Top Ten Blog Posts on Figuring Our Your Platform (77 pages worth!)

TopTen Top Ten Blog Posts on Figuring Our Your Platform (77 pages worth!) Over the past decade, I’ve written a lot of blog posts. Over 500. 
But there are ten of them that most get to the heart of really figuring out what I would call your platform (what you want to be known for). My guess is that you’ve only seen one or two of them. 
Figuring out your platform is the most critical thing you can do in your marketing. Without a clear platform, your marketing will feel clunky and awkward. Without a clear platform (or you could say brand, identity or reputation) success in business becomes extremely difficult.
I introduced the idea of the platform in my blog post The Three Foundations of a Thriving Business. It spoke to what your platform is and where it fits in your overall marketing strategy. This is one of the core pieces of my marketing workshop. 
So, to help you figure out your platform, here are my Top Ten Blog Posts (which, if you printed them off in size 12, Goudy Old Style (the best font)) would total 77 pages. 
Blog Post #1: The Three Roles of Marketing: This blog post sets the stage for the importance of having a clear platform as it attacks, head on, the central assumption that ends up making marketing and sales feel bad for all involved. What is that central assumption? It’s the idea that marketing has only one role. What is that role? To get people to say ‘yes’ to buying your products and services. I think that is wrong. I think there are three roles in marketing. And none of them, provocatively, have anything to do with getting anyone to say ‘yes’. You can read that post here
Blog Post #2: We Might Be a Fit If: What if one of the three roles of marketing was all about establishing if you and the potential client were a fit for each other (rather than assuming that everyone needs what we have to offer)? I want to submit that your clarity around this issue of ‘who is a fit?’ is the most central question you can answer and that 90% of the marketing struggles I see come down to a lack of clarity around this issue. This post is chock full of specific questions you can ask yourself to get clear on who is and isn’t a fit for you. You can read that post here
Blog Post #3: Polarize: This blog post builds on this idea and takes it further by suggesting that the reason most people’s marketing doesn’t succeed is because it’s acting as a seduction rather than a filtering process. What if the role of our marketing wasn’t just to attract the people for him it was a fit but to actively turn off and repel the people for whom it wasn’t a fit? You can read the post here
Blog Post #4: Your Platform in a Page: This is likely the post I’ve sent out to the most clients I’ve worked with as a first step. When people want to work with me, this is the post I send to them as homework to get grounded and ready for our session. Their answers to this help me laser in on where they are clear and where they aren’t. It’s divided into six areas of your platform with the best three questions I could come up with for each. You can read that post here
Blog Post #5: Island A – The Painful Symptom: This is the most important thing you can figure out in your marketing platform. Island A represents that problem people are having to which your product or service would be a solution. 90% of clients I work with do not have this figured out. This is simultaneously the simplest and yet most difficult of issues to figure out. But, once you’ve got this nailed, your marketing becomes ten times easier (without exaggeration). This is one of the longest posts I’ve ever written. It’s crammed with examples, case studies, criteria and specific questions to guide you in figuring this out for your situation. It’s one of the most practical posts I’ve ever written. You can read that post here
Blog Post #6: Island B – The Results They Crave: This post is the other side of the Island A post. If Island A is about the problems with which they’re struggling, Island B represents that results they are craving the most. Again, this post is deep and extensive. You can read that post here
Blog Post #7: Island C – The Unimagined Possibility: Sometimes you’re offering something that’s so new that they didn’t even know it existed or was possible for their lives. If that’s the case then you need to market what you’re doing in a different way. If your work is cutting edge and is usually new to most people who hear it or if you’re offering a result that’s so much better than what most people assume is possible this post is a must read. You can read that post here
Blog Post #8: Island Z – The Unspoken Fears: This is a piece I almost never speak about at my workshops, but, if you want to have a clear platform and understand the people you’re trying to reach, it’s essential. Island Z represents the very real fears people have of what might happen if they don’t handle their problems now. These fears are often secret, unspoken but ever present in their lives. Your ability to really understand and empathize with these issues is huge in your ability to build trust. You can read that post here.
Blog Post #9: How to Identify Your Own Message: Years ago, I heard one of my colleagues say, ‘Don’t market yourself. Market your message.’ and I sat with that for a long time considering what it meant. Your message is a core part of your platform and it’s something that most businesses haven’t figured out. You can read that post here
Blog Post #10: How to Figure Out Your Why: Simon Sinek wrote the brilliant book called Start With Why which lifted up the message ‘people don’t just buy what you do, they buy why you do it’. I was powerfully struck with the truth of this message and, since then, helping people figure out the deeper purpose behind their business has been a core part of the platform work. You can read that post here
I hope you find these useful and I’d love to hear your comments in the comment section of the blogs themselves. 

