to you to get out of that uncomfortable situation. It is social acceptable to lie to sales people. 

It’s our inability to let go of our agenda to get people to buy that turns people off and has marketing and sales feel gross. Sales pressure is predominantly created by us. When we realize that the real goal in marketing and sales shouldn’t be about ‘getting the sale’ but about focusing on the truth of whether or not it’s a fit . . . everything changes. We can finally bring the central quality needed to getting empathy to the table – presence. What kills our ability to be present is our conviction that what we have can absolutely help them (and anyone else). Letting go of that is hard, but it’s central to really being present. Dogma kills connection every single time. 

One client wrote me this about what they loved most in a holistic practitioner they’d seen recently: 

“I felt listened to. They took the time to get to know my problem and try to figure it out. I didn’t feel rushed. I was treated as an individual rather than just another client. Practitioners with one size fits all approaches turn me off. They were open about their experiences treating problems like mine both good and bad. They were honest about their abilities to help me – didn’t say this works for all as i know that is not possible and different things work for different people.” 

Because, if we let go of it and really listen with our focus on really, really understanding them, we’ll find out the truth of if it’s a fit or not. If it’s a fit, then working together is likely to be a joy that produces wonderful results for them and has them a raving fan – getting us lots of word of mouth. 

But, if we just focus on blindly selling everyone we might, out of the misguided assumption that we can help everyone, we will end up with a lot of clients who aren’t a good fit. And working together will be a living hell producing mediocre to poor results and have them warning people against hiring us. 

It’s so simple. 

Marketing guru Jay Abraham explored this in a different way years ago when he was focusing on “strategy” in marketing. In his experience, most marketers were very tactically oriented. They never stopped and looked at the big picture of their situation. And I recall him talking about how, at one event, he and his colleague Mac Ross were leading hot seats. They’d bring very successful entrepreneurs onstage and coach them. But, they had to keep catching each other and stop them from giving each other advice too soon. One of them would start getting on a roll about how they could grow their business internationally and the other would pause and ask the person on the hotseat, “Uhhh . . . do you want to grow internationally?” to which the person would emphatically shake their head ‘no’.

If we want to see if our tactics are a fit for a potential client, we need to ask them. But, more than that, we need to know they’re going to tell us the truth in response and they will only do that if they trust that we want to hear the truth – whether it’s a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. 

 

Principle #4:  People don’t give honest feedback unless they feel safe. 

This one seems painfully obvious.

You can’t just tell someone that you ‘get it’. Especially when they tell you that they aren’t feeling gotten. It’s a remarkably ineffective approach to say, “Oh, but I do.”

Parents do this all the time and it results in their kids feeling totally disconnected and alienated. It’s not just a matter of you getting it. It’s a matter of them feeling gotten.

I went to a raw food restaurant once and the owner, who I’d met the night before, came up to the table. 

“How’s the food here Peter?” I asked him.

“It’s amazing!” he said nodding. But with a bit too much conviction. With a bit too much certainty. Sort of a glazed look over his eyes.

We ordered and ate three dishes. One, a raw burrito thing, was quite good. Another, I have forgotten what it was, was mediocre and forgettable. The third, an avocado based soup, was truly awful.

Peter came back to the table, smiling and nodding and asked, “How was the food?”

Except, if you read his body language, he wasn’t really asking how it was. His body language was saying, “The food. So amazing! Amiright?”

I told him how much I’d loved the burritos. He agreed and left without asking about the other two dishes because, in his mind, I don’t think he could conceive of them not being amazing.

And so he never got some vital feedback. I’m sure this isn’t the only time this happened. 

One client of mine shared something they’d experienced with holistic practitioners that they hated, “When they ask me in follow up visits if anything got better and I feel as though I have to say something positive or I have somehow failed. When they act as though I have done something wrong if their approach is not working for me. 

Contrast that with Noorish (an amazing  superfood elixir bar in Edmonton). They always ask me for my feedback. “How was the chai?” they’ll ask but sort of shaking their hand as if to say, “Good? Not good?” They really want to know. And so I tell them. I like being asked but I love my experience being taken seriously. If something is ‘off’ they’ll say, “Wow. Sorry to hear that. What was wrong with it?” and then they really listen. 

You can tell they want to know from their actions, not just their words. It comes across in subtle non-verbal ways.

Most businesses, and this happens a lot with holistic practitioners, have a lot of clients who come once and then vanish. And they almost never, ever get any feedback as to why. My take on this is that there’s often a lack of safety. The clients know, intuitively, that the practitioner has an answer they want to hear and if it’s not what they want to say, it’s easier to just leave. 

  

Principle #5: People know you get it from you actions not your words.  

But it’s not just our desire to understand that’s picked up. It’s whether or not we do understand.

I remember when my brother had gone through a major, major heartbreak. I was in my late teens and enamoured with all things Tony Robbins and NLP and I told him how easy it was to get over this kind of thing with a few NLP techniques. “You just need to change the submodalities of it and collapse some anchors.” As I began to lay out, in great detail, some of these techniques and how amazing they were . . . I’ll never forget the look he gave me. A look that fundamentally said, “Wow. You just don’t get it.” And I didn’t. It would be another five years before I went through my first real, romantic heartbreak and had that completely level me for another five years after that. In my telling him how easy it was to heal it with these simple techniques, what was not happening was an honouring of how significant the relationship was for him in his life. What didn’t happen was an honouring of how much he loved her and how deep the pain was for him. If I could do it over again, I would have just put my hand on his shoulder and said, “I’m so sorry.” and sat in silence.

A client shared this about how holistic health practitioners let them know they valued and ‘got’ them: “My best experience of seeing a practitioner (sorry I don’t have a specific example) is leaving the session and feeling they have acknowledged my part in the healing journey. That I am an active part of my healing and I am seeing them for support. They are not the experts ‘doing onto me’.” 

People know that you ‘get it’ based on what you do, not what you say.

One of my friends Amber, an amazing advocate for the Gaelic language in Nova Scotia, was at the Bioneers event as my guest. She ended up being a helper for one of the thirteen indigenous grandmothers. Her only job? To get her grandmother to the sessions on time. Which is hard. Grandmothers can be wily. One night, Amber was sitting next to the grandmother who was laying in bed. Amber was sharing about some big moments in her past few months and spontaneously burst into tears and started sobbing. The grandmother didn’t say anything. She certainly didn’t preach. She didn’t tell her how to relate to what was going on. She just lifted up her blanket and patted the bed, inviting Amber to lie down next to her and be held while she cried. 

People know that you ‘get it’ based on what you do, not what you say.

When my friend responded to me the way she did on facebook I absolutely did not feel ‘gotten’. Is that possibly because I am defensive, petty and easily triggered? Sure. But that’s the point. Everyone is. Especially people who are in the midst of their struggles and traumatized. And I think it’s the job of the healer to ‘get that’. Someone who’s doing a big landscaping project is likely to feel overwhelmed. It’s the job of the contractor to ‘get that’ and design their process to make sure it addresses that. Assuming that others should all be enlightened, untriggerable and totally sanguine no matter what matter of judgment you throw at them . . . is likely to not work out to well for you. Should I have been able to see that her words were really all about love? Maybe. Did I? Nope. 

This happens in the holistic scene all the time. Someone shares a hardship. They’re met with new age bullying and advice. They get defensive and express that they’re angry about the comment. This is swiftly turned into, “Where are you angry at yourself?” and, quickly, the other person leaves and the practitioner says, “I guess they just weren’t ready.” when another truth (perhaps even truer) was that the practitioner wasn’t ready to really meet that person where they were. Below are a number of examples clients have shared with me about their experiences with holistic health practitioners where empathy was present and where it wasn’t . . .

 

“I went to see an herbalist/iridologist who wasn’t warm or friendly but had a lot of knowledge and was known to be very good at her work. She gave me some very strict dietary guidelines to follow – basically changed my whole life while taking care of a newborn baby. So when I went back for follow-up I was quite proud of myself for doing so well – not perfect but I made some good steps toward a healthier diet. She looked into my eyes (iridology) and asked me what my compliance to her diet was. I said, ‘about 85%.’ She said in a harsh, judgmental tone, with pursed lips, ‘How about 50!’ I felt tiny and like a really ‘bad’ client. Totally deflated. I don’t care what her reputation and credentials were – I never went back there. (Nor did I tell her or the store who hosted her why.) Aside from this she gave me long lists of supplements that cost a small fortune.

“I once received an amazing craniosacral treatment. This healer’s touch was firm yet compassionate. When working with my head, I experienced a release. At the time it felt like a jolt, like when I’m falling asleep and my nerves start twitching so I wake-up suddenly. I hadn’t experience anything like this before in a massage so asked ‘what just happened?’ Her response was brief. She suggested I take some time for myself after the treatment and relax in the park across the street. I didn’t understand what had just happened to me and felt open, confused and vulnerable. I lay in that park for a long while. The rest of my day…I felt spaced out. I needed more dialogue from her. I’m a psycho-physical being. If I have a physical release, my emotions and psyche are connected to that transformation. I needed an enlightened witness, someone observing me, to guide me when in the dark.” 

I went to a holistic clinic to get a live blood analysis done. At first I thought the lady was very nice and she explained a lot of things to me about my health. She also told me some very disturbing things as though they weren’t a big deal. Then she said she was going to give me a treatment that I had never heard of before. Before I knew it I was lying on a table being hooked up to a machine that I had no idea what it was. At first, it was ok. Not ok as in pleasurable, but ok as in bearable. Within a few minutes this machine was giving me severe shocks to the point where my muscles would spaz out and I couldn’t speak. I called for the practitioner but she didn’t come for a few minutes. Then when she finally came it was again, no big deal! She said she would turn down the machine and again she left me alone to be shocked. I still have no idea what the hell that machine was for! She came in and treated me as though I was so lucky to have received this unknown shock therapy, then sent me on my way. I went out to the lobby to pay and get the herbal treatment that she prescribed. When I got up to the till my total was $589.00. My jaw dropped and I started to cry. 

