Case Study: Making The Offer

Russell Touched Up 1 Case Study: Making The OfferOne of my favourite clients and colleagues is Russell Scott in Guelph (the handsome fellow pictured here). He is kind, gentle, genuine and just the realest deal when it comes to spiritual mentorship for those with allergies to gurus and dogma. If you’re an independent spiritual seeker, I can’t commend him highly enough. A genuine elder. 

But, it’s also a challenge. For someone with such an aversion to selling, how does one sell?

He spoke about his regular living room Wisdom Circles that he hosts for past clients and community members. He has 6-12 people at them every week or so. The evenings sound really lovely. Sharing circles and gentle partner work. And, of course, he has services he’d like to offer them. But how, and when, to do that without it feeling pushy, awkward of gross? How indeed.

For those of us who hate the pitch, how do we share what we do in a way that isn’t pushy but also not apologetic… and yet still effective. After all, what’s the point of having these wonderful offers if no one knows about them?

It can be a sticky wicket.

As we spoke, a thought came to me about how he might do it that could avoid a feeling of pressure in his his living room.

What he doesn’t want is to end a lovely, intimate evening with people feeling like he was trying to ‘hard close’ them to sign up for his workshops or mentoring. That would be the worst. And turn everyone off. But to not ever mention his work would be a betrayal of himself and a sure expression of collapsing

But, as we spoke, I was remembering how many people I’ve gotten to sign up in my workshops and coaching simply by inviting them directly

I recall once hosting a party at a loft in London, England. It was filled with local hubs, past clients and their friends. I met four people at the party who I’d not known before who I really wanted at my workshop. They seemed like the coolest people.

So I said, “Can you come to my workshop this weekend?’

‘What workshop?’ they would ask.

‘It’s a marketing workshop for hippies. It’s pay what you can. I would love to have you there! I can email you the info if you like.’ And I did. And I think all of them signed up. There was no clever technique. I just felt a connection. Expressed that. Was sincere in my expression of wanting them to be at the workshop. Was unattached to that happening. And it happened. 

I’ve had other moments of sitting with someone as they described their marketing woes and said to them, ‘Hire me. Let me help you with this.’ and they said ‘Yes’. No games. No leading questions. No tricky business. Just a sincere expression of the desire to help. And yet so effective. 

So, I said to Russell, “Here’s what I would do… First of all, mention your workshops after the break in the middle or at the end. No pressure. No pitch. Just, ‘Here’s what I’ve got coming up if anyone is interested.’. But then, because you only have 6-12 people I would send them a follow up email after they’ve left. And I would sit and meditate on each name and ask yourself what you might have to share with them. Perhaps it’s just an email that says, “I really heard your struggle tonight about what to do with your marriage and it touched me. Thanks for coming.’ or maybe he’d send a link to an article that he or someone else wrote. Or a youtube video. Part of the idea of slow marketing is to take a pause and sit with things for a bit to see what really feels right. I remember a moment where the right thing for me to say to someone was, ‘Don’t be an asshole. Sign up for this thing. You need it.’ and they totally relaxed, laughed, signed up and were so glad they did. Being conscious and coming from our heart in our relationship to sales doesn’t mean we always speak in hushed, new agey tones. Your style can be much more in your face and still totally authentic.

Or maybe he’d say, ‘I really heard your struggle tonight about what to do with your life and that lost feeling and I would love to have you at my upcoming retreat. I’m not sure it’s a fit but I think it could be just perfect for where you’re at. Would you be open to chatting about it?’ Or something like that. It can be done with no pressure. No guile. Just a heartfelt, considered offer. They might say ‘yes’ and they might say ‘no’. Both are okay. The role of marketing isn’t about convincing people of anything.  It’s about giving people the information they need to make a clear choice and see if what you’re offering is a fit for them. 

In truth, he might invite them not to come back to the circle if it’s really not a fit.

But each offer would come from a prayerful place, holding their best interests in mind and sensing for what, if anything, he might offer that would be a fit for helping them.

Selling can be about closing deals. But it can also be about opening conversations.

It doesn’t have to be a high pressure, powerful presentation from the front of the room. It can be a personal email after the workshop too. It’s good to be mindful of our context. Were it an intro workshop, I would urge him to make a direct offer and invite people to sign up then and there if it felt right. But this is a lovely living room, drop in session. Context matters. 

You can read another example of this kind of thing in action in another post I wrote recently. 

Getting new clients doesn’t have to be sneaky or hard. Sometimes you just have to ask. 

 

Sales Letter Case Study: The Coming Home Retreat

Russell Touched Up 1 Sales Letter Case Study: The Coming Home RetreatWriting sales letters is hard. 

I wrote a whole blog post on my thoughts on how to do it in a warmer and yet still effective way years ago called Nine Thoughts on Copywriting for Hippies. So, I’ve got opinions but there’s no denying that writing a good sales letter is one of the toughest nuts to crack in any business. A sales letter is the dojo of the marketing world. It’s where you find out exactly how clear you are or not. The best resource I’ve come across on how to write a good sales letter is by Carrie Klassen and it’s called Selling Sweetly

Writing a sales letter is especially hard when you’re writing it around very personal issues such as spirituality. How can selling spirituality not feel gross?

And yet, if you run these kinds of retreats (and it’s where your income comes from) it’s only fair you articulate what it is you’re doing. 

But how?

This was the conundrum of a colleague and dear friend, Russell Scott (the handsome rogue pictured here) who I recently worked with to reword his sales letter. Here’s what he had to say about the process: “I wrote a sales letter based on a copying template I had downloaded from another coach but I just couldn’t get it right. It was awkward. In some sections it was too clinical in some it got far too personal. I was totally stuck in getting it right. I gave what I’d written to Tad and he worked it over. When I read how he had re-written it I literally cried. The whole sales letter had come alive! It was as if Tad had reached into my heart and translated into words all the compassion, care and understanding I have for the people I serve and put it on paper.” 

So, what I’d like to do is walk you through the sales letter with my commentary and show you what I came up with as an alternative that Russell loved so much. I should qualify that this was done in a couple of hours and that there is likely much more that could be done by far better copy writers than I to make this sales letter sing. But I am pretty happy with what came out. 

Coming Home

-an enlightenment intensive -

So, right away, I don’t like the phrase ‘enlightenment intensive’. It sounds like it’s promising enlightenment. Which sounds like hype. 

Ending the search.  Living a deeper life.

Ending the search? That for sure sounds like hype. Like one weekend is going to end a search humanity has been on since time immemorial? Sounds too good to be true – and therefore untrue.

A lot of people secretly wish that they could let go of the pressures of living in the rat race and come home to a deeper peace… the kind that many of the great spiritual teachers of the ages have spoken of.

Meh. This sounds ok. But a bit generic to me. It sounds like a set up for a pitch.

If they could, they’d feel more alive, happy, inspired and fully engaged with others. They’d would feel a sense of harmony with life and be a lot freer to totally be themselves.

Generic promise. I’m already not feeling much of Russell’s wonderful personality.

But right now, you walk, talk, sit, drive, work, buy, eat, sleep and dream in an endless daily cycle. At the end of the week, you stare into the TV wondering “is there more than this perpetual treadmill?” and ask “What am I obviously missing here?” There’s restlessness like something is shifting or fragmenting. You don’t know what it is or what needs to change or even if it’s a good thing. Yet something deep inside is calling your true self to come out and play but you’re trapped in the social way you are supposed to be. You’ve come to the conclusion you don’t know the one that’s been living your life. Sometimes the emptiness is downright painful. You hide it well but it’s deep…slowly eating your soul.

Here’s where I start to pull back even more. It feels like a bit of an assault. A pitch. It’s trying to be empathetic and yet I feel defensive. I feel like I’m being set up. I don’t identify with everything I’m reading. I find myself leaning away. And part of this comes from the fact that he’s speaking directly to me. He’s saying ‘you’. Which is, ironically, how we’re taught to write sales letters. Speak directly to the other person. We’re admonished, wisely I think, to remember that every sales letter we write will be read one person at a time. So, we should be writing it to our ideal clients and no one else. Sales letters aren’t read by ‘the masses’. They’re read by individuals. So, let’s write to them. Fine so far. But it’s a very modern conception of sales and communication with others to imagine that every conversation with someone should be talking directly to them using ‘you’. We forget that, since time immemorial, humans have best communicated with stories. In a story, people can identify with the parts they do, and leave the rest. A story doesn’t get your hackles up. A story doesn’t make you defensive because it’s not about you. But, in a sales letter or video when we start saying, ‘Do you ever struggle with…’ it can trigger people’s shame around those issues and also ignore how vulnerable they might feel about the issue. It forces them to confront something they may not be ready to confront. 