The Three Roles of Marketing

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

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

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

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


The Three Roles of Marketing


The First Role of Marketing: Get their attention.

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

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

But here are some thoughts that are vital.

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


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

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

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

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

Why not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

It’s vital.

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

Here’s why this role matters. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






An Interview with Vrinda Normand: The Three Biggest Online Marketing Blindspots

June2013EventDay2V2 195x300 An Interview with Vrinda Normand: The Three Biggest Online Marketing BlindspotsVrinda Normand is probably one of the best known copywriters in the whole conscious business scene.

She’s got the goods. Years ago, she did a 30 minute review of my sales copy for a new program I was launching and just tore it to shreds (and helped make it much better). So, I’ve seen her work first hand. She told me about the four stages that a potential clients needs to go through to want to work with you. And you can see seven mini samples of her work in this post.

And if you’d like to check out a series of free educational videos she’s recently put out on how to grow your business by creating virtual programs and products, you can check them out here.

She’s got a new program coming up that I want to make sure you knew about and so I did a little interview with her so you could get a sense of who she is and where she’s come from.

Vrinda speaks a lot about growing her business to seven figures – that might not be what you want but, believe me, she knows what she’s talking about and, at the very least, she can help you be a lot more effective at achieving whatever your marketing goals might be. As much as I am not drawn to the discussion of six and seven figures at this point in my life, I think it’s a mistake to dismiss it and the people sharing it. 

A big message she has here that is worth heeding is to stop winging it. Stop trying to make up the path to success by cobbling it together from things you see around you (that you might not fully understand). Vrinda is big on proven systems, checklists and making it easy for her clients. I’ve got a lot of respect for her.

Where did this program come from? What was the need you saw in the community that had you create this?

It all started when I was an investigative journalist for a Silicon Valley newspaper. I was getting burned out in my job, working too hard and not seeing the cover stories I wrote making a big difference in the world. Important political issues were brought to light but never significantly improved, and I started feeling unfulfilled and out of alignment with my purpose.

My career crisis collided with a health crisis – I became fatigued and my hair started falling out. I barely had enough energy to drag myself off the couch. I discovered I have a serious liver illness and I realized I could no longer keep living the same way – faced with constant deadlines in an underpaying job that made it very hard for me to take care of myself.

So I took a medical leave for a few months and started looking for a new career path. At the same time, I was getting natural healing treatments from a few holistic practitioners. They knew my career background and my situation and told me, “Vrinda, we need help with our marketing writing and YOU know how to write.”

They both invited me to attend a business seminar to learn more about how I could help them grow their businesses with my writing skills. That’s when I realized there was a whole new way I could help people and make a more positive difference.

When I attended the seminar – which was really the biggest eye-opener for me – I learned I could start my own business offering information products and group training programs to help people. This leveraged business model would allow me to break out of the dollars-for-hours cycle that kept me so overworked and underpaid.

I KNEW this was the right path for me. I was so excited to start my business. I invested in my first mentor that weekend and got the training I needed to create info products and programs.

The first product I sold, “E-Zine Articles Made Easy,” got a great response right away, and I knew I was on the right track for helping my clients get the support they needed. 

So in a way, my niche found me and told me how I could help them!  I now work with 1,000’s of holistic practitioners, coaches, consultants and other heart-based entrepreneurs empowering them to grow their businesses online with irresistible marketing messages and strategies.