My partner and I got a free sample session that this one practitioner was offering as a way to gain some new clients. The session itself was awesome and a lot of work was done. At the end of the session, she asked us when we would like to book another session, which in and of itself, was okay. But she started to pressure us into booking something else. We just couldn’t afford it. Also, I was into doing another session with my partner, but he wasn’t. She reacted in a way where it felt like she was taking it personally. It wasn’t really obvious that she was doing this, but I could feel this tension in the air that smelled kind of like she was hurt and slightly angry that she had given her session away for free (which was the offer she was giving everyone) and she didn’t get a booking out of it. She called a while later (maybe a few weeks) and asked me again if we would like to continue with more sessions. Again, this I can understand, but the answer was still the same from my partner – he wouldn’t go for it. And again, it was the same reaction from her. I just felt really uncomfortable about the whole situation. So much so, that even if I had the extra money to get a session with her – I wouldn’t. I’d go somewhere else.” 

“I had a reading with a lady at a trade show in Calgary that left me feeling like I had wasted my money. I decided to get a reading from her because I had attended a lecture by her that had lead me to believe that she was really good at what she did. When I spoke to her at her booth, she seemed to come across as a bit desperate for clients, but I chose to ignore that gut feeling. (Lesson – always go with your first gut feeling). I sat down to get my reading for $20. She seemed to be in a rush to get through my reading, so much so that I couldn’t even remember what she told me by the end. And all I got for my $20 was a 5 minute reading. Not to mention that what she told me wasn’t anything I couldn’t have figured out on my own. At the end of the reading, she was very abrupt and without actually saying the words, it felt energetically like she was almost shoving me out of the booth so she could get more clients. I will never go back to her again.” 

“I left the care of an Osteopath because she was abrupt and confrontational with me. She wanted to be the authority and have me accept her as such. This was not the emotionally safe and sensitive treatment that I expected. The fees were high and the results did not justify continuing. Someone less trained has become my trusted practitioner-better emotional safety and better physical results.” 

 “The best practitioners I’ve been to don’t try to sell me on their techniques. They listen to my concerns, my priorities and they offer what they can to help. They do not: 1) Try to scare me into using their services. 2) Tell me that whatever I’ve been doing so far has not helped and/or made things worse. 3) Tell me that their modality is the ONE and ONLY of any value.” 

“I had a session with a Shamanic practitioner at the Body, Soul and Spirit Expo who was amazing in so many ways. I was having a really hard time financially at the time, and couldn’t afford to pay what he was charging for a session. I knew intuitively that he would be worth the money, I just didn’t have it. I spoke with a lady who was working at his booth booking his sessions, and she said she would speak to him for me to see if he would be willing to help out in some way. He offered to give me a session in the traditional native way where you give an offering of tobacco. I gratefully accepted! Fortunately there was a booth where I could get some. I did the session with him, and even though it was only a half an hour and my payment was in tobacco, he gave me his all. I had the best session I think I’ve ever had with any practitioner. I healed what felt like lifetimes of “stuff” in only a half hour session. Tremendous kindness, compassion and wisdom. He was great! I knew that his only motivation was to serve and to help heal others. I spent the rest of the weekend telling everyone they had to get a session with him and would recommend him to anyone and everyone. I will also go back to him anytime! He was amazing.” 

“The practitioner was traditional healer, in other words a herbalist, shaman, therapist. We were doing something akin to counseling. It is hard for me put my finger on what exactly she did that made me feel so great. I just had the genuine feeling that she was there to help me without trying too hard. You know there are people that don’t seem to give a shit about you, and then those that are burning to “help” you, which feels more like them forcing their opinions and philosophies on you. You get the feeling in both situations that this person is too wrapped up in themselves to genuinely be able to help you. And let me tell you, this practitioner wasn’t just telling me things I wanted to hear. I was literally having my mind blown, and it wasn’t always pleasant. My whole way of thinking was being challenged. My subconscious fears were being brought to the surface. I was extremely vulnerable. Sometimes, I would get angry. However, the whole way through I felt like I was being supported. Even when we disagreed, I could FEEL her integrity. She didn’t put on airs or use too much spiritual mumbo jumbo, even though the experience was very spiritual. She spoke to me like one human being to another. You could sense the authority of her experience and wisdom, but she was not arrogant or pushy. I really, really felt listened to. I’d like to add that people don’t always want to know what it will take to heal, so practitioners always run the risk of alienating their patients when they give it to them straight. However, a really good practitioner, like in the one in the above experience, is able to gauge what their patient/client is ready to hear and nudge them along while supporting them. PS. I feel like this would be a hard thing for a practitioner to learn in a marketing type seminar. I feel like it’s the result of years of inner work and genuinely being comfortable in their own skin. However, if you can do it, you are a genius.”

“I was taking an introduction to yoga class with an instructor I didn’t know. At the very first class she was bound and determined to have us all try standing on our heads (well, being inverted anyways) using chairs under each shoulder to support us. I was an overweight and 45 year old at the time. I repeatedly said I did not want to do that and she was very insistent on having me try. I felt totally unimportant to this woman. She was not there to respect my needs/comfort level/etc. She had found “the answer to all things” in inverted postures and she was going to ram it down our throats for our own good. I did not go back to that class. Even now, several years later, my cheeks get hot just thinking about it! After that last class, I have never tried another yoga class with any instructor at any facility. I could use the exercise, but I choose not to put myself in a position of being injured or humiliated to serve someone else’s needs.” 

 

Principle #6: Seek permission before giving advice. 

In the mid-nineties, I worked for a franchise of personal development guru Tony Robbins.

And one day, my colleague Kevin and I were talking about how some of the graduates of the programs were getting under our skin by constantly going into coaching mode whenever we’d see them. “What’s been the BEST part of your day?” or “What did you learn from that?” when we were just not in the mood. Finally something clicked for Kevin, “Are you talking about George?” “Yes!” I said with a huge sigh of relief. It turned out that ‘some graduates’ was really, for both of us, one person. We looked at why it bothered us so much and we realized that it came down to a lack of permission. We had never asked for his coaching but he kept on giving it. In his mind, I am sure, he imagined he was having a beautiful impact on people by asking them such empowering and uplifting questions. But, in reality, people were feeling annoyed with him.

So, we came up with something we called the ‘G Rule’. If either of us felt like the other was getting into the other’s business, all they had to do was say the words “G Rule” and the other person had to completely drop it. Occasion only ever came for it to be used a few times each but it was the best feeling on both sides when it got used.

Kevin would be sharing something he was struggling with and I’d start giving advice or trying to coach with, “Well, I think the way you need to look at this is . . .” and he’d say, “G Rule” and I’d shut my mouth and lift up my hands. 

Seth Godin popularized the notion of ‘permission marketing’ in his book of the same title. He noticed that, with so much marketing noise out there, that people only paid attention to the people they’d given permission to be marketed to from. He pointed out that the day of just adding people to your email list without getting their permission first, were over. The idea of ‘enter your name and email for a draw’ as a ploy to get your email were becoming less and less tolerated.

No one liked getting junk mail. No one likes getting SPAM. But what is it that defines one kind of marketing as junk mail and while another is welcomed? Permission. 

Unasked for advice is the SPAM of personal relationships and it’s not just your email inbox that has filters for it.

The art of building trust and getting people to give you permission to be added to your list is one of the most important ones you can develop. You can learn some of my thoughts on that here.

Years ago, while living in Scotland and attending the Gaelic College there, I met a woman we’ll call Rita. I’ve never met anyone who was in other people’s business more than her. Or who shared her advice so incredibly freely. Over the course of knowing her, I heard her tell a 75 year old traditional story teller that he should have married a different woman because she was vegan, that I needed to spend time with her hogs because they were grounding and I needed grounding energy, that I should ask for a job from a local banker and that I should swim naked in the waters of Skye because my aura needed freshening. And that’s off the top of my head. I have truly never come to hate someone so much. She never asked for permission because, in her mind, she didn’t need it. She was sharing the truth that I needed to hear. Shortly after I left her presence, it occurred to me that she may have needed me to do those things but she didn’t. 

But here’s the terrible part. I actually wanted to go swimming in the waters on Skye but when I went with the old story teller and her, I couldn’t do it because it felt like I would be letting her win. I would have been cow-towing to her. And I couldn’t let her have that satisfaction. Even though I really wanted to. If I could do it over again, I would have just gone swimming.

One more time: If you push people, they will push back to preserve their own autonomy – even if it means doing something that might hurt them. 

Here’s a flip side of that though. In my experience, if you are really present for someone and they get that you ‘get it’ and aren’t trying to change them or get them to do anything . . . they will often ask you for advice. They’ll seek out your guidance. “What do you think I should do?” they’ll ask. 

Imagine the above facebook conversation with my friend done again, but this time with a focus on her empathizing with me and trying to ‘get’ my experience instead of just giving me advice. And again, imagine you were me, meeting her at a party and consider how incredibly different this would feel to receive.

Me: genuinely thought i would die most days

Her: Wow. What a timeless hell. 

Me: It really was. 

Her: You must have felt so scared. And you were alone in a foreign country. How was that for you?

Me: I felt so lonely and scared. It really brought up all of my fears about death. Maybe I just vanish. And that’s it. That was so terrifying to me. You hear about people dying peacefully but there was no peace in me at all, just pure terror. I kept clutching my friend’s hand saying, “I don’t want to die.” I recorded messages to people on my iPhone. I wrote farewell notes to people in a notebook my friend had bought me.

Her: Wow. You really weren’t sure you were going to make it home. 

Me: Not at all. I was so scared I wouldn’t. 