You’ve tried the latest self-help books and videos about affirmations, positive thinking and “the secrets” but they don’t do the trick. They actually make you more confused. The hype hurts. Maybe you’ve explored the “isms” and different philosophies, crystals, chakras, gone to healers, etc.  Maybe you have tried a religious path for awhile. You’ve gotten calmer and more relaxed but the big promised “aha” just hasn’t happened. (you’ve been told it takes a long time). Or maybe the whole guru/student thing gives you a rash so you’ve tried being an independent non-follower for awhile. But you’ve gotten lost and alone.

This might all feel true enough but it also feels like it’s setting me up for the pitch, ‘and this will be the thing to finally solve all of your issues’. 

What you really need to do is give up.

This sounds flip and condescending. He’s already telling me what to do? How the hell does he know? It seems like he’s being clever with his language on an issue that isn’t ‘fun’ for me.

That’s right…give up trying to find the answers on the outside. These are just ideas, thoughts and concepts. They are in the head. They are like a menu. They are not the food. You need to take a 180 degree turn away from books and find a proven technique that will help you experience the truth for yourself. And let go of the ridiculous idea that awakening takes a lifetime. That’s just another belief to trap you.

Intellectually, I get where he’s going but I’m feeling a bit offended by the tone. Like it’s so easy. 

I know what it’s like

That sounds salesy come out of the set up I just went through. A bit too formulaic. 

In my twenties I spent 10 years exploring every religion under the sun and reading so many books I could have started my own library. I sat at the feet of so many gurus and instead of finding peace I got athletes foot. My head I was so much in the clouds I was no earthly good.

Again, that sounds clever. Like something he’s said a lot of times. It’s kind of funny. But the issue we’re talking about doesn’t feel funny to me when I’m the one suffering. 

I just got more confused about myself and life. One day I decided I didn’t really know anything and decided to find the truth for myself.

I’m feeling connected.

It was then I discovered a method of self-inquiry that changed my life.

And now the sales pitch.

I broke through my lonely shell and experienced the magnificence of my true self. Everyday I experience the greatest gift in life… being who I really am!

Every day? Every. Single. Day? He’s enlightened now? This sounds hyped up.

I trained in this method called the Enlightenment Intensive. Since then I changed the name of the retreat to Coming Home and have mastered over 65 retreats over the past 30 years.

Whoa! That’s a lot of retreats! Maybe the man has something to say.

What is Coming Home?

Coming Home is an accelerated process of transformation that takes you to the pinnacle of self-actualization –the direct consciousness of your true Self and Life! 

Pet peeve. Exclamation marks. I hate these in sales letters. Imagine you get three of these that you ever get to use in any sales letter for the rest of your life. Ever. All too often, they trigger hype. Mostly, I  suggest people cut them out entirely.

Second thing, this claim sounds like hype. Big time. This sounds like some flavour of the month spiritual technique.

This illumination is simple, obvious and indisputable, enveloping you with sense of wholeness, completeness, peace and lightness.

Obvious and indisputable? Indisputable? This sounds like he’s not very open to feedback or dispute. And it sounds like a generic, new age pitch.

It’s like coming home after you have been lost for many years… only you come home to yourself. 

I do like the idea of coming home. That sounds lovely.

The East/West Approach

Using a self-inquiry format inspired by Zen-style contemplation on a key question such as; “who am I?” or “what is life? combined with a paired communication structure drawn from relational psychology you silently contemplate your question and then communicate the result of your investigation to a listening partner. You alternate speaking and listening every 5 minutes. Every 40 minutes you work with a different person or go on a silent walk. Meals, snack, exercise and rest are interspersed in the schedule.

I like the specifics. Though there’s an abrupt tone shift from salesy to academic here that’s a bit jarring. But it’s nice to finally get to the nuts and bolts of this. 

The Structure

Within the structure there are agreements of non-interruption, non-judgement and deep listening that help you bypass the subtle influences of “normal” relating that have socialized you to deny what is true for you.

That actually kind of makes sense. I like it. Tell me more.

You connect deeply to yourself and others and let go of layers of false beliefs and experiences that have imprisoned you in years of suffering. There are no religious ideas, dogma or philosophy taught. You learn and practice the technique and I give you guidance. It is not psychotherapy.

I like this. 

In a renewed space of openness, within 3 1/2 days you can spontaneously awaken to the magnificence of your true self!

Bah! Another huge claim that sounds inflated. And an exclamation mark. Grrr. My trust drops. 

Awakening

This phenomenon in the west has been called by Abraham Maslow “Unitive consciousness” or “Self-transcendence”. In eastern traditions it is labelled as awakening, enlightenment, illumination, self-realization, cosmic consciousness or satori. Just as technology has advanced in modern times, so too have spiritual and transformation techniques.

Not sold. Sounds like a vague attempt to rationalize hyped up new age bullshit.

When safe communication structure is added to the eastern method of contemplation, the results are remarkable. Self-realization usually occurs to 30-90% of participants. You no longer have to spend months, years or even a lifetime to awaken. 

It’s promising I’m going to awaken. Blurgh.

Is this just another “You’ll be happy for the rest of your life” thing?

Yes. That’s what it sounds like you’re saying. I’m glad you’re self aware enough to see that.

To be realistic, awakening does not mean that you will no longer have any problems or you will be in a state of bliss or happiness for the rest of your life.

What? You said you had this experience every day. This now seems like the bait and switch. I’m feeling lied to a bit. 

What it does mean is that you will be living the rest of your life more from the inner strength of your real self and less from the insecurity of a social personality. You will be more able face and transform the obstacles of your life into valuable growth experiences and achieve the kind of success in life defined by who you really are, not others. Coming home to your true self is the most precious gift you can ever give to yourself. And because we all want to relate to others who are real, you are the best gift you can give to the world!

Exclamation mark. Vague platitudes. Interest fading fast. 

 “When you know who you truly are there is an abiding alive sense of peace. You could call it joy because that’s what joy is: vibrantly alive peace. It is the joy of knowing yourself as the very life essence before life takes on form. That is the joy of Being, of being who you truly are.”

Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart can not save this sales letter right now. 

After a Coming Home retreat participants commonly report feeling:

  • More authentic
  • Peace, contentment and lightness permeating their body
  • Totally embodied as if they have finally come home to themselves
  • Loving-kindness towards themselves and others
  • Greater self-acceptance
  • Psychologically whole
  • More inner strength and inner resolve
  • Freer to express themselves around others
  • Improved intuitive ability
  • Enhanced and balanced energy levels

That all feels a bit vague. 

Participants also commonly report having greater capacity to:

  • Be open and authentic in relationships
  • Persist and accomplish personal goals
  • Face and overcome problems and difficulties
  • Fully experience love, joy and happiness
  • Understand the deeper truths in traditional philosophy and religion
  • Achieve greater mutual understanding with others 
  • Be assertive and communicate their needs
  • Find meaning, inspiration and insight in daily living
  • Make rapid progress in their personal and spiritual growth

Again, a bit vague to me.

Why can’t I just do this on my own?

Good question!

This question can be answered with another question. If you were able to do this alone how come you are still searching? There is a paradox here: You have to do this by yourself but you don’t do it alone.

I love that phrase. 

There is a great power in coming to together as a group. The energy of the group is more than the sum of everyone’s individual energy.

That energy propels you to make much greater progress than doing this on your own within the ongoing distractions in life. 

That actually makes sense to me. 

But more importantly I’ve been guiding people for over 30 years on this journey to self.

That is indeed credibility building.

I’ve been up every blind alley there is and helped thousands of people in a very short time get through barriers they have struggled with by themselves for years.

Humility is nice. And credibility is building.

Why spend any longer being blocked?

That sounds dismissive of how much I’m suffering.

You’ve got to be kidding…enlightenment in 3 ½ days?

Now I’m so confused with what he means by enlightenment. How is he defining this?

Awakening is the “direct experience of the way you actually are”. You can come to the same awareness that many of the great spiritual teachers have had. After all they were ordinary folks just like you. The difference is that people like Buddha spent many years in meditation deepening and ripening their awakening to total enlightenment.  So once you experience your true self, that’s it. The search is over.

Wait. So you’re just offering me a taste of who I am? I’ve had some ‘peak moments’ before. Is this just another one? What happens when I come down from the mountain top and get lost in the valley again?