I’m curious about your learning curve in doing online sales? Were you a natural at this or were there some hard learning curves for you?

As with anything, learning something takes practice and the results in the beginning are likely to be smaller as you’re still becoming competent at a new system or practice. 

My first program launches selling courses online were smaller, generating $20,000, then $50,000 and now we usually bring in about $200,000 with a successful online program launch. 

To get results and keep them growing, you need to follow a proven system – get one laid out for you by a mentor who’s accomplished what you aspire to. Don’t try to “wing it” by copying various things you see others doing online. This will just cause you a lot of headaches and lost income potential. I’ve seen too many people struggle this way.

The people who really master online sales success are those who invest in mentoring, put it into action and stick with it. You also need to be unstoppable – create your product or program and your online sales system, and get the professional mentoring and coaching to improve it as you grow. It’s a constantly evolving process.

And remember to have fun! No matter what level you’re at, growing your business online means you’re helping more people.

What are the three biggest blunders you see people making in online sales?

Great question!

BLIND SPOT #1 – SKIMPY COPY:  The first biggest blunder – or what I call “blind spot” – to watch out for is making your marketing copy (the words on your website) too skimpy, too short. 

Well, let me clarify. You want to write your promotional messaging in a succinct way, which means you use the fewest words to describe your point clearly, so it’s easy and quick for people to understand.

However too “skimpy” means you left a lot of important information out of your copy and people don’t have enough clarity about the value of your offer to take action and buy from you online. This is very common with online sales pages, especially when entrepreneurs are shy about making their page “too long” because they think people won’t read it.

The reality is, sales page copy can never be too long, it can only be too boring. So if you’re afraid people aren’t reading your stuff, you need to take a closer look at making your writing more irresistible, more compelling to your ideal clients.

And you need to make sure you have a complete formula to follow so you don’t miss any important pieces when enrolling clients online. Don’t be afraid to make your page long. Instead, make it thorough and highly engaging.

BLIND SPOT #2 – TALKING ABOUT PROCESS TOO MUCH:  The second “blind spot” is making your sales page too process driven. You focus too much of your messaging on the delivery of your program or product, so it’s all about your solution and how it works. 

That’s not very attractive to your ideal clients. They don’t care so much about process. What they care about is getting a solution to their problem and getting the end-results of the process. 

So focus on your ideal client and what they WANT, show them what outcomes are possible for them if they say yes to your program or product. 

This is very related to the first blind spot – process-driven copy is boring. So to make it more exciting, focus on the results and pleasures your ideal clients can look forward to.

BLIND SPOT #3 – TALKING TO EVERYONE: A third blind spot to avoid is making your copy too vague, not having a clear focus on a specific ideal client. 

You’d be surprised how many people think they know what a “niche” is but are still making this common mistake. 

When you try to please too many people at the same time, making your copy speak to different types of ideal clients because you don’t want to leave anyone out, the power of your message becomes watered down.

And even though you think you may attract more clients when you broaden your focus, you actually attract far less people because very few will be able to see how your message is relevant for them.

When your sales page has what I call “multiple personality disorder” your potential clients will become confused – they’ll see something that describes their situation but then they’ll see something else that’s very different. They’ll think your program isn’t right for them and go away without buying. 

 So to get the best results and truly serve people with your online sales copy, focus your page on 1 specific ideal client, and write as if you’re crafting a personal letter to 1 person. Imagine them in your head – this will make your page so much more intimate, conversational, and pleasing to read.

You’ve got a program coming up about online sales, can you tell us a bit about it and why you structured it the way you have?

My Irresistible Online Sales System enrollments are open for a few weeks this month (August 2013) – and I LOVE offering this program because it’s my most popular, most effective training to help entrepreneurs discover their irresistible marketing messages, create programs and sell them online. I specialize in working with entrepreneurs who want their marketing voice to be authentic, feel natural, and at the same time, be irresistible so clients respond and take action.

I’ve been evolving this program for the past 6 years and over 1,000 entrepreneurs have graduated from it. I feel it’s the strongest it has ever been in terms of teaching effectively and breaking down the proven step-by-step system to sell online. 