Her: Where has it left you? Where are you now with it all now that you’re home? I could imagine it’s left you really shaken up. 

Me: So shaken up. Traumatized. I never really got how brutal trauma could be. I’ve got a lot of anxiety and the occasional, full blown anxiety attack – though not as often. I can’t deal with big crowds of people for long anymore. Can’t imagine going to a big bar with loud noises – would feel so overwhelming. I’m so emotionally raw. I’ve got so little emotional buffer. 

Her: It must be scary to feel so scared all the time and . . . I’m guessing it’s taking a lot of adjusting to and I could imagine myself just wanting it to go away so I could have some more ease in my life. 

Me: Totally. And . . . it also feels like a really important moment in my life. Like an initiation of some kind. Like it was meant to happen. Like it’s shifted me out of one phases of my life and into another. At one level it’s so brutal and terrible. On another level, it feels like a doorway opening to some profound growth in my life. So . . . in some ways I’m so grateful for the whole thing. I know it will be rough and it’s shaken me up but . . . the shaking up isn’t totally a bad thing – even though it’s so uncomfortable. 

Her: Hmm. I really get that. So it’s like you know it was one of those ‘big moments’ in your life and it really hurt and scared you but you also know that it’s got a lot of gifts for you too.

Me: Yeah. I’m sure of it. So many gifts. It feels a bit disorienting. I really don’t totally know who this ‘new me’ is. It’s like on Doctor Who when the Doctor regenerates and is played by a different actor and he needs to get to know who he is in his new body. It’s a bit like that. 

Her: I imagine that could feel a bit overwhelming and confusing. I know how it was for me when I went through some near death moments in my life. So disorienting and unsettling.

Me: I’d love to hear about your experiences and any wisdom you’ve got on going through something like this. I never have before. 

If the conversation had gone something like that, I would have likely asked her for her thoughts. She wouldn’t have even needed to ask for permission. If I hadn’t and she felt really called to share something, she could say. “You know, something is coming up for me to share really strongly around your healing process. Is this a good time to share it? No pressure at all. I know sometimes I’ve got enough going on inside that I don’t need anymore information.” Asking permission is a deep sign of respect and affirmation of the other person’s sovereignty and ability to choose what’s best for them. In the original conversation, what was missing for me, was any trust in me and my ability to navigate the process on my own. 

 

 

Some more real world examples of this from my clients:

“1. My worst experience with an energy practitioner. Prior to starting the she session scanned my body with her hand and proceeded to tell me everything that was going on…this is going on here, you’re…here, and oh there’s your grief etc. etc. It felt disrespectful. The energy behind it was as if she was ‘showing me’ how skilled she was with her intuition. Which was more about her than myself, the client. I have experienced practitioners who are not sensitive in how they share information and I don’t recall being asked if I wanted to hear their perceptions. I often do want to hear but I can think of practitioners I have been to where that was not what I was going to them for but the information was offered anyways. 

“I went to see an SI practitioner and it was wonderful how he told me when he noticed things free up as he worked. In fact, before he began, he had asked me if I wanted him to describe what he was doing as he worked or if I just wanted him to work in silence. He made sure I was warm and comfortable, and he was very gentle and confident in how he worked with touch.” 

“I have been to several practitioners who have helped me change my life. The characteristics they have in common are: 1. They are heart open people who share rather than shove what they have to say. 2. If they have any questions about me being blind, they’ve just come out and asked them instead of trying to pretend they know everything. 3. They have accepted my feedback, particularly regarding my pain level. Rather than telling me: “no pain, no gain baby” they have been responsive, backed off the intensity, and let me relax into a deeper space and then maybe I could accept more intense work.” 

 

Principle #7: Empathy is a Skill To Develop. 

But where do you start?

In addition to the thoughts and examples above, here are some practical practices and ideas of how you can weave more empathy into your business interactions.

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #1: Study empathy.

Buy and read Non Violent Communication and any of the subsequent books in the same genre. You can find a lot here

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #2: Make your business more welcoming. 

Remember what it was like when you were in there shoes. Remember how scary it felt. Maybe you felt ashamed of the problem. If you have never been in the situation your clients are facing, see if you can find something similar in your life. Ask your clients what it’s like for them and really listen. And then ask yourself how everything in your business could meet them better in that place. What would you want if you were them. I’m talking from your website, to how you begin your workshops, to your office space, to how you run your first meetings. There’s no cookie cutter approach that will work but, once you really connect with what it’s like to be them, you’ll know. I wrote about this in my blog post called The Three Foundations of a Thriving Business - the part to read is part two about what I call The Container. The Container are all of the elements of your business that show up when they show up. The container are all the things that allow them to check you out at a distance before they commit to buying anything. The safer they feel in approaching and exploring you, the more business you will do. 

I once ran a business called The School Revolution that did workshops with high schools around school spirit. And, by the time I was leading the workshops, I’d lost touch with what it was like to be in high school. It took me reading the feedback forms and really paying attention to get it that, when they showed up for the workshop, they were scared. That had never occurred to me. Why were they scared? Because they’re teenagers in a new experience, surrounded by new people and scared they were being judged and having no idea what was coming. But a consistent piece of feedback we got was that, when a staff member would give them a big smile first thing in the morning as they arrived, they would relax and know they were in good hands. So, when we had our early morning meetings before the events, I’d remind the staff of the importance of smiling and greeting people warmly. It seems so obvious. But, until it was lifted up, it was being done consistently. The difference it made in the workshop was noticeable. Students began the day way more relaxed and open than they had been. 

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #3: Acknowledge them.

Acknowledge them not for getting things right or being perfect. Acknowledge them for how hard and painful it feels for them to be going through their situation. Honour that. Respect that. Acknowledge them for the effort they’ve put into solving the issue already (it’s probably more than you think). Acknowledge them for what they’ve already learned, without your help, along the way. It’s likely vast and impressive. Of course, to acknowledge these things, you may need to dig a bit to discover them. If you do, they will feel so seen and gotten.

Meet people where they are vs. immediately pushing your point of view and telling them where they need to be. Affirm that who they are and what they have right now is enough. You can read this blog post about that.

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #4: Slow down on giving advice.

When people are desperate and in pain they might ask you for advice and ‘what to do’ and want answers fast. Resist the urge to do that. You likely only have a very surface level understanding of their issues. Slow down. Slow them down. Invite a pause. I’ll often say, “I have some thoughts, but, before we go there, I want to make sure I’m really understanding what you’re saying and where you’re at . . .” It’s hard to do overkill on this. Most of us want to rush ahead into solving their problem so that we can relieve ourselves from the anxiety of seeing them suffer, feel important, feel useful . . . but that’s all about us. Much more useful to them is to feel empathized with and for you to know you’ve got a really accurate diagnosis of what is actually happening with them. I’m not saying don’t give advice. I’m saying that what you think is really, really stretching out the diagnosis period into a painfully protracted process is likely still faster than it could be.

In 2012, I wrote a post called Slow Marketing where I lifted up the possibility that marketing might actually work better and move faster if we slowed it down. 

A simple question you can ask whenever you meet someone in pain that can stop you from leaping into saving them: “How is that for you?” Ask and mean it. Ask and be quiet. Let them talk. 

My dear friend and colleague Jennifer Summerfeldt said it so beautifully, “slowing down the conversation, one slows down the need for anything to change or be resolved. In healing work this is critical. Too often we rush to reduce the pain, suffering, or wound. We rush with our words and our advice. Unless the person is in danger of being harmed further or is in need of medical attention ASAP we have TIME! So much time actually. these quick remarks many of us are guilty of saying, or have been on the receiving end, come from a place of fear and impatience. Many of us are terrified to sit in the discomfort. we are programmed to ’take away the pain as fast as we can so we can resume to happy land’. We are not taught to accept and have space for ‘real land’. We don’t want to sit in our own discomforts. nor the discomforts of the other. nor the discomforts of life. we want band-aids, and someone to kiss our wound and send us off feeling better. Maybe just maybe, the mere act of allowing space and time for the experience to sink in, for the tears to fall, and for there to be no need to lessen the discomfort  will in fact be all that is needed for healing to take place.”

Clarity before resolution. Empathy before education. Seek to understand before seeking to be understood. These all require us to slow everything down.

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #5: Practice restating what you hear them say.

This is Active Listening 101. It would seem so easy, but, in my experience, this is actually incredibly hard for most people to do well.

Restate what you heard them say in your own words and ask them if you ‘got it’.  Don’t assume you get it. Don’t assume. In fact, assume that you do not get it. Coming in from a place of humility is much more attractive than a place of the arrogance of interrupting them part way through explaining their situation with a dismissive wave so you can begin your brilliant treatment. This build on the idea of slowing it down. Don’t move forward until you can restate their position better than they can themselves – until you can see them relax in knowing you get it. Question everything you’re assuming about their situation. Really make sure you get it. You will be shocked with how often you’re wrong. 

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #6: Write out the typical story of an ideal client. 

This exercise is incredibly useful. Try to write out the generic story of your potential clients so that, when they read it they say, “Wow. That is so my story. Were you spying on me?” I did this for holistic practitioners in a blog post called “The Story of Jane the Holistic Practitioner in Seven Chapters” and, whenever holistic practitioners read it, they say it is is eerie how accurate it is. But again, don’t assume you’ve got it. Run it by people. See what’s missing. Get them to help you understand what it’s been like to be them before they came to see you. 

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #7: Get empathy.

This might be the most important idea. 

Giving empathy is impossible until you’ve received it yourself. If there’s an area of your life where you feel no one understands you, find someone or a group that will. Maybe it’s a close friend you know who will just listen and care. Maybe it’s a colleague, a therapist, a men’s group. Maybe it comes in reading poetry or literature that affirms your feelings and needs. But get it. The more you receive it, the more effortless it is to give. I’ve had such incredible support and examples of empathy in my life. 