Then the next project is to start living from the real you.

Ah. That makes sense.

That will continue to deepen what you have come to know. You will be given instructions on how to do this on the last day of the retreat.

Very curious what advice he’d offer here. 

Who the retreat is for?

  • You are looking back on your life and wondering what it is all about?
  • You are feeling empty and you are asking “who am I really?
  • There’s a sense of meaningless about life.
  • You’ve been on a spiritual path for a long time and never had the big“AHA”
  • You are not interested in following a religion or taking on more beliefs
  • You are able to take 4 days away from your job and family

 Something about the bullet points here feels salesy but enough are specific enough (especially the last two) that these could really help me figure out if it’s a fit. 

Are there any pre-requisites to take the retreat?

If you have not done the retreat before I ask that people set-up a 10-15 minutes orientation interview with me. Together we will explore where you are at in your life and what you want from the retreat. 

I’ll explain the schedule, the guidelines and the self-inquiry technique used. I’ll go over any concerns you have about diet, accommodation and health challenges you may have and then you can decide if the retreat is a fit for you. There are no subtle sales techniques. I only want people on Coming Home who are right for it. It makes for a better retreat for everyone.

I like this. That feels personalized. I like that he says ‘no subtle sales techniques’. Huge building of trust. 

 

- END OF SALES LETTER #1 - 

 

So,that was what Russell sent me. Here’s what I sent him back as a rewrite. He’s made a few changes since.

Coming Home

Ending the search. Living a deeper life.

with 

Russell Scott

If you’re reading this, you already know something: life is hard. 

I wanted to start with the truest thing I knew that might resonate with the place Russell’s people are in.

It’s full of beauty and wonderful things – but it’s also full of heartbreak.

Life feeds us but it can also break us.

So, how do we deal with it?

I wanted to acknowledge the complexity of life and the experience of the person reading it. 

In truth, I don’t completely know. But I can share what I’ve discovered in the hopes it will be useful.

For me, when people admit they don’t know everything, it’s so credibility building. I trust them more. And it’s such an ‘anti-sales’ thing to say. I felt like his first letter simplified things too much. I wanted to complicate it a bit and bring more openness to it. 

It’s not an answer but a paradox I want to invite you to sit with as you read this (we’ll come back to it later): You have to do this by yourself but you don’t do it alone.

This is an old story telling trick of starting a story and then starting another story inside of that story while promising to come back to it. It grabs people in a bit closer. It’s a nice hook. Bring something provocative or compelling up as a tease and promise to get back to it later. 

If you’re reading this, then my guess is that you have been broken a down a little or a lot by life (maybe slowly over years or maybe all at once) to a point where you know you need to dig deeper. But there’s a good chance you feel lost as to how to go about that.

To me the key phrase is here is ‘my guess’. Not making assumptions.

And I’d like to talk about a different path to spiritual growth you may not have tried (or even considered). And to invite you to come to a retreat that’s coming up soon. 

This is the beauty of being direct. The other sales letter didn’t directly say it was about the retreat until the end. Be direct. Tell them that you’ve got something to offer and that you’re going to make your best case for it to help them figure out if it might be a fit for them.

A lot of people I speak with secretly wish they could let go of the pressures of living in the rat race and come home to a deeper peace… the kind that many of the great spiritual teachers of the ages have spoken of. They want to feel more alive, happy, inspired and fully engaged with others. They would feel a sense of harmony with life and be a lot freer to totally be themselves.

But right now, they walk, talk, sit, drive, work, buy, eat, sleep and dream in an endless daily cycle. 

At the end of the week, they may stare into the TV wondering “is there more than this perpetual treadmill?” and ask “What am I obviously missing here?” There’s restlessness like something is shifting or fragmenting. They don’t know what it is or what needs to change or even if it’s a good thing. Something deep inside is calling their true self to come out and play but they feel trapped in the way they are socially supposed to be. 

This is the exact same as the words above, but I changed it from ‘you’ to ‘they’. It’s more a story now. It’s less an accusation or pitch and it’s more of him relating what he’s experienced. 

Some of them tell me that they’ve come to the conclusion that they don’t know the one that’s been living their life. They just have no idea. Sometimes the emptiness is downright painful. Most of them hide it well (some very well and you’d never guess) but it’s deep…slowly eating their soul.

As Stephen Jenkinson said, “It’s in the nature of being human to forget how to be one on occasion.” But what happens when we forget for a long time? And how do we remember. Many of the people I have worked with are in the midst of the forgetting and don’t know how to get on track.

I wanted to seed the idea that we forget and that remembering is important. 

And it’s not for a lack of trying. 

They’ve tried the latest self-help books and videos about affirmations, positive thinking and “the secrets” but they didn’t do the trick. They actually made them more confused. The hype hurts. Some have explored the “isms” and different philosophies, crystals, chakras, gone to healers, etc.  Some have tried a religious path for awhile. For most, it’s helped them become calmer and more relaxed… but the big promised “aha” just hasn’t happened (they’ve been told it takes a long time). 

Again, I switched it from ‘you’ to ‘they’. No need for the reader to get defensive. 

And, for many of them, the whole guru/student thing gives them a rash so they’ve tried being an independent non-follower for awhile. But they’ve gotten lost and the truth is that the solitary approach feels incredibly lonely.

It’s not just that they’re alone. It’s that it feels lonely. It’s vital to remember that we’re talking to human beings. Their problems are not mechanical. They are deeply felt. I’ve written about this extensively in my blog post Empathy in Marketing

I’m guessing that, in some way, you can relate to this.

Again, guessing. Not stating definitely. Just supposing. This lets the reader confirm that it’s true. 

And if you can, this is what I want to say to you: What you really need to do is give up.

That’s right…give up trying to find the answers on the outside. These are just ideas, thoughts and concepts. They are in the head. They are like a menu. They are not the food. You need to take a 180 degree turn away from books and find a proven technique that will help you experience the truth for yourself. And let go of the idea that awakening takes a lifetime. That might just be another belief to become trapped in.

I left  this in because it didn’t feeling quite as abrupt and insensitive with a more sensitive intro. Reading it now, I’d probably still want to rework this. 

I know what it’s like…

In my twenties I spent 10 years exploring every religion under the sun and reading so many books I could have started my own library.

And I learned something very important – that the easiest way to avoid meditation… is to read books about meditation. A wise Hawai’ian Kahuna once said, ‘The shadow side of knowledge isn’t ignorance. It’s theory.’

This felt like another important premise to seed. The difference between theory and experience. He’s offering an experiential retreat. This distinction needs to be crystal clear. 

I sat at the feet of so many gurus and instead of finding peace I got athletes foot. I was so much in my head I was no earthly good. I just got more confused about myself and life. One day, I decided I didn’t really know anything and decided to find the truth for myself. It was then I discovered a method of self-inquiry that changed my life. I broke through my lonely shell and experienced the magnificence of my true self. Everyday I experience the greatest gift in life… being who I really am. I trained in this method (called the Enlightenment Intensive). Since then I changed the name of the retreat to something that felt more true to what my experience of it was: ‘Coming Home’ and have led over 65 retreats over the past 30 years.

Coming Home

What is Coming Home?

Coming Home is a simple but beautiful process that weaves together community and inner contemplation to bring you back to an experience of wholeness, completeness, peace and lightness. It’s like coming home after you have been lost for many years… only you come home to yourself.  

“community and inner contemplation” seemed like a simple way to put it. 

The East/West Approach

Using a self-inquiry format inspired by Zen-style contemplation on a key question such as; “who am I?” or “what is life? combined with a paired communication structure drawn from relational psychology you silently contemplate your question and then communicate the result of your investigation to a listening partner. You alternate speaking and listening every 5 minutes. Every 40 minutes you work with a different person or go on a silent walk. Meals, snack, exercise and rest are interspersed in the schedule.

It sounds so simple. But, I think that’s why it works so well. 

If you know that something you’re saying sound ‘too simple’ acknowledge that immediately. A good sales letter should read like a dialogue where you are making statements and then anticipating their responses and respond to them. A good sales letter is a wonderful experience where you find yourself constantly saying to yourself, ‘Yes. I was wondering that.’

“It’s like I did ten years of meditation in 3 days.”

Beth Clark, Kingston

Testimonials. These add so much credibility to this letter. If you say it, it could be hype. If someone else says it? Much more credible. 