The program is taught with 7 virtual training modules, focused on the 7 key stages to enroll paying client online:

  • Market research to create the right offer for the right people 
  • Package your program for wildly successful sales
  • Craft your Irresistible Sales Page to Inspire a YES
  • Create your Compelling Offer Video that enrolls paying clients on the spot
  • Build Trust and Desire with Your Educational Videos
  • Get the proven launch plan to attract a rush of online sales
  • Get the team and technology to support you

The program also includes several forms of implementation support, coaching and Q&A opportunities that give my clients accountability, clarity and inspiration to fully implement the system.

I find that people need both a clear system to follow and the guidance to get it done right – that includes getting professional feedback on your marketing messages to make them compelling to your ideal clients. We also devote a significant portion of the training to helping people clarify who their ideal clients are and what program or product to offer – this is the most important foundation of any online sales system and that’s where we start with the program.

The Irresistible Online Sales System is right for any entrepreneur who wants to create leveraged income by selling an information product or group program online. If you don’t know what to offer yet but you know you want to grow in this direction, that’s great – I can help you with this program. It’s valuable for entrepreneurs with new or established businesses – both can create leveraged income online with success.

To learn more about how The Irresistible Online Sales System can benefit you, come to my complimentary webinar on “How to Enroll Paying Clients Online 24-7.”

It’s happening very soon! Save your spot now by clicking here


Interview: Life Coaching is Not a Business with Rebecca and Ellen

Screen shot 2013 07 04 at 9.14.13 AM 300x215 Interview: Life Coaching is Not a Business with Rebecca and EllenMy colleague and dear friend Rebecca Tracey of The Uncaged Life (and her colleague Ellen Ercolini) have come out with a new program for Life Coaches that I wanted to share with you. Rebecca has been featured on my blog a number of times.

They have a really interesting take on helping coaches get more clients that I’ve never heard before (e.g. “We believe that “coaching” in and of itself isn’t a business.” and the idea of picking your expertise before choosing your niche).

If you’re a life coach (or holistic practitioner) I invite you to give this a read. 

Why did you choose Coaches to work with? What types of challenges do Coaches tend to have?

Ellen: We picked coaches because we both come from coaching backgrounds and we’ve watched our peers struggle, which totally sucks.  Coaches have a very strong drive to help the world – they really, really care about it.  They really want to make people’s lives  happier and positively impact the world.  Who doesn’t want to help those folks accomplish their dreams faster? It’s such a gratifying circle of positive impact.

What they don’t have, by and large, is strong marketing and entrepreneurial skills.   SO many coaches graduate coaching school (ourselves included!) thinking “I can change the world! I can do anything!” And, without the biz skills to back that up, it’s not true. Which leads to really talented people getting depressed and sad about their perceived lack of coaching skills, when in reality it’s the marketing and business skills  they are missing.  

We figured it out pretty early on in our business development, so now we’re on a mission to short circuit that learning curve for other coaches.

Becca: Ditto what Ellen said. And I’d add that coaches tend to be really timid with their marketing. They often have this view that doing good shouldn’t make them a lot of money. That they don’t need money. Which is totally ridiculous. There’s nothing noble about being broke. And there’s nothing “bad” about wanting to make not just a good living, but a damn good living. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does buy some freedom to travel, volunteer, give back, and provide for your family. Those things feel pretty noble to me! 

What’s the system you offer to help coaches solve those problems?

Becca: We believe that “coaching” in and of itself isn’t a business. Coaching is a skill that you use in your business to help bring your clients some kind of result. So in a sense, we’re helping coaches actually figure out what their business is – where their expertise lies.

Once they get clear on their expertise (which includes their niche), we teach them to talk about coaching in a way that gets them clients. Coaches have the habit of using really jargon-y words, so we teach them how to talk about what they so that people perk up and listen (and then ask for their card!). We like to make it EASY for coaches to get referrals, so we teach them how to get known as an expert in their field. Then we  teach them how to use their expertise to create packages that their clients are begging for. No more having to go hunt down your clients. And this