As Gabor Mate points out so lucidly and beautifully in his TED talk in Rio, most of us didn’t receive the kind of empathy we needed as a child. And so we need to get it as adults. And, often in the process of healing, we become the adults whose support we were needing when we were younger. Until we do we will often vacillate between self pity (collapsing) and self important (posturing) and never really feel comfortable in our own skin (composure).

It is both the thing that opens the door to healing and the healing itself. Most of us have spent a lifetime having others try to change us into something that is more pleasing to them (or being rejected because we didn’t fit the mould). Parents, siblings, teachers, classmates, friends, bosses, co-workers, romantic partners . . . And is there any bigger gift we can give someone than to say, “I get it. And you’re fine just the way you are.”? As Ani Difranco said, “More joy, less shame.” The gift of empathy not only makes us better people, it helps people know that they aren’t crazy and that they aren’t alone. Empathy transforms people. Try to change people and they will resist and try to hold onto who they are (even if it hurts them).

In the end, we can never really know what goes on in the hearts of others. Not really. So, at some level, empathy is just us trying to imagine the unimaginable. But, one of the sweetest mysteries of life seems to be that, even though I can never know your experience, I can know my own. And, the more intimate I become with myself, the more intimate I become with everyone. Because we’re all the same deep down. We all have the same feelings and needs. The more I come to understand and love myself, the more I can love others. The more I pursue a path of wholeness (including all  the parts of me) vs. purity (cutting out anything that doesn’t belong) the more I can intuitively understand others. 

This piece hammers on marketing and its importance from a marketing perspective. And it’s true. It’s vital. From a potential or active customer’s stand point – they care about what’s in it for them and their experience. That’s hard medicine.

But . . . I sometimes find it so hard to empathize with others. I have uneasy moments with clients. I judge people. I get triggered a lot. I get tired and don’t show up as my best. I snap. And I regret those moments. Sometimes the one who needs the most empathy is us. 

Maybe this should have been the first practice because life is really hard some days. Some days I can barely take care of myself, let alone holding space for anyone else. 

I think that the most healing thing we can offer others is to meet them and love them where they are.

Meet people where they are and they become who they should be. 

In the end, on every side of the master, Alistair MacLeod said it best in his book No Great Mischief, “We’re all better when we’re loved.”

And the content of this post has been turned into a sweet info-graphic sketch by http://sketchingmaniacs.com/

 

original Seven Principles & Seven Practices on Empathy in Marketing

 

I would love to hear your thoughts, reflection and examples from your own life around this whole notion of empathy in marketing. You can leave them in the comments below. 

 

  

40 minute video interview on authentic marketing with nash ryker

The other day I did a forty minute video interview with Nash Ryker of http://yourepicdestinytv.com/.

We got to talk about some new ideas I have been having around authentic marketing, especially:

You can watch it here

Screen Shot 2013 08 11 at 1.01.52 PM 40 minute video interview on authentic marketing with nash ryker

polarize

 polarizeI want to share something that might forever change the way you relate to marketing.

It’s a notion I got from Mark Manson in the context of dating but I think it maps over perfectly into marketing.

There are only three types of potential clients you will ever experience: responsive, neutral and unresponsive.

  • Responsive people will come across your work and light up. They’ll get excited and want to sign up and hire you after learning a little bit about you. They’ll be curious, want to know more and ask you a lot of questions. These people are a ‘yes’ to what you’re up to in your business.
  • Neutral people will listen to what you have to say but they won’t react much. They’ll sit there in your workshop politely and take it in. But they won’t sign up for much. They may be cordial and listen respectfully but they for sure won’t seem ‘into it’ like the responsive people do. These people are a ‘maybe’ to what you’re up to in your business.
  • Unresponsive people will actively pull away, show disinterest, might even be rude. These people are a ‘no’ to what you’re up to in your business.

And how you deal with each of these three people is different.

With responsive people, you just need to enjoy them and make it really safe and easy for them to buy from you. You want to have your sales funnel worked out so they can engage at the level that feels best for them. If you try and push or ‘sell’ to these people, things get weird. They’re already sold on you. Just relax, enjoy them, engage them and look for what is the best fit.

With unresponsive people, just bless and release them. Really. Just let them go. It’s not a fit (at least not in that moment). Trying to convince these people to hire you or buy from you is the road to burn out.

With neutral people it’s a different story. The neutral people aren’t sure. They’re on the fence. And your job is to get them off the fence (with no bias towards which direction they fall – towards you or away from you).

To be clear, I’m not talking about pushing them or making them do anything. I’m talking about revealing yourself and being vulnerable enough.

Let’s back this up a bit.

If they’re on the fence, why are they on the fence?

They’re up there because they’re not sure enough about who you are, your point of view, your overall purpose of your business, the results you offer or problems you solve etc. There’s something about your platform that is fuzzy and that results in them not knowing if it’s a fit. There’s likely something they see that they like (which is why they haven’t left your presence) but also somethings they see that they don’t quite get (which is why they haven’t bought).

But why is there fuzziness in the first place? Often because we’re scared to share the full truth of how we see things.

A typical approach with neutral people is to try to keep them around by being really ‘nice’ and not offending them in any way. People will build their email list by sharing useful but not that exciting or honest content. It’s kind of ‘meh’. It’s nice. It’s fine. 

But, if you do this, they will consistently fall off of the fence away from you.

It’s like the dreaded ‘friend zone’ in dating. 

They’ll tell you how great they think your business is but they won’t ever hire you.

But there’s another approach. And that approach is to be really honest about your platform and your intentions so that they are able to make up their mind and you can either go deeper with them or, quite frankly, stop wasting your time in ‘building a relationship’ with them that was never going to go anywhere anyways.

But, this requires us to let go of our people pleasing behaviours and to start being really honest about who we are and what we think. It might also mean directly asking someone if they’d like to be a client or be open to a conversation about working together. You might find that people who were dancing around with a ‘maybe’ they’d like to work with you suddenly become a ‘no’ when you directly ask them. Which is wonderful to know. Your asking them (depending on how you did it) didn’t cause them to not want to work with you, it created the space to reveal what they may have already been feeling for a while but were too nervous to tell you.

And here’s the challenge with those things: they all make you vulnerable. You are putting yourself out there and risking rejection.

If you’re honest about your quirks, people might not like them.

If you’re honest about your point of view, people might strongly disagree and attack or belittle you for it.

If you’re really real about the specific kinds of people you’re best at helping, you might lose folks who aren’t that.

If you’re honest about the larger cause you’re most passionate about that drives your business, you might lose people who are more passionate about other causes.

But on the flip side, if you’re honest about these things: some people will love them.

I think that our fear of being vulnerable is what keeps others from knowing us and therefore being able to decide if we’re a fit. We often feel shame about really revealing ourselves and yet it’s the very thing that will inspire others to get off the fence. Will you repel some folks? Sure. But you will also far more strongly attract others.

I can tell you that the blog posts I’ve written that have gotten the most positive reactions and cemented people as fans also got some of the most negative ones and the most comments overall – were the ones where I was most vulnerable and honest. 

Just the other day I wrote a post called, ‘I’m Broke (And I Don’t Care)‘ and was flooded with over 100 comments. Or the post, ‘Why Charging What You’re Worth Is Bullshit.’ Or the post ‘Slow Marketing‘. Or the time I encouraged people to do what they could to get the Conservatives out of office in Canada and wrote about it in my post Elections, Polarizing & Having an Opinion

If they are neutral towards you, the answer isn’t to be neutral back. If you find you’re attracting a lot of neutral clients and you want to change that, they answer is this: be even more vulnerable and honest.

The goal of marketing isn’t to convince everyone to work with you.

To state that even more strongly: the goal of marketing isn’t to convince anyone to work with you.

The goal of marketing is to attract the people who would be a perfect fit for you and to actively disuade people who are not a good fit for you (with a bit of wiggle room there). Marketing is more a filtering process than anything

Consider this logic: If you attract someone who is not a fit for what you offer, they will have a bad experience. They will then tell their friends about their bad experience and now you’ve got bad word of mouth. It’s not actually that what you were offering was bad – it just wasn’t a fit for them. But I promise you the rest of the world will not make that distinction.

On the other hand, if you attract the perfect kind of client who’s in exactly the right moment in their life to work with you they will almost certainly have a good experience. And they will tell everyone they know about that. And now you have good word of mouth.

It’s simple. 

But it’s so easy to waste your time on trying to keep the neutral people around. Or to attract them. 

But in the end it doesn’t work. Here’s the common dynamic. You get a speaking gig for thousands of people. Amazing. What an opportunity. Then you get a chance to write an article on a well known blog. So you do those things and, cleverly, offer them a free gift to sign up for your email newsletter. And, to get the free gift, a number of them do. Your pipeline of new clients is now so full, you tell yourself. Any day now you’re about to break through. Fast forward three months and nothing has changed.

Here’s what was really happening, people saw you. Thought you were interesting. Were intrigued to know a bit more but were mostly neutral. They saw a ‘free’ offer, got excited and signed up for your email newsletter which is also very neutral and not opinionated at all and they got bored, stopped reading it and really never intended to buy in the first place. You were hooked on hopium that your pipeline was full. But it never really was. So, we keep trying to get in front of more and more people, hoping that might change it. 

But here’s what will really change it: being willing to be a lot more vulnerable with those crowds.

I don’t mean standing up there and weeping about your childhood and asking them to hold you.

I don’t mean standing up there and telling them how nervous you are to be there (though that can be endearing).

I mean being willing to be very honest about whatever parts of your journey you’ve gone through that make you qualified that you care to share. I mean being willing to share where you’re not perfect, your quirks and kinks. Being willing to let them know who you are and how you see the world and the nature of their issue.  Being honest vulnerable will polarize your audience. The more vulnerable you are, the more polarizing you will be. 