The Structure

Within the structure there are agreements of non-interruption, non-judgement and deep listening that help you bypass the subtle influences of “normal” relating that have socialized you to deny what is true for you. You connect deeply to yourself and others and let go of layers of false beliefs and experiences that have imprisoned you in years of suffering. There are no religious ideas, dogma or philosophy to be learned. You learn and practice the technique and I give you guidance (if you need it). It is not psychotherapy. In a renewed space of openness, within 3 1/2 days many people (more than you might think just reading this) spontaneously awaken to the magnificence of their true self. Or that’s how I’d describe it. 

“Or that’s how I’d describe it.” Again. Taking the pressure out of it. Just sharing his experience rather than saying, ‘this is the truth’. More like, ‘this is how I see it’. 

What I see when I work with people is their eyes widening, broad smiles, tears of joy and their bodies melting as the thousand stresses caused by the expectations of who they think they need to be evaporate from their bodies. 

This is using the senses. When you’re describing the result you offer, paint me a picture. Help me see it. Help me hear it, taste it, touch it, feel it. Use all five senses. 

“Words are so inadequate when I try to describe the immense gratitude I feel. I am now moving through my life with new eyes, new ears, and a new voice; and feeling so much more peaceful, alive, and present in this world. Thank you for holding the retreat space in such a patient, gentle, loving, and compassionate way.” Sekoiaa Lake, Peterborough, On

To be honest, I’m not sure I understand it still. But maybe that’s the point. Some things aren’t meant to be understood. Some things can only be experienced and lose everything in the translation. 

Russell is a humble fellow. And I wanted that to come through. Admit that you don’t understand everything. Admit your limits. Admit your faults. And watch people lean in and trust you more. 

Again, ‘The shadow side of knowledge isn’t ignorance. It’s theory.’

If you have a core message that is central to your offer, bring it back again and again – make it a familiar refrain you return to. This message of knowledge vs. theory is vital to his workshops. If people don’t buy that idea, they won’t buy his retreat. 

I think what most of us need isn’t more theory. What we need is a dedicated space where we can be supported in doing the one thing we need most – go within. As the old saying goes, ‘if you don’t go within, you go without.’ And it’s the one thing we don’t actually do enough of. We think about it. We read about it. We talk about it. But when we sit down to do it, we get bored, lost or lose steam. We have to do it ourselves but, in reality, it’s hard to do it alone.

This is where I hit people a bit harder. More directly. I’m driving the point home and framing the foundational assumption and premise upon which this retreat is built. In Russell’s first letter, this premise is implicit. But sometimes you need to make these things explicit. Often times, we don’t even realize what the premises are; we don’t understand the point of view upon which our work is based. But a clear point of view is one of the key elements of people figuring out if we’re a fit for them or not. 

In my experience, we all have this internal compass, this part of us that knows the truth (and even more so, is the truth). And what’s causing so much of our suffering in our lives is the inconsistency between the will of our soul and the will of our personality. We need to bring the former out. As it says in the Gospel of Matthew, ‘That which you bring forth will save you. That which you do not bring forth will destroy you.’ And for many people, that experience of destruction is all too real. 

Awakening

But here’s my best take at explaining it: This phenomenon of ‘coming home’ in the west has been called, by Abraham Maslow, “Unitive consciousness” or “Self-transcendence”. In eastern traditions it is labelled as awakening, enlightenment, illumination, self-realization, cosmic consciousness or satori. Just as technology has advanced in modern times, so too have spiritual and transformation techniques. When safe communication structure is added to the eastern method of contemplation, the results are remarkable. That moment of ‘coming home’ usually occurs to 30-90% of participants. Many of them are caught off guard and amazed at no longer having to spend months, years or even a lifetime to have that moment of ‘awakening’.

Here I make sure to frame it as a ‘moment’ of awakening so it doesn’t seem like a bait and switch later. 

Eckhart Tolle says this about awakening; “When you know who you truly are there is an abiding alive sense of peace. You could call it joy because that’s what joy is: vibrantly alive peace. It is the joy of knowing yourself as the very life essence before life takes on form. That is the joy of Being, of being who you truly are.”

Is this just another “You’ll be happy for the rest of your life” thing?

To be realistic, awakening does not mean that you will no longer have any problems or you will be in a state of bliss or happiness for the rest of your life. What it does mean is that you will be living the rest of your life more from the inner strength of your real self and less from the insecurity of a social personality. You will be more able face and transform the obstacles of your life into valuable growth experiences and achieve the kind of success in life defined by who you really are, not others. 

For me it’s this: Coming home to my true self (the real experience of it in my body not the theory of it) is the most precious gift I have ever given to myself. And because we all want to relate to others who are real, you are the best gift you can give to the world. 

After a Coming Home retreat participants commonly report feeling:

  • More authentic
  • Peace, contentment and lightness permeating their body
  • Totally embodied as if they have finally come home to themselves
  • Loving-kindness towards themselves and others
  • Greater self-acceptance
  • Psychologically whole
  • More inner strength and inner resolve
  • Freer to express themselves around others
  • Improved intuitive ability
  • Enhanced and balanced energy levels

“Within one year of the retreat I left my business and took a chance on a new career…money is not important, nor is status. What is important is the feeling that I am now doing what I was originally meant to do with my life!” Mel Steiner -Toronto

Participants also commonly report having greater capacity to:

  • Be open and authentic in relationships
  • Persist and accomplish personal goals
  • Face and overcome problems and difficulties
  • Fully experience love, joy and happiness
  • Understand the deeper truths in traditional philosophy and religion
  • Achieve greater mutual understanding with others 
  • Be assertive and communicate their needs
  • Find meaning, inspiration and insight in daily living
  • Make rapid progress in their personal and spiritual growth

“I discovered a bond linking myself with others, that we are all beings trapped within our minds trying to communicate our fears and need for love. I am becoming more loving, more real, more open, truthful and trustworthy” Doug Tyler -Toronto

Why can’t I just do this on my own?

This question can be answered with another question. If you were able to do this alone how come you are still searching? 

And we’re back to the paradox: You have to do this by yourself but you don’t do it alone. 

Aaaaannd we’ve brought it back. Remember that piece I teased earlier?

There is a great power in coming to together as a group. The energy of the group is more than the sum of everyone’s individual energy. That energy propels you to make much greater progress than doing this on your own within the ongoing distractions in life. 

But more importantly I’ve been guiding people for over 30 years on this journey to self. I’ve been up every blind alley there is and helped thousands of people in a very short time get through barriers they have struggled with by themselves for years. 

You’ve got to be kidding…enlightenment in 3 ½ days?

I would define awakening is the “direct experience of the way you actually are”. This is my belief (as well as the experience of myself and many others): You can come to the same awareness that many of the great spiritual teachers have had. After all they were ordinary folks just like you. The difference is that people like Buddha spent many years in meditation deepening and ripening their awakening to total enlightenment.  

So once you experience your true self, that’s it. The search is over. Then the next project is to start living from the real you. That will continue to deepen what you have come to know. You will be given instructions on how to do this on the last day of the retreat.

But the first step is to find it. And, for most of us, that’s been a very hard first step. After all, many of us have spent a lifetime losing ourselves and being misled.

Step One: come home. This doesn’t need to take as long as many think.

Step Two: live in that home. This is a lifetime practice. This is where your life becomes a work of art, an ongoing practice of deepening and expressing who we are in the world.

Again, I didn’t want it to get lost that there were two steps here. 

As the old African proverb goes: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it.”

Is there any support for me after the retreat when I meet the challenges of my life?

It’s quite common after any spiritual or personal development program for the retreat “high” to fade, after a few days or weeks. People are in a more open space and see life more clearly They can have difficulty bringing their new breakthroughs into their lives where their family, friends and work are still the same. All too often people are sent home after other retreats with little guidance and support. 

This is not the case with Coming Home.

The main self inquiry practice in the retreat ends usually on a Sunday evening. In the next half day you are re-introduced to your normal way of relating to others. You are made aware of the challenges you may face and given strategies to deal with them. You then “graduate” into the Enlifenment Program that is designed to help you live in a deeper connection to your true self. (as in step 2 above).

This program includes a guided meditation CD, two follow-up mentorship from me calls a month apart, a six week program of self-inquiry exercises paired with a fellow participant and 2 one or two day re-connection seminars through-out the next year. I am also available for one-to-one sessions (at an addition cost) for anyone that needs this. 

You can choose to become part of a non-dogmatic community of true spiritual friends who have shared deeply in your profound transformation journey. Once again, you have to do this by yourself but now you don’t have to do this alone.

Who the retreat is for?