Your ability to attract perfect clients is in direct proportion to your willingness to be vulnerable and deal with the reality that most people are simply not a fit. Luckily, you don’t need most people as clients to have a thriving business. You only need some. 

Here’s another way to look at it: I’d look at your neutral clients as the white blood cells of your business. If you have a lot it’s indicating that you are sick. And the disease may be from your own lack of honesty and vulnerability because of your fears. But most businesses see the white blood cells as a sign of health and seem to want more of them. You want less neutral people and more highly responsive people. You want less maybe’s and more yes’ or no’s right off the bat. 

When you really start stepping out with your full truth, you will repel so many more people (who were not a fit) and you will attract raving fans who love what you are about (who are a fit). Withholding the truth in the beginning doesn’t really help. Sure you might get more clients to begin with, but eventually the truth will come out and those people will leave. 

The only question is, how vulnerable are you willing to be?

Here are some ways you can explore being vulnerable. I’d love to hear what additional ideas you might have:

  • Ask Their Intentions: If you’ve got someone who’s been hovering around, neutral, asking for free advice for a while, consider just asking them directly, ‘Hey, I notice you’ve been around and come to a number of the free things I’ve been offering and I was just wondering if you were thinking of coming to the the upcoming full weekend. I’d love to have you there.’ Either way, now you know the truth and energy gets released which is a relief. It doesn’t have to be heavy, but if you’re wondering, you can always ask. They might just say ‘yes’. I was hosting a party in London, England and I got three people to come to my weekend workshop by simply saying, ‘Are you coming to my weekend? You should come! I’d love to have you there!’ Simple. Asking is vulnerable but powerful.
  • Go on a Rant: This is one of my favourites. Look at your industry and ask yourself honestly what you see is missing. And then let yourself rant about that. Sleep on it and if it still feels true, even if it feels edgy, put it up and share it with the world in a video or your blog.
  • Set Boundaries: Are clients always asking you for ‘just a quick opinion’ or a ‘five minute favour’? Tell them the truth (which is that you’d like to be paid for your time). I usually say something like, ‘Thanks so much for writing. That’s a great question and I totally get how frustrating that can be. My rates and such are here. Let me know if you’d like to book some time. I hope you’re well otherwise :-).’ And tell your clients what you expect from them before they hire you. Be real with people about your needs. 
  • Lay Out Your Map: You likely have a very strong opinion about the best way to help people on their Journey from their problem to the solution. Consider being even more explicit and honest about it. Lay the philosophy and steps out as clearly as you possibly can. Let them take a look at it for themselves and see if they like it or not. It can be tempting to be vague and try and trick people into signing up for a program based on vague promises. It’s not worth it.  Laying out your map is more effective anyway.
  • Share Your Story: Did you go through the same struggle as your ideal clients? Do you still struggle with the same issue in ways (but have learned more mature ways to deal with it when it comes up)? Consider sharing that. 
  • Fire Clients: Do you have clients that are a constant drain on your time and energy? Fire them. For real. Let them go. If you’re not, why not? Because you need the money? Because you’re scared they’ll be upset, hate you and tell the world what a fraud you are? Letting go of bad clients frees up so much energy for a good client to show up and for you to be strong and attractive when they do.
  • What Else? Any other ideas or examples you can think of?

brene brown: the power of vulnerability

If you haven’t seen this video, I highly encourage you to watch it. Being willing to be vulnerable might just be the most important thing you could ever do for your business. It will help people feel safe with you and also attract your ideal clients to you more strongly. Your willingness to be incredible honest about your platform will do more to grow your business than anything I know.

Guest Post: How I added 8,000 Facebook fans in 5 months

tim emerson Guest Post: How I added 8,000 Facebook fans in 5 months

Tim Emerson is a graduate of my Niching for Hippies course and someone I did a case study on a while ago. He’s also a big believer in the power of slow marketing.

When Tim told me that he had over 8,000 fans on his facebook page whereas I only have a half of that, I was extremely curious as to how he did it and asked if he’d be kind enough to write up a guest blog post about it. I think you’ll really appreciate his ideas here. 

You can read it below . . .

Full disclosure—I am not a fan of social media.  It’s scattered, busy, a distraction, a time sink.  Further, I’ve spent a fair amount of time pissed off at Facebook.  So I’m an unlikely author for this blog post.

Nonetheless, I went from being “stuck” to adding 8,000 fans to my page, https://www.facebook.com/KwanYinHealing, in just five months—and more are still coming.   This page has also become one of my key promotional strategies.  Here’s how that happened.

I actually didn’t mean to open a Facebook fan page.  I had constructed a simple website with Yola.com, and one of the options was to publish to Facebook.  So, on April 6, 2012, I figured “Why not,” and clicked it.   Voila.  Kwan Yin Healing had a Facebook page. 

It slowly added a few fans.  Then a few more.  And a few more.  This would take patience.   I saw the various “How to get 10,000 fans” promos, but while I’m sure these guys know their business, it’s the anti-thesis of the calm, peaceful image I wanted for my business.  Nobody’s going to come rushing to Kwan Yin Healing because my opt-in box is bigger, brighter, redder, and in your face before we get past “hello” – and if they did, the fit would probably not be good.  I’d just have to be patient. 

Facebook, however, is not patient, and likes to change the rules frequently.  One of these changes was deciding that just because fans like your page doesn’t mean they should be seeing your posts in their feed.  Unless, of course, they’re teenagers, and compelled to like or comment on virtually everything.  My fans…aren’t, and don’t.  So my fan count, at 623, sat their at 623, and the “talking about this” number dropped to around 20 a day.  Facebook offered a solution—pay to have your fans see your posts!  As you might imagine, this didn’t make me the happiest of campers. 

But then something happened, and that day, my page started climbing again.  It continued to climb, daily, and still continues to climb—it’s at 8,921 as I write this. 

What changed?   There are four key elements to my strategy, and I also have a few points about ads, as well as how I use Facebook to attract clients.   So let’s dive in.

1)  I got clear about my page’s purpose and message.  

Without this, nothing else matters. 

Understand that no one comes to Facebook to buy stuff.  They come to relax, to see funny or inspiration quotes and pictures and videos, to interact with their friends.  So not only are they not there to buy, but they resent attempts to sell them.  Imagine you’re at the park, on a walk, enjoying a show, and people interrupt you to sell their products and programs.  “Leave me alone,” right?  And they will leave you very alone instead.  

For Kwan Yin Healing, the cover photo, a forest waterfall, the same as on my home page, sets the tone for the peaceful, flowing feeling I wish to create, and one very compatible with my point of view about healing, about my work, and about me.  The posts on the page are all inspirational quotes and related material that fit with this theme.   Things I like but that don’t fit this energy, I post on my personal page instead.  It’s encouraging, reflective, helpful, inspiring, peaceful, and fits nicely within my Taoist/Buddhist perspective, without being spiritually dogmatic.  There’s no agenda here.  It’s a place to relax.  That’s why people follow the page. And that’s why they trust me.  

Nor is any of this mere theory.  This is what my own clients tell me.  “I like your page—it’s consistent.”  Yeah.  It’s hard to trust someone you can never quite rely upon.   You know what  you’re getting when you like my page. 

2) I paid attention to what got positive response and adjusted.

What’s nice about Facebook is that you can see how many likes and shares each post gets, and a report about the “virality” of each post.  The big losers here are text posts.   People already see a sea of text, and skim it at best.  Plus, at a glance, all text looks the same.  

Pictures are the rule on Facebook.  An inspiring quote with a corresponding image gets—literally—ten times the virality. According to Edgerank Checker, the median Facebook virality is under 2%.  My page’s posts typically hover around 20%.   Facebook is a visual medium.  

And just having a photo isn’t enough—the text must be part of the photo.  Typically, content creators post this over the face of the photo.  When I create content (which I do rarely), I use InDesign to create a matching box above or below (or both) the photo with the text.   But either way—this way the photo and message get shared—many times more than otherwise.  Including your site link on the graphic is a good idea as well.  While shared photos are credited by Facebook automatically, links can get buried. 

Every so often, I’ll share something I think readers would like—free Eckhart Tolle talks, or Louise Hays, or Wayne Dyer.   And they always fall flat, with virality around 2%.   This surprises me.   It’s why we look at numbers.

3) I worked out a simple system for keeping the page active while spending very little time on it. 

There’s a joke that floats around periodically:  How to be more productive on Facebook?  Delete your Facebook account and get to work. 

While I sometimes create content, most of my page is repurposed from other pages.   When I see something I like, I check out their page, and if it fits well, I’ll like it, and add it to my Interests list.   Every day or two, I’ll quickly scan down the Pages feed for appropriate things to post.   If it’s great, but too small to read, I’ll pass it by.  The other pages appreciate the shares, and I’ll just add a short comment and my webpage.  That’s it.

I’ll also check out the comments, and like most of them, so people know they were seen and heard.  Every week or so, I’ll check the Insights report (though just the likes and shares on the page are a good indication).  Once in a while, a post will get multiple comments (like 30-60 comments), and I’ll know I’ve accidentally stumbled across something to consider later strategically. 

And that’s it.  Five to ten minutes.  Done.

4) Resist selling, except for limited free offers. 

And even then, you’re pushing it.  So here’s what works for me – curiosity.  “Hey!  Sign up for my free offer!”  No.   But after seeing several cool posts with http://kwanyinhealing.com above them, after a while, some people click on it…and sign up for my free offer.  It’s not big numbers…but it is steady.  My list (which last year was at 35) is at 620 – and just over a third of those came from Facebook.   But that doesn’t make them clients.  It’s a poorly qualified group. 

But Facebook DOES serve me in one major way—a source of free teleseminar attendees.  A nice graphic with the copy embedded and a sign-up link will bring 60-80 new people to my list.  20-30 will show up for the call, and 4-10 of them will become new clients. When those new clients are signing on to the Kwan Yin Journey, my signature program, a single teleseminar can make a month’s income.  So Facebook does bring clients after all, through the free teleseminar and enrollment route. 

Which brings me to advertising.

At first, “promoted posts” were great—I could reach friends of friends for $10.   Then Facebook realized their generosity, and jacked the price up more than one hundred times, dolling out only a limited number of people reached for each new level of investment—$1,000 still won’t buy what $10 did only a few months ago.  

It’s ridiculously steep for three reasons.   First, the response isn’t great. Second, people HATE promoted posts.  The posts say, right on them, “promoted post,” and virality drops to near nothing.  Some people even send nasty grams, letting page owners know how much they resent someone else footing the bill for their free Facebook.  It’s too “in their face.”   Literally, the SAME post NOT promoted will get a better response.  And third, Facebook won’t allow more than 20% of a graphic to be text, severely limiting advertising options.  

So if I have something to promote, I use a few tricks.

I’ll let a post run organically at first.  Once that slows down, THEN I’ll promote it, but only within a limited budget, which depends on what I’m promoting.   And if I don’t need to reach a lot of people, I’ll sometimes design what I want and run it anyway—it will run for a few hours until a Facebook person has a chance to get to it and stop the promotion for violating the rules.  The posts that have run already remain visible.  But that’s not a great strategy for anything I’m seriously promoting.  A web link to a press release with a graphic works reasonably well.  Message sent.

Then there are the ads with links on the side. 

Advantage—people don’t mind these the way they resent promoted posts.   They see these as not so “in your face” and not an interruption, but rather something they can check out if they please, unlike content “forced” into their feed.  And Advantage Two, these ads can be amazingly well targeted to specific audiences defined by a wide array of parameters. 

Disadvantage—they are expensive and not particularly effective.   You can’t say much, and you can’t really send them where you’d like.  Dead end.

With one exception I’ve used to good effect. 

Create a quirky ad, with an eye-catching image, that still is truly in keeping with your point of view and strategic purpose.   I ran, for example, one saying “Healing isn’t Magic,” with an image from a video of me in my car with an appearance by my curious husky.   The video includes a core piece of my point of view, and the ad links to a post featuring the video, where I can say much more.   This lands on my Facebook page.   I pin the original post to the top of the page, so that the landing is relevant (which must be redone every couple of weeks, as pins expire), and presto—the curious eyes are now on my page.  

I severely limit the daily size of this budget, just a few bucks, with a carefully targeted audience.   But it will bring in better than 20 new people (i.e., other than friends of friends) who become engaged in the page.   The ad doesn’t get stale, because it’s being seen by people who haven’t yet seen it. 

Slow and steady.  But altogether, worth 8000 new fans in five months, like opening a valve at the end of January, and it’s been flowing ever since. 

My plans from here are to maintain the status quo, at least until Facebook changes the rules again, and to concentrate on the teleseminar strategy.  I would also like to build a network of affiliate partners to help promote the Kwan Yin Journey.   If that might be you, check out http://kwanyinhealing.com/journey.php and then drop me an email if this looks like a good fit for your clients – tim at kwanyinhealing dot com.

I’m also completely redesigning my web page to focus on synching my strategy and free offer in a clear, authentic, step by step path more friendly to curious visitors, and to then build relationship more strategically with my email newsletter and blog than I have been. 

And I’ll next turn my attention to my YouTube page, http://www.youtube.com/KwanYinHealing, which has, like my Facebook page, worked surprisingly well, largely by accident—but in this case, I actually get clients calling who found me on YouTube.  Time to focus on a strategy there—but that will have to be another blog post another time. 

Wish me luck!

Tim Emerson

Kwan Yin Healing

the four generations of opt in marketing

2182 Four generations 20120811 1 958x538 300x168 the four generations of opt in marketingThis is an email primarily about how to build a solid following and, primarily, how to get people to ‘opt in’ to receive your email newsletter.

I want to submit that there have been four generations of approaches to getting permission to be in touch with potential clients. And that what worked four generations ago, isn’t the best approach today.

But let’s start here: A lot of people focus on ‘getting their name out there’ in marketing.

And they justify a lot of useless activity with it. They go to networking events and not only give their cards to everyone but leave them on every table and they think, ‘Yup! Sure got my name out there tonight!’ They put their brochures in bookshoppes and cafes all over town, they put ads in all sorts of places, and try to drive people to their website (maybe even successfully) and they think, ‘Awesome. I am so getting my name out there.’

This kind of thinking might result in some business but I think it’s the wrong goal. I think that we want to get their name in here.

Let me explain: If you’re at a networking event, it is far more powerful to get 10 business cards from others into your pocket than to get a hundred of your business cards into their pockets. Because, if you have their business cards, you can follow up with them. You can take a next step in building a relationship with them. If not, you are stuck waiting and hoping.

And hope is not a strategy.

Put another way, let’s say you got a million people to visit your website in the next month. Sounds awesome, right?

But what if, instead of a million visitors, I gave you 10,000 new perfect-fit people for your email list?

The 10,000 on your email list is more valuable in the long-term. These are people you can stay in touch with and build a relationship with over time. These are the people who will spend money on you, hire you and tell their friends about you.

If I sent a million people to your website not much would happen.

Unless . . . unless you had a system to get those people to join your email list (and get their names in here). 

I want to suggest that there have been four generations of approaches on how to get people to opt in to be in touch with you and allow you to be in touch with them.

Generation #1: The Contact Me Page

When websites first began, there were no email newsletters. There was just a page with your contact info and, if they wanted to reach you they could email or call you.

The Downside: It’s a viable option but includes a bit of risk for the person reaching out. It also would only have people call you who were very close to being ready to buy. And if people were just shopping around, that’s a lot of your personal time answering questions. 

Generation #2: The Free Email Newsletter.

People have signed up to have newsletters mailed to them for many years. That’s not new, but, with the advent of email marketing, those newsletters could be free. I remember the first ‘free email newsletter‘ I saw was something simple like, ‘get a free inspirational quote every day’. And, at the time, that was really novel and exciting. For the first time, you could, for very little money, stay in touch with a large number of people and regularly add value to their lives. 

The Downside: The challenge with this approach now is that there are literally millions of email newsletters you could be on. Most of us are on so many lists that we don’t read. Some we got on because we participated in a telesummit or teleseminar and now we’re on their list, or because we joined years ago and have ignored it since. And some we follow regularly. 

But the bottom line is this: no one is excited to sign up for another free newsletter. No one. Now, if your website is extremely niched and your newsletter is targeted to helping a particular kind of person with a particular kind of problem people might want to. But, the idea of a free newsletter itself is absolutely no longer compelling. 

Generation #3: The Free ‘Opt In’ Gift

So, if an email newsletter isn’t that compelling, but to grow your business you need to stay in touch with people, what do you do? Should you just stop having the email newsletter? 

I don’t think so. I think your email list is the most valuable piece of property your business has. Social media lets you stay in touch but it won’t get the kinds of response rates an email list will have (unless you have a huge following). And, if your ideal client were to give it a try, they might really love.

So, how to get them to give it an honest try?

What a lot of people, myself included, have done is to offer a free gift to people for signing up. In some ways, free gift is a bit of a misnomer because what you’re really offering is a fair trade, ‘I’ll give you a lot of free advice and information if you sign up for my email list and give it a try’. 

The Free Opt In Gift could be an ebook, audio, a video, a quiz/assessment etc. There are a lot of options. The key is that it costs them no money, asks no risk of them and takes you no time to deliver. It’s a sample of your work that they can try to get a taste of what you do. It’s a pink spoon type offer that I spoke about in my blog ‘do you have a pink spoon in your marketing?

And the difference you’ll see between just saying, ‘sign up for my free email newsletter’ and ‘enter your email here to get this free gift and you’ll be added to my email newsletter too’ is huge. You will get very few sign ups with the former approach and many more with the latter. You’ll be shocked at the difference it makes if you take this approach.

The Downside: More and more people are doing this too. The idea of the free opt in gift is no longer rare. It’s almost expected. And, here’s the surprising twist, even resented.

That’s right, increasingly, people might even resent your free opt in gift.

And here’s why.

Imagine you come across a website. It seems like it’s targeted to people just like you! Amazing.

This website definitely seems relevant to what you’re going through. Now you want to find out more. So you read a bunch of generic stuff about the business but then there’s nothing else to read. No blog. No articles. No videos. You want to know more about their point of view and approach. You want to know their take on your situation.

But there’s nothing that tells you that. Which means you’re going to have to go through the rigamaroll of emailing them and asking them and who knows when they’ll respond and . . . WAIT there it is! There’s some free info – they’re offering a free video series on how to take some first steps at handling your issue.

Great!

But . . . wait . . . you have to enter your email for it. Shit. You’re already on too many email lists. You resent that, to just check them out, you have to sign up to be on another email list that you aren’t even sure you want to be on.

To make it clearer why this is an issue: imagine you go to an ice cream shop and you ask to try a sample of their ice cream – just a little pink spoon. But, instead of having you the pink spoon they hand you an iPad and ask you to enter your email first. You say, ‘Uhm. Why? I just want to see if I even like this flavour . . .’ And they inform you that you need to be on their email list before you try it. Holy backfiring coercion.

Another downside, a lot of people will just sign up for your free gift and then unsubscribe at the next email. This might be unavoidable but if they see you regularly have new content on your site or at least a tonne of free content, they’ll be a lot more likely to come back of their own accord to check you out.

Generation #4: The Non-Opt In Free Gifts + Opt In

So, what the hell? . . .

What are you supposed to do?

I don’t know for sure but here’s my theory on what’s next: a mix of opt in and non-opt in pink spoons for people to try. 

Give people some things they can check out for free, without having to sign up for a damn thing on your website. Let them try free samples of your bread at your bakery or soup at your restaurant. Let them get a taste of you without having to commit to anything. But also give them the option to get some extra special if they’re willing to take the risk to sign up. 