  • You are looking back on your life and wondering what it is all about?
  • You are feeling empty and you are asking “who am I really?”
  • There’s a sense of meaningless about life.
  • You’ve been on a spiritual path for a long time and never had the big“AHA”
  • You are a seeker and not interested in following a religion or taking on more beliefs
  • You are able to take 4 days away from your job and family
  • You resonate with what you’ve read here so far and feel open to exploring the process for yourself. 
  • You resonate with the idea that, deep down, we know (or are) the truth. We just often need support in finding it.

Are there any pre-requisites to take the retreat?

If you have not done the retreat before I ask that people set-up a 10-15 minutes orientation interview with me. Together we will explore where you are at in your life and what you want from the retreat.

I’ll explain the schedule, the guidelines and the self-inquiry technique used. I’ll go over any concerns you have about diet, accommodation and health challenges you may have and then you can decide if the retreat is a fit for you. There are no subtle sales techniques. I only want people on Coming Home who are right for it. It makes for a better retreat for everyone.  

 

- END OF SALES LETTER #2 - 

 

So, that’s it. That’s my quick ‘redo’ of a sales letter to make it less salesy and more reflective of the wonderful man Russell Scott is. He’s one of the kindest, most unassuming, gentle and clear fellows I’ve ever met. You’d be hard pressed to find better as a mentor and support in your inner growth. You can learn more about him and his wonderful work (which I have directly experienced and can attest to) here: www.truesourceseminars.com 

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. 

 

  

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

lisa manyon Guest Post: A Simple Formula to Create Marketing Messages With IntegrityBy: Lisa Manyon

There is a BIG shift occurring. Several years ago I was asked to contribute to a book and write about my thoughts on marketing on the Internet. Even then I felt the collaborate shift in marketing and business. I highlighted this in a chapter titled “How the Ever Changing Landscape of Internet Marketing Affects Your Message and Why You Must Adapt.”

I noted that many of the standard marketing techniques, especially in the copywriting arena, were antiquated and not as effective as they once were. The list included hyped-up claims, overly “sales-y” spiels, hard-sell tactics, broad-based messages, scare tactics, stretching the truth, false claims of scarcity, over-dramatizing pain and problems and more. All tactics that don’t resonate with me and that I felt deeply were not resonating with conscious, heart-based entrepreneurs in general. 

Several years later, my predictions continue to hold true. There’s a shift from competition to collaboration and the Internet allows us to reach more people, connect with other creative, conscious business owners and do the work we love from the comfort of wherever we might be. This shift also requires a different approach to marketing. It requires creating marketing messages with integrity. 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to writing, marketing and advertising. I grew up in a home in very rural Northern California. I was blessed to have both my mom and dad in the home. When I was a small kid, we only received signals from two television stations and watched the tube on an old black and white model with modified rabbit ear antennas (keep in mind, we were one of the houses ‘in town’ that actually had electricity). The old rotary dial telephone is still the trusty standby in power outages and life is pleasantly simple there. My exposure to advertising and marketing was limited to the two television channels and few radio stations. I can still remember watching commercials at a very young age and thinking “I can do better than that”. Even then advertisers and marketers were missing the mark (and even as a child, I could see that). 

In fourth grade a gal pal and I created the first school newspaper for our elementary school. We produced it on a mimeograph machine (yes, I know I’m dating myself). Even then I knew I had a voice and that I needed to share it to make a difference. I also know I am very blessed to have parents who supported me in that pursuit. 

For women especially, it’s hard to share our voice. I was shocked to find that the saying “Children should be seen and not heard” “is a Victorian-based idea that obedient, quiet children are superior to other children. Interestingly enough, it originally applied specifically to young women.

With history like this, it’s not surprising that the societal and generational impact of specific sayings like “It’s not polite to brag,” and rhetorical questions like, “Who do you think you are?” continue to hold back women (and men, as well) even today. It’s hard to imagine a time when keeping to yourself was seen as a superior quality. I imagine this programming makes it difficult for many women to create marketing messages to support their businesses. 

Fast-forward to present day, and we see that many women still find themselves bound by the invisible chains of antiquated thinking and even familial programming. They shrink, hold back and don’t speak up. They are subconsciously afraid, maybe because they were taught as children that bragging isn’t polite or they simply don’t want to outshine their peers because they crave acceptance. The possibilities are endless, but the fact remains the same: Each of us is born with a unique gift. Our particular gift or talent might be similar to others’ but it cannot be fully duplicated because it is uniquely ours. To take it a step further, we must accept that we are meant to share our gift with the world. When we don’t, without realizing it, we actually do a disservice to the world.  One of the ways to get our message out is by marketing. In fact, if you don’t market your business, a funny thing happens… nothing. We must market to thrive. 

We’ve got tons of information coming our way about the right way to build our businesses and how we need to go about it. We receive faxes, e-mails, telephone calls, cell phone calls, instant messages, text messages, QR codes, blog posts, social media updates and more. There’s permission marketing techniques, outrageous business growth philosophies that tout being aligned with your customers, qualifying prospects, the need for a website and comprehensive marketing plan and the list goes on. Many of the techniques being taught are dated and no longer apply (they just aren’t working like they once did). On the flipside, getting back to basics has more merit than many are recognizing.

As the landscape of marketing and advertising continues to change there are some tried and true principles that remain solid. My dad taught me some of them without me realizing it at the time. When I started selling ads for my high school and college papers I asked my dad to advertise his woodworking business and he wasn’t interested, I was baffled. He simply didn’t want to reach out to the masses. In fact, he refused to have his business telephone number listed in the phone book (you get one complimentary listing when you have a business line). Instead, my dad was really clear on his values and his mission. He limited his accessibility, accepted work only by referral and he turned down work he didn’t want to do. This in turn increased the demand for his work.  

I didn’t know it at the time but my dad was teaching me to create my niche, be uniquely different, work with only people I want to work with, limit my accessibility to be in higher demand and be true to myself while maintaining integrity. 

As I continue to step into what I’m truly meant to be doing I’m discovering new ways to market my business (and the businesses of my clients).  I’m finding that the formulas being taught for copywriting (the foundation of all of our marketing messages) aren’t working as well as they once were. These formulas are not resonating with women who help make the majority of all purchasing decisions. 

I challenge the age old industry adage that “Copy is King.” I’ve found that copy is actually QUEEN and content strategy is KING and together they are the key to creating strong and effective results. Even the best copy in the world won’t work if you don’t have a strategy in place. Think of strategy as masculine energy and copy as feminine energy –both are vital but if they are not working together it’s a struggle.

I’ve also found that the traditional copywriting formula of “Problem. Agitate. Solve.” isn’t resonating with women. Women are looking for solutions to their challenges. What’s really working is the new copywriting formula of “Challenge. Solution. Invitation.™” 

In the traditional formula we highlight the issue, we agitate that issue to focus on the pain points and then we solve the problem. I believe people are in enough pain. We don’t need to be agitated to make a decision.  In fact, especially for women, when someone acknowledges our challenges (and really understands where we’re coming from), provides a helpful solution and extends a friendly invitation, we’re more likely to take action. Nothing truly flows when it comes from a place of pain and fear…

When we know in our hearts we are meant to make a difference, we owe it to ourselves and our fellow humans to step forward and be heard. More women are choosing to express these gifts by starting a business or becoming an entrepreneur. We create new opportunities as a conduit to share our gifts by providing services and benefits for the greater good. We have the power to share our gifts in many ways, and one of the most important ways is by letting people know how our unique gift can benefit them and creating marketing messages with integrity. The new marketing model for success comes from a place values and service first. Anything else is transparent and not in a good way. How do you choose to market your business?  Are you creating marketing messages with integrity? 

 

Lisa Manyon’s new marketing model for success has been featured Inc. Magazine. Her “Challenge. Solution. Invitation.™” formula is changing the way we market forever. She offers content rich articles and a free Copywriting Action plan on her Apex award-wining blog www.writeoncreative.com/blog 

She is “The Business Marketing Architect” a content strategist for mission-driven entrepreneurs. She’s the creator of the new marketing model for success as featured in Inc. Magazine. She teaches a relationship based approach to marketing with integrity with her “Challenge. Solution. Invitation.™” formula. Lisa’s Content Strategy Plans and innovative marketing vision have been known to accurately predict marketing trends and generate over $40,000 in the first email campaign when incorporating her methods. Her big vision and ability to see all the pieces of your marketing puzzle allows her to help you reverse engineer your big ideas into tangible action steps to turn your dreams into reality.  Lisa is a regular guest expert on Experience Pros radio, her philosophies are featured in the book Wonder Women: How the Western Woman Will Save The World and beyond. Lisa is available for speaking engagements and you can learn more by visiting her media kit lisa.instantmediakit.com.