On this website you can read over 500 posts on my blog for free. There are case studies. There are over three hours of free video. And there’s also a 195 ebook called The Way of the Radical Business you can get if you sign up for my email list. 

I am a big fan of the idea of being a generosity based business. But, being real, I give away a lot more than I need to. You don’t need to offer even a fraction of what I do (out of laziness of turning them into sellable products (actually true)). You just need to offer people a taste. A sample. A way of understanding your point of view. Enough that they can know if it’s a fit to take the next step. 

People will respect this. They love it. They love being able to explore your take on things and get a bit of help without having to pay anything and it will build trust in you.

When people email me to ask for coaching, they’ve likely already been following me for years. They don’t haggle over price. They’ve decided they want to work with me. They’re also often very familiar with my approach to marketing which is wonderful and allows me to help them more. 

Now, if you’ve got a single teleseminar or course, it’s fine to have a squeeze page – just a simple page where the only option is to sign up. But, I think of your website as more your home. It’s a place where people can come to learn about you and if, overall, you are a fit for them. 

And this isn’t even to speak to the benefits of blogging and how that free content can drive traffic to your website or give you little pink spoons you can send to people at networking events and have you feel even more proud of your website.

I want to submit that this fourth generation will build a more solid relationship with your people over time than insisting they sign up for your email newsletter to find out anything about you.

If you want help developing your free opt-in gift, you might want to check out my ‘How To Create Your Free Gift‘ workbook.

 

do you have a pink spoon in your marketing?

icecreamfunnel do you have a pink spoon in your marketing?

A few questions for you:

  • When people hit your website, do they stick around?
  • Do they sign up to your email list?
  • When you meet someone at a networking party who is curious about your work, do you have a way to give them a taste of what you do that doesn’t involve giving away your time for free?
  • When you host a teleseminar or are interviewed, do you have an incentive to offer people to go and check out your website?
  • Does your business card get you any business? I mean really?
  • Do you have things your clients can pass onto their friends to get them interested in what you do?

If you don’t, then this might be the most important blog post you’ve read in a while.

A lot of people make the mistake of seeing marketing as about trying to change minds rather than seeing who naturally resonates with what they offer.

Or they expect people to jump into the deep end of their incredibly profound work without any shallow end of the pool to explore. They expect people to sign up for their full weekend intensive workshop without knowing anything about them or their work. They have a booth at a craft show with everything flat on the table and wonder why no one approaches them.

Or they just give out a tonne of business cards and brochures and expect people to sign up and buy.

Everything above is all about the same thing – the same blunder committed by countless entrepreneurs.

What we eventually find is that safety is incredibly important in marketing.

The first thing marketing needs to do is get the attention of your ideal client. 

But then we need to lower the risk of them taking a first step in working with us. We need to make it so easy for them to check us out to see if it feels like a fit. 

So, the main idea in this blog post is about the importance of creating a free gift you can offer to people to help them figure out if your work is a fit for them.

I first really got this from reading PinkSpoonMarketing.com. It is a colleague of mine, Andrea Lee, who is a lovely, lovely lady.

She is the one who introduced me to the idea of a sales funnel and the ‘pink spoon’ in marketing.

msfunnel 297x300 do you have a pink spoon in your marketing?

You will notice the image on top is like an ice cream store. You have the pink spoon (the literal little pink spoon that gives you a sample taste of ice cream), an ice cream cone, a little bucket of ice cream, ice cream cake, and the calendar which is like for some ice cream stores, believe it or not, have a club you can join where every month you get mailed a coupon for a new delicious flavor of ice cream. It costs a bunch of money because it is really rare, but that’s what you get.

There are different levels of the funnel. You will notice that it is wider at the top and narrower at the bottom. Wider at the top is of course more people are going to try the free thing; less people will try the cone, less people will get a gallon, and very few people will go for the club.

Think of it as a yoga studio. The pink spoon would be a free class. The ice cream cone might be a drop in class. The bucket of ice cream might be a ten pass or a monthly pass. The cake might be a weekend workshop. The club would be the teacher training. Interesting fact, if you take out the teacher training at the sales funnel of most yoga studios, they will collapse within six months to a year. They will just totally not last. It is that important.

There is the bronze, silver, and gold sort of levels. You have seen this all sorts of places. You will see the image below and it gives you a sense of what the price points might be. The pink spoon is free. The next level is anywhere from $5 to $50, then $50 to $200 for the level after that, and then $200 to $500, and then the bottom level of $500 plus, as an example. It may vary.

The important thing is having levels.

There are a few reasons this matters so much.

First of all, consider the impact of trying to remove levels from the sales funnel. Think of it as just pink spoons. Cover with your hand the whole sales funnel and all you have is the pink spoons. You are kind of popular for awhile, but you are broke at the end and you have no ice cream. 

And it is actually really frustrating for people who then discover a flavour they like and they want more. You tell them they can have another little sample, but that is all they can have. Eventually, that gets very frustrating for people. 

But, on the other side of it, a yoga studio would collapse without the teacher training because that is where most of their money comes from. The yoga studio actually doesn’t make that much money from the regular classes because the teacher needs to be paid, there is overhead etc. Teacher trainings are thousands of dollars so that is where they make most of their money. 

Imagine covering the sales funnel, except the calendar at the bottom of the funnel. That would be like walking into a yoga studio and saying, “Hey, I was wondering if I could do a drop-in class?”

They would say, “We don’t do that, but if you would like to sign up for our $3,000 teacher training you can.” You get what a huge leap that is. You walk in to a studio where you don’t know the teachers, you don’t know their philosophy, you don’t know anything about their platform or who they are, and they are immediately expecting you to make that kind of a leap.

Here is the really compelling piece that will just nail some of you. Take out everything, cover up the pink spoon, cover up everything below the ice cream cone. I would suggest that the situation most holistic practitioners are in, most holistic practitioners are in is a position of just selling ice cream cones.  

That sounds like this:  “Hey, thanks for coming in for the session. Would you like to book another session?” and then when they come back, “Would you like to book another session?” And figuratively, it is just selling ice cream cones. 

I want to submit that that isn’t as safe for people as you would think. You don’t know if they want to try a whole cone. They just want to try a sample first. So it is not safe for them and it is not that sustainable for you.

Now you are stuck just trying to get new people in all the time, trying to rebook people, having that uncomfortable conversation. Having a sales funnel makes it much safer for people to engage at the level that feels comfortable for them. It also makes your work much more sustainable for you. 

I will tell you a bit about my personal experience with this. When I first started off I was just doing workshops. I had no pink spoons. It was kind of hard to get people in my workshops. I had one workshop, this one weekend workshop called the Radical Business Intensive. Then I started developing some pink spoons.

I came up with my Niche Workbook. I came up with The Horrible Hundred, the Radical Business 180, these early diagnostics that are a part of the eBook that you can download on my Web site. I had those and those were great.

Then I had this intro workshop that I was doing. One day, I thought, I just need to record this, get it transcribed, so I can offer it as a pink spoon as a free thing on my Web site. I had that. People immediately loved having that. It didn’t make me any money but it helped me grow my list.

I combined the quizzes plus the transcript of that plus a few other things into this 200-page eBook (which is overkill). You don’t need that much content for a pink spoon. It might be too much, but a lot of people say they love it. 

My blog has become a huge pink spoon. The great thing with the blog is that I am getting to a point where I can take some of those posts from my blog and move them into products. I take them off my blog, turn them into a product that I can charge for, but I got to share it and it got to be useful for people in the meantime, which I feel really wonderful about.

Then I noticed that I was getting a lot of people who were holistic practitioners. I created this workshop, Marketing 101 for Holistic Practitioners. That was another revenue stream. I had this other sort of more green business thing and the holistic practitioner workshop.

Then I created the “How to Create a Free Gift on Your Website”, basically, how to create the pink spoon on your Web site. That was a little bit additional revenue.

Then I was seeing that I had so many of my favourite clients who were just never going to come back to the same old workshop – so I designed a workshop called The HotBox which was invite only for my favourite clients. Five clients per workshop. 100% based in hotseats. Each person gets an hour of the groups time. I’ve done three of them so far and the results have been really powerful. I charge a sliding scale of $250 – $500 for it.

Then I got this crazy idea to turn my weekend workshop, the Marketing 101 for Holistic Practitioners, into this six-week online course, which I have been enjoying so much, and that you are a part of. That has been really good financially, sustainably, etc. I charged $200 for a basic level and then offered the group course plus an hour of coaching for $300 and six coaching sessions for $700. I made $8400 or so. That’s more profitable than most weekends I’ve ever done (no costs for venue, travel, accommodations etc.). 

Then I led a Niching for Hippies virtual course. The first time I led it, I charged $300 per person and got about 45 people. So, that was about $13,000 when it was all said and done. I did it again six months later and charged $600 for it and got 45 people. In the end, that was about $23,000 of profit.

My situation used to be, “I’m broke. I need to hit the road and do some more workshops.” But now I am actually hitting the road with money in my bank instead of the tank being dry. 

As my sales funnel has become more robust, I can’t tell you the relief it is. It feels like the boat is getting so much more solid. It is not leaking as much. Again, not just being safer for people to check me out, but to uphold me. Also, I created a bunch of these case studies that are on my Web site for free.

But, it all starts with the pink spoons. It all starts with the free gift you can offer people. This is not a new idea. Ice cream stores do it. Bakeries do it. Grocery stores do it. Authors do it with ‘free chapters’ of their books and blogs. You should do it too.

It starts with giving people a way to sample what you have to offer with no risk, at no cost and that take zero time from you.

There’s nothing I know of that will help you build your list, deepen trust, connect with people and develop a following that having a thoughtful, well put together pink spoon.