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: Empathic Marketing and TLC: A Whole New Paradigm of Business!

by Tomar Levine, SoulGuidanceForYourBusiness.com 

A message I’ve valued in some of your posts, Tad, is to not shame or blame people, to not make them feel worse about themselves in the attempt to market to them.

When I heard you say that, something in me relaxed and felt safe.

Accepting People Where They Are

I realized I don’t want to be with one more person who makes me feel bad about myself, whether it’s through harshness, pressure, subtle blaming or comparison. I’ve lived too long in a state of self-judgment, feeling inadequate, and comparing myself. I need my teachers and mentors to lead with heart. And from there I can find the inner resources to commit myself to what I truly want – which certainly includes pushing against my perceived limits.  But not from fear, shame, or feeling in any way inadequate and needing to prove something, to get approval.

I believe that if we are to to help others we must meet them where they are and be with them in such a way that what is hurting can relax -  not flinch or tighten, not get defensive or collapse more.

We need to see and accept them where they are and speak to that, extend our hand to them in that place.

Empathy vs. Manipulation 

That is the difference between empathy and using people’s pain as a sales technique to manipulate them.

In the manipulative version we’re exploiting their fear or pain in order to get them to buy our “solution” to their problem  – just like the advertising industry has always done. Advertising treats people as objects and knows just which buttons to push to get the desired result. 

True empathy, on the other hand, recognizes our common human condition and makes people feel seen, accepted, and safe. Because empathy means we’re both vulnerable!

Is Manipulative Marketing “Child Abuse?”

When someone is afraid or insecure it usually means some “deficient child” identity has taken over – we all have them.  So I just had this far-out realization that the manipulative approach is akin to taking advantage of a child!

We all tend to regress and feel all alone when we think there’s something wrong with us -  we’re so sure we’re the only one or the worst case. We may feel totally hopeless because of the gap between where we are vs. where we think we should be. And it always comes back to feeling like a deficient child. This is pretty universal.

We look around and see the successful-looking  facades that others project – the “adults,” who seem to have everything together – and we believe them. It’s called “comparing your inside to someone else’s outside.” The other person may feel inadequate too, but they just have a better mask.

Tell Your Own Story

One of the most compassionate, loving things we can do for someone, therefore, is to normalize their pain so they realize they’re not alone or different.

The easiest way to do that is to share our own story. Hearing the words, “I’ve been there too, it’s okay, it’s perfectly normal for you to feel that way” is such balm at those times. 

Then if you say “I know a way out that worked for me. Maybe it can help you too,” the person can hear you as a friend, not in a state of panic. 

Can You “Emphasize the Gap” Too Much?

I know we’re taught to emphasize the pain, the gap, what it’s costing the person to not achieve their goal. And I get that people are often in denial about that, don’t want to look at it, and so don’t move forward.

But some “manipulating pain” marketing emphasizes the gap so much that it feels insurmountable. I’ve been on the receiving end of that, and have sometimes felt I was just too inadequate, too far behind, not enough like the marketer (not confident enough, extroverted enough, glamorous enough) to ever succeed. So it made me feel more hopeless and at the same time like I needed to grasp onto whatever they were offering out of  desperation.

I advocate the way of empathy -  but it’s important to understand that that is not the same as coddling.”There’s still real work to be done, once safety is established. There are action steps to be taken, and emotional healing to take place.

Working with Inner Parts is Liberating

One approach that’s really helpful on the emotional level (and behavioral too), is that of working with “inner parts.” We’re all made up of many inner parts or sub-personalities. Each one takes over in turn as we shift from mood to mood, from reaction to reaction, during our day – but we keep thinking “this is who I am.”  

A really easy way to make a difference is to learn to say the simple phrase “a part of me feels…”  For instance, if you’re feeling inadequate, instead of saying to yourself “I’m inadequate” or “I feel so inadequate”,” try saying “a part of me feels inadequate.”  As soon as you do that you actually step out of being identified with being the inadequate one, and step into being the Witness instead, the one who can observe the inadequate one, and all other parts. You instantly shift into being your bigger Self! That alone is a huge step towards freedom. 

From there you can open a dialogue with the part of you that feels scared or inadequate (or any other way). You can find out what it wants, what it needs, how it’s trying to help you, etc. We can actually negotiate with our inner parts. Because it turns out they really need to be listened to, not judged and blamed!

So approaching the client with “Would you be open to looking at your situation in this way that I’ve found can really help?” and then introducing a  re-frame like “a part of me feels…” moves from empathy into healing and action. There are many ways to work with negative beliefs and self-images. Working with inner parts is one of several that I love. (Another is the BeliefCloset Process for transforming limiting beliefs.)

Help Your Clients Step Into Their Power

When you engage the Witness, an aspect of the person’s highest, most authentic self, you are holding a vision of who you know them to be beneath the disguises of their ego. You are helping them get disentangled, and inviting them to step into their true power. 

And you also support them in taking actions that challenge their fears and lead them beyond their comfort zone, which builds their confidence and gradually changes their sense of who they are from the inside out. 

And none of this requires manipulating them by exploiting their fear, by shaming or blaming or making them feel worse about themselves in any way.

A New Movement is Beginning

Something very exciting to me is that there’s starting to be a groundswell of spiritual entrepreneurs -  coaches, healers, business mentors, and the like -  who are saying out loud that we don’t want to participate in manipulative marketing practices any more. I’ve been waiting for this day for quite a while.

In fact, some of us are so fed up with being told there’s no other way to have a business than using old-paradigm marketing (dressed up in spiritual language), that we have set out to create a radical new-paradigm business model of our own!

TLC – A New Paradigm of Business 

I’m very proud to be a founding member of the True Livelihood Community (or TLC), a collaborative network of spiritual  entrepreneurs creating a learning and teaching environment in which it will be possible to earn a full-time living working part-time, offering our highest gifts that we’re most passionate about.

This new paradigm of business emphasizes cooperation over competition, community over isolation, we-first sharing and support over me-first controlling and manipulating. In fact, our vision is to create the kind of world we want to live in! 

Reaction to the pain many of us have felt, from being confined to the old, more manipulative and hard-driven marketing models, has led us to invent an entirely new mode of doing business. Our hope is that TLC will pave the way for many new forms of spiritually inspired business to emerge in the coming time – for that is what the world needs right now.

If you’re interested in finding out more about TLC (or would like to know more about the Healing and Clearing work I do as part of my Birthing Your Sacred Work coaching programs), please contact me at http://soulguidanceforyourbusiness.com/contact/

I also want to recommend the free video interview series Tami Simon of Sounds True recently did, called The Self Acceptance Project! There’s gold there for learning to be kind and compassionate towards ourselves and each other. http://live.soundstrue.com/selfacceptance/ 

Tomar Facebook Main Photo dk oranger13 Guest Post: Empathic Marketing and TLC: A Whole New Paradigm of Business!Tomar Levine is an Intuitive Life Purpose & Career Guide, Business Strategist for spiritual entrepreneurs, and Akashic Record Consultant, as well as a speaker, writer, and artist. She created her program, “Birthing Your Sacred Work” to help evolutionary change-agents embrace their gifts and free their power so they can create a thriving soul-filled business that helps change the world. You can find out more about her work at http://SoulGuidanceForYourBusiness.com .

 

marketing from the heart manifesto

heart marketing from the heart manifestoOne of my clients, wrote me a beautiful email recently with her ‘manifesto’ about marketing. I was so inspired by it that I had to share it. It’s a beautiful example of starting with the ‘why’ and of a clear and compelling point of view.

*

Marketing From The Heart?

by Mary Pellicer, MD?

My vision of what MARKETING can be if it comes from the HEART:

An INVITATION to people to live RICHER, FULLER and more MEANINGFUL LIVES, to live lives in ALIGNMENT with their own INTEGRITY.

Communication to INSPIRE from a place of GENEROSITY (vs. pushing and pressuring from a place of greed)

CONNECTION to inspire people out of LOVE and CARE (vs. motivating them from fear)

EMPATHIZING with people (vs. exploiting their insecurities)

Being COMMITTED to SERVING people (vs. selling to them)

Making sure it’s a PERFECT FIT (or NO DEAL)-Going for the WIN-WIN ?(vs. making the sale)

CONTACT to LEAD & INFLUENCE (vs. seeking fame)

Opening CONVERSATIONS about POSSIBILITIES (vs. closing deals)

Market from the Heart and invest in making the world an amazing place to live, work and grow.                    

(With much gratitude to Tad Hargrave who’s blog post Death and Marketing inspired this.)

obama’s ad makes his case

220px Barack Obama Hope poster obamas ad makes his casePresident Obama recently released an ad (you can watch it at the bottom) I thought was worth commenting on – all politics aside. First of all, it reminds me how far the world has come that now video marketing and social media has become so ubiquitous in both politics and business.

Here’s where I think it’s strong.

During the last weeks of this campaign there will be debates, speeches and more ads. But if I could sit down with you in your living room or around the kitchen table here’s what I’d say:

First off he acknowledges the oncoming onslaught of debates, speeches and ‘more ads’. He let’s you know, without collapsing, ‘I get it. It’s ridiculous. I’m with you, I don’t want these either.‘ He’s positioning himself, subtly, as being on ‘our side.’

Then he expresses the desire to connect more personally with people. Where President Obama excels (and Romney struggles) is connecting with people. When Obama says, ‘but if I could sit down with you in your living room or around your kitchen table – here’s what I’d say.’ it immediately evokes warm feelings.

Clearly, sitting down with every American isn’t something he can do, but sometimes just expressing our desire can build a connection itself because it tells the other, ‘I value you.’ You don’t have to be perfect to be in business.

Seventh Generation (the eco cleaning company) has won a lot of credibility points over the years by not pretending to be 100% sustainable. And they’re honest about that. But they let you know they’re still trying.

If you were at a seminar and they said, ‘We would honestly love to give this away for free but we have so many staff with families to support and we charge this much because we need to. If we charge less it’s not sustainable for us’ it can still feel good to have them acknowledge the desire to do more rather than to hear them brag about how much money they’re making on you.

Romney has struggled, especially early in his campaign, to not come across as wooden and stuff. It’s the same challenge that Al Gore had in the 2004 elections. We want to feel some warmth and connection with our politicians, to believe they care. This is where President Clinton excelled. He demonstrated a profound amount of presence and empathy that was palpable.

And specifically, sharing the desire to connect in their home evokes very warm feelings. It conjures up images that are comforting.

When I took office we were losing nearly 800,000 jobs a month and were mired in Iraq. Today I believe that as a nation we are moving forward again. But we have much more to do to get folks back to work and make the middle class secure again.

He then acknowledges the struggles the country was in and that there’s more hard work to do. Where politicians can lose all credibility is when people get that they have no firm grasp on the reality of the situation. If President Obama were to say, ‘Hey, when I got in office things were hard but thanks to me we’re 100% back on track.’ and then didn’t acknowledge that there was more to do – he would lose all credibility.

Billy Blanks of Tae Bo fame gained so much credibility in his infomercials for leveling with people, ‘it’s going to be hard. it’s going to take a lot of work. this won’t be easy.’

shackleton ad 400 obamas ad makes his caseThe famous Shackleton voyage posted an ad (read it to the right) which said a similar thing. It’s okay to admit it’s going to be hard as long as you make sure they understand it’s doable and that there’s a plan. Which President Obama now begins to do . . .

Now, Governor Romney believes that with that even bigger tax cuts for the wealthy and fewer regulations on Wall Street all of us will prosper. In other words he’d double down on the same trickle down policies that led to the crisis in the first place. So what’s my plan?

Then contrasts his point of view with Governor Romney’s. Remember people vote for you (with votes or with dollars) because of your point of view. What does any American want from any President? Largely the same things – security, health & prosperity. So, if both candidates are promising the same result, how do you choose? What if you have 100 people in your city saying they can help you get rid of your migraines? Who do you choose? And how?

We choose – in large part – based on whose point of view we resonate with most and trust the most to get us where we want to go. But for most businesses their point of view is unclear. More to the point, it’s unclear how it’s different from their competitors. And since your point of view is so central to your platform (which is ‘what you’re known for’) it leaves people confused – and a confused mind says ‘no’.

First, we create a million new manufacturing jobs and help businesses double their exports. Give tax breaks to companies that invest in America, not that ship jobs overseas.

Second, we cut our oil imports in half and produce more American-made energy, oil, clean-coal, natural gas, and new resources like wind, solar and bio-fuels—all while doubling the fuel efficiencies of cars and trucks.

Third, we insure that we maintain the best workforce in the world by preparing 100,000 additional math and science teachers. Training 2 million Americans with the job skills they need at our community colleges. Cutting the growth of tuition in half and expanding student aid so more Americans can afford it.

Fourth, a balanced plan to reduce our deficit by four trillion dollars over the next decade on top of the trillion in spending we’ve already cut, I’d ask the wealthy to pay a little more. And as we end the war in Afghanistan let’s apply half the savings to pay down our debt and use the rest for some nation building right here at home.

I think his ‘four point plan’ bit is brilliant.

He’s drawing his map for people.

He’s saying, ‘look. here’s how we’re going to get from Island A to Island B‘. Your customers want this too. They’re desperate for it. They’re tired of people claiming they can get them the result and not backing that up with a plan that makes sense.

And most people like numbered lists: four point plans, the seven habits of highly effective people, the five stages of grieving, the three stages of the heroes journey. It helps give people context for where they are in their journey. It gives a reality check and hope that the journey is possible. And a goal with a plan to back it up is so much more believable than one without it – this is true if you’re trying to win votes, customers, volunteers, donors, financing etc.

In my mind, this is where Romney is failing. He’s saying, ‘which tax loopholes will I close down? See me after the election.’ But the whole, ‘trust me’ argument is what people hate about politicians. We don’t want to just trust an offer we want to see the plan that backs it up.

It’s time for a new economic patriotism. Rooted in the belief that growing our economy begins with a strong, thriving middle class. Read my plan. Compare it to Governor Romney’s and decide for yourself. Thanks for listening. Read the President’s plan: http://OFA.BO/SAzDgd

And lastly, he makes a call for action. He invites you to do something. Most ads don’t do this! Most ads might feel good but then there’s nothing for you to do. If you have a welcome video on your homepage I think it should invite visitors to do something (e.g. sign up for my email list). If you send an email out about a workshop, it’s ‘click on this link to read more’. That seems so basic but I can’t tell you how many ads I see that have no call to action. Or have too big a call to action – they ask for too much.

Like, if you saw a poster for a meditation workshop at the organic grocery store and it was a $5000 retreat and the poster was asking you to sign up. No way that will ever work. But, if it offered something ‘free’ you could check out – some kind of ‘pink spoon‘ sample of the ice cream they’re selling, you might just try. No yoga studio will ever sell you on signing up for their teacher training without you first coming to the studio first – so offering free passes is smart marketing. It’s helps people to feel safe in trying you out.

President Obama isn’t asking for you to vote for him – he’s asking for you to just click on the link to read his plan. Smart.

let your clients feel like victims

Screen Shot 2012 08 12 at 2.44.33 PM 300x260 let your clients feel like victimsLet your clients feel like victims.

It will take your further.

Here’s what I mean . . .

You probably think that it’s better to take responsibility for your life and not be a victim.

You might even secretly feel disgusted by people who ‘play the victim card’ all the time. You might have it in your mind that people who play victim to the world are weak, annoying and huge energy drains. You might be sick of listening to them whine all the time. You might wish your clients would finally just be ready to take responsibility for their lives. Good god.

And I want to suggest that your judgments of them might actually be what’s killing your marketing.

Let’s ignore, for a moment, the irony of feeling like you’re a victim of the constant whining of these other people who play victim. Let’s put aside the doublestandard of saying, ‘my clients victim story is totally getting in the way of my healing them with my awesome healing powers (or insert whatever it is you do that you think their victimhood stops you from doing)!’ It’s amazing how easy it can be to feel like a victim of other people’s victimhood.

When you come from a place of judging their victimhood then you’re going to shame them and make them wrong. And that feels awful to receive.

What if instead of judging the places they feel like a victim you honoured it? What if you could just honour that it is the truth of how they feel.

What if honouring where they are was different from agreeing with them or enabling them? What if, instead of saying, ‘you shouldn’t feel like a victim’ you said, ‘I get it. It can be so hard sometimes. That must feel frustrating. How is it for you?’

I’d even go a step further: don’t wait for them to whine – search for it in advance. Ask yourself, ‘What do my clients feel like they’re a victim of in their life?’ And then, instead of rolling your eyes, could you actually offer them help there – right at that sore and scary place in their life where they feel out of control.

What if their victimhood racket wasn’t in the way of you helping them, what if it was the way?

What if their victimhood wasn’t a wall, but the doorway in?

Imagine someone doing renovations on their home and feeling so overwhelmed and daunted thinking, ‘this isn’t fair! It’s so expensive! I don’t even know where to start!’ and  just collapsing emotionally but then they walk into a Home Depot and they see a sign for a class saying, ‘How to Do Your First Home Renovation Under Budget and in Half the Time Your Thought (Even if You Don’t Know Where To Start).’ Can you imagine the relief? Can you imagine how awful it would feel to show your plans to an employee and have them laugh at you and roll their eyes as they mutter, ‘what were you thinking?’

Where do your clients feel like a victim?

Where do they feel like the results they crave are beyond their control?

Maybe they’re a man who’s had no luck with dating and feels like the god’s of love conspire against him and they feel like a victim of their fear which keeps them from approaching women in the first place. Now, you might think, ‘what they really need is to become a stronger man, be more present and more open to life.’ But that’s what YOU think they need. Be kind to them. Help them with the one piece they know they’re struggling with, ‘how to approach a woman’. Sure, there’s more beyond that. But instead of saying, ‘Don’t be shy. God. Grab your balls. What’s wrong with you? Are you a man or a mouse?’

Don’t assume that what’s easy for you is (or should be) easy for others.

Where do your clients feel like a victim?

I think victimhood is our breaking point. It’s where things have officially become too much. It’s beyond our capacity to deal with or make sense of. And telling people that they should be able to deal with it or that ‘everything is perfect’ doesn’t help much. When people feel like victims they’re desperate for help – the last thing they need is someone telling them they should’ve been stronger or more spiritual.

When we feel like a victim we get scared and we begin to image the worst case scenarios (that we might never ever speak to anyone else about).

When we hit this kind of overwhelm there are four things we most need. And judgment and condescension aren’t on the list.

Callan Rush teaches people how to fill their workshops. She knows there are three parts to succeeding as a workshop leader. First, you have to fill your workshops. Second, you’ve got to give a great workshop. And then third, you’ve got to be really good at enrolling people into the next step programs beyond the workshop they’re in. But, instead of trying to convince people of those second two pieces (i.e. the quality of the workshop and effectiveness of the next level offer) her intro workshop focuses squarely on the first piece – the one that they’re thinking about the most – how to get people there. And then, when they’re at the workshop – she also educates them a little bit about the other two pieces. But she focuses on the piece where they feel like a victim first – ‘why doesn’t anyone come to my workshops?!’

Victimhood is a feeling of self pity and ‘poor me’. That can be a turn off. But instead of getting ‘turned off’ . . . sit with it. Really put yourself in their shoes. See if you can feel what it would be like to hit the end of all your rope. And then offer them some help where it hurts most. You’ll connect better, you’ll have a chance to build credibility and you might be shocked how much business it gets you.

And here’s a powerful thing you can affirm that will have people love you: it’s not your fault.

I think everyone is doing the best we can with what we have. And sometimes we lack the skills, perspective, the support etc. to get the things we want. We do our best but we all have our breaking points. And if you can affirm that, ‘yes, you’re responsible for getting what you want but . . . it’s not your fault that you don’t know how or got miseducated’ it feels really wonderful.

Can you imagine what an unmitigated douchebag I would be if I went around to everyone and looked at their marketing and pointed out every place it was contrived, pushy or manipulative? Do you get how arrogant it would be for me to stand up on high and imagine myself to be looking down on everyone who’s not as authentic as me and condescend to them with words like, ‘How can you not get this? What’s wrong with you? Why would you ever think about marketing to anyone like that? Gross.’

There’s a notion called ‘pulling rank’ and it happens all over the place. Have you ever left a conversation feeling ‘smaller’ somehow? Diminished? If you have there’s a good chance that the other person was pulling rank on you. They were subtly condescending to you. They were imagining themselves to be wiser and better than you. Hipsters do it (e.g. ‘Oh you’ve not heard of that band?’) and new age people sure do it, (e.g. asking you ‘What are you learning from this?’ when you’ve not even asked for any coaching). It happens all over the place.

Pulling rank is a lot of things but there’s one thing it’s not: empathic.

If you judge where your clients are at you begin to develop the four most unattractive and client repelling traits. You begin to be a practitioner of ‘shame on you’ marketing.

Contrast that vibe with this approach: ‘I get it. Marketing can be hard. No one taught us how to do this and most of what we’ve learned is manipulative in some way. And so here you are this good hearted person wanting to engage in right livelihood but feeling scared to even do any marketing in case it comes across as manipulative but . . . you still need to eat! You need to pay the rent. So you have to sell. And you don’t always feel good about how you do it. I get it! That is hard.’

Consider which person you’d be more open to.

Life can be hard sometimes. Consider the lyrics of the song, ‘Lean on Me’. It’s okay to be someone that folks can lean on sometimes while we help them stand up on their own.

Empathy before education.

Where do your clients feel like a victim?

It might just be the doorway in.

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Want Help? If you’d like some more direct guidance and hand holding on figuring out your niche then go and check out my Niching for Hippies coaching program http://marketingforhippies.com/niching-for-hippies/

muslim school marketing lesson

teaching 300x169 muslim school marketing lessonI just lunch with my friend Govert van Ginkel. I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years but we both share a passion for Non Violent Communication and how we can engage in healing and supporting others best. He and his partner TR we in town and we went for lunch at one of my favourite cafe’s in town, Noorish.

Govert was updating me on the past two years and the kind of work he’s been doing and the difficulty of pitching ‘Non Violent Communication’ type workshops to various groups.

“I was brought in by a Muslim school a while ago and they wanted me to do some team building amongst the staff to deal with some of the ways they related to each other. The challenge is that the staff all thought they communicated really well with each other. So I knew they wouldn’t really be open to that. So, we came up with a different topic!”

“What was that?”

“How to deal with difficult parents!”

“That’s amazing. From a marketing angle that’s so amazing. What happened?”

“Well, we played a bunch of games with them and through those games that were about how to deal with difficult parents they actually began to realize the ways they communicated with each other that weren’t so great. They began to see the ways they weren’t such a great team that no one was talking about.”

It reminded me of my conversation with Sexologist Jessica O’Reilly about how she would lead workshops called ‘How to Blow His/Her Mind’ that would sell out vs. tantra workshops that would try to market directly to the deeper need.

It’s really hard to sell things to people that they don’t want – even when you think they ‘need’ it.

It’s hard to give people advice that they’re not wanting.

You might see their limiting patterns, dysfunction and what they need so incredibly clearly . . . but if they don’t agree with your diagnosis and assessment they’re unlikely to take your advice or follow your guidance.

So much of helping people is about find the right way in – the doorway. It’s about figuring out how to reach people without pushing them. How to honour people and invite them to consider more.

And, in my experience, the best way to do this is to meet them where they’re at. The best way to reach people is with empathy for what they’re actually struggling with vs. frustration and impatience that they’re not ready to ‘get down to the real work’ (as you see it).

Govert could have tried to lecture the staff about their resistance to this important work he was offering and rolled his eyes at them thinking, ‘how can not see how incredibly dysfunctional they are!’ But how far do you suspect that would have gotten him.

Often our thoughts that our clients should be any different that they are is exactly what kills our marketing. Because then our marketing takes on the tone of shaming. Of making them ‘wrong’ for being who they are.

But Govert looked carefully at the situation and asked himself, ‘is there anywhere that these people are struggling (and know that they’re struggling) that I could offer help? Is there any pain they’re experiencing that I could help relieve that might open the door to deeper work if it goes well?’

And he found it: these poor bedraggled teachers are criticized constantly by parents. And he empathized with that. Imagine, you do your best all day only to be yelled at by a parent for not doing it perfectly enough? Ouch.

And so of course they were open to help with that. And once they’d met Govert and he helped them see other areas they were struggling they were open then to more guidance. They were humbled with what they saw about themselves. But they weren’t shamed. People are open to feeling humbled, but no one wants to feel humiliated. People want to do better, they don’t want to feel like they’re not doing enough.

Empathize. Meet them with kindness where they are. You might be surprised where it will take you and where they might ask you to go with them.

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Want Help? If you’d like some more direct guidance and hand holding on figuring out your niche then go and check out my Niching for Hippies coaching program http://marketingforhippies.com/niching-for-hippies/