If you’d like some help in creating one for your website, check out the “How to Create a Free Gift on Your Website”. I think you’ll love it. 

And, if you’ve got a pink spoon you use successfully, please share it with us below in the comments. 

How to Identify Your Own Message

Don’t market yourself, market your message.

Sounds nice, but how do you identify what your message even is.

The first thing is to understand what a message is, know why it’s important and what kinds of messages there are.

Then you need to do some inner reflection. The questions below are meant to help you with that.

This is all a new idea for me, this idea of marketing your message, but here are my initial thoughts on how you identify your message.

I strongly recommend that you do this both on your own but also with a friend who’s willing to interview you on each of these questions. I’d recommend they ask you each question at least five times to go deeper and deeper into what’s true for you. 

1. Directional Messages – What You Should Do: 

Fill in the blanks: “The best way to achieve ______ (goal) is _________ (approach).”

What matters most when working to achieve the result your clients are craving?

If you could just say three words to the people you most want to help and they’d instantly ‘get it’ – what would those three words be?

2. Messages of Possibility:

What do you see as possible that others don’t? What do your people see as impossible that isn’t?

__________ can be ____________ (e.g. niching can be easy, marketing can be warm and honest)

__________ doesn’t need to be ____________ (it doesn’t need to be this way, relationships don’t need to painful)

3. Messages of Reality:

What’s the tough love, ‘real talk’, wake up call that your people need to hear to snap them out of it?

Where are you people’s expectations wildly out of whack with reality? What are the expectations they should just let go of entirely.

What are your people missing that prevents them from succeeding?

4. Messages of Necessity: “We need to . . .”

What do you think is required of your people, or the world, to really create what we want?

What’s the work that hasn’t been done that needs to be done?

5. New Idea Messages:

What’s the new, contrarian, out of the box idea you have that might blow people’s minds if they heard it?

6. Reframing Messages:

What’s something that your people are most ashamed of that you actually see as a potential strength or resource for them?

7. Other questions to ask yourself to identify your message:

If you could go back in time, what’s the message you want to give the earlier version of yourself – what’s the message that would have made the biggest difference for you to hear?

What do you know about being human that, once you really understood it, made it easier?

What are you daring your clients to try?

Having lived through your story, and knowing the issues you most want to help these people with – what is the one message you MOST want the world to hear?

What are your favourite proverbs, maxims and aphorisms and quotes? Which ones do you keep coming back to that most deeply resonate with you? Might these hold a key to your message?

What’s the truth about the nature of the problems they currently face?

What’s the truth about what it will take to get what they want?

Nine Reasons Why Having a Message Matters

your message here 300x285 Nine Reasons Why Having a Message MattersIn my last post, I spoke about what it means to have a message in your business.

The core idea of that post?

Don’t market yourself, market your message.

In this post, I want to lay out eight reasons I think it’s increasingly vital.

REASON #1: Speaking about your message is more comfortable and inspiring for everyone than being pitched to.

If I were to put you up on a stage to speak to thousands of your ideal clients and my instructions to you were, ‘Go and sell them on why to hire you.’ my guess is that you’d feel very awkward about that. Most people would. Trying to get other people to do something and ‘sell’ people is not a natural act. And it feels even more unnatural when what you’re trying to sell them is you.

When I see people trying to ‘be confident’ and ‘believe in their value’ on stage on in a group – it usually comes across as them seeming arrogant and puffed up.

I recall one party I hosted where I got us all in a circle and invited people to share who they were and what they were up to for 30 seconds. We went around the circle and people were so charming, lovely and humble. Until it got to one lady who stepped forward and, in a very heavy, sombre tone spoke about how she was a spiritual master teacher. And it seemed so incredibly pretentious. Especially in contrast to the humility of everyone else’s sharing.

But this is what happens when we believe that we need to promote ourselves.

A radical notion: what if you stopped focusing so much on ‘believing in your worth’ and started enjoying sharing a message you found worthy?

Don’t market yourself, market your message.

But what if, instead of telling you go up and sell them on you, I told you to go up and share with them the message you are most passionate to share with them? 

Don’t you notice an instant shift in how that feels? A relief. An exhale. And likely even excitement. 

Don’t market yourself, market your message.

And put yourself in the audiences shoes. Which would you prefer? 

Option A: To sit through an hour of painful transparent attempts to sell you without appearing to sell you (which now feel even more gross because they’re trying to hide it). 

Option B: To sit through an hour of someone sharing a powerful message that you need to hear at this point in your life – a message that both affirms and uplifts. 

I can’t think of anyone that would want to be in Option A – on stage or in the audience.

Don’t market yourself, market your message.

REASON #2: Your message is relevant to people.

People might not see how your product or service is relevant to them immediately – but it’s hard to miss the relevance of a message.

When people are struggling with something in their life, or craving something badly, they are very open to hearing a message that can affirm, clarify and encourage them.

REASONS #3: People are more likely to share (and discuss) a message than a product or a service.

Imagine you sit through that hour long presentation where the person is selling, selling, selling. And then you go for lunch with some friends. What do you talk about? Do you talk about all the features and benefits of their wares? 

Unlikely. 

There’s a better chance that you talk about how gross it felt, or you pick apart their presentation for what you liked and what you didn’t like in it. 

But what if you sat through someone talking about a message they were passionate about and that was meaningful to you?

My guess is that you’d keep talking about that same message and how you see that it relates to your life. And that you might keep talking about it over the coming days. “You know, I went to this talk and the speaker had this really powerful notion that I’d never really considered . . .”

And that, months later, when a conversation wound itself around to the same topic you might bring up that same speaker you saw. And people might just say, “What was the name of that speaker? I’d love to check out their work.” and write it down to check out later.

Word of mouth is the dominant engine of marketing. It’s how most of us hear about things and decide which things to buy – recommendations from friends.

So, it makes sense that we’d want to make as much of our marketing word of mouth friendly as possible. And few things are as sharable as a simple, easy to understand message.

REASON #4: It builds trust.

Few things are as unattractive as someone who is constantly, shamelessly promoting themselves. No one trusts the used car salesman.

Few things are more attractive than those working selflessly to change the world – people who are about something bigger than their own success.

People with hustle and shameless self promotion might gains status – but people who live to promote a message gain stature.

REASON #5: It gives you more attractive things to share.

If your agenda is to promote yourself then all of your social media posts and emails to your list will be that. They’ll be some iteration of ‘hire me! buy from me!’. And people will, more quickly than you’d think, tune that out. And, there’s a good chance you’ll only share your original work because you only want people to buy your stuff.

But, if what you’re really passionate about is a message then you’ll have so much more to share. You’ll share anything that could help boost that message in the world. You’ll share TED Talks on the theme, cartoons and images you find, articles & interviews you come across. Anything. You go from seeing yourself as just a content creator to also a curator. 

Suddenly, you’ve become a hub for other people who are passionate about that message.

People share what you put out which leads more people back to you.

Don’t market yourself, market your message.

REASON #6: Your message is a good ‘client filter’.

If people don’t agree with your core message, if it doesn’t light them up then there’s no point in talking further. If you share your core message that lights you up and they sit their blank eyed . . . there’s a good chance that they’re not your ideal client. There’s a good chance that they will be trouble down the road.

On the other hand, some people’s eyes will widen and they’ll burst out in smiles when you share your message. They’ll say, ‘Yes! I’ve always thought that! That’s been my experience too! Thank you for saying that!’

Having a clear message attracts clients who are a fit

REASON #7: A message will get you invited to speak.

No one wants to invite you to pitch yourself.

But many people might want to hear you share your unique message with the world. 

REASON #8: A message is something you can become known for.

Perhaps the most important reason of all. 

A message is something you can develop a reputation around. Being known for an inspiring idea that uplifts people is powerful. 

Imagine you meet someone at a party who’s struggling in a particular way who you can tell really needs to hear a particular message. As you’re talking you can see how discouraged they are and then you remember seeing a TED Talk all about that message. You whip out a piece of paper and write down the name of the person so they can check that TED Talk out. The person thanks you, goes home, watches it and feels some hope for the first time in years. And then buys the persons book and maybe joins their email list or goes to a workshop of theirs.

REASON #9: A clear message makes you more flexible.

My colleague and friend Rebecca Tracey of The Uncaged Life had this to say about the importance of developing a clear message.

“I see it so often – people starting businesses but having no idea what their purpose is, other than that they want to work for themselves and travel the world. Which clearly is not a good enough reason to start a business. Being connected to your message is so key for building a business that’s a right fit for you.

I also see a lot of people who started with great intentions, but have totally lost touch with why they’re doing it in the first place. So business starts to feel hard and unmotivating. So I’d add that not only is it a good way to connect with your audience, but it’s the only way for you to build a business that will feel sustainable in the long run for you. Something you won’t get bored of next month. Your message gives you something to connect back to when things are feeling hard or stuck or not quite right.

Being super clear on your message also gives you the flexibility to change what you do in your business fairly seamlessly. I think of it as being like a flower, where the center of the flower is your purpose/message/WHY, and each petal is a different way that you would bring that message to the world. So the petals might be different services you offer (coaching, workshops, retreats etc), OR they might be different business ideas.

If your message is about empowering women to step into their power, you might do that through adventure retreats.. or thought dance classes.. or through coaching.. or through copywriting… when your message is clear and consistent, it gives you the ability to offer different things in your business, and the power to change your business up as you go without totally confusing people. Building your business around your message is so important!”

 

Here’s another message to consider: Clarity before resolution. 

Before trying to crack out some half baked message, really sit with it to get clear.

You will likely, through this process, discover that you have many messages. 

What I want to invite you to dig for is your core message. 

It’s the one thing you wish everyone got. It’s the idea that would make the biggest difference in your industry, the lives of your clients and the world.

If you get this, you’ll be amazed at how much easier and more exciting everything in your business gets.

Don’t market yourself, market your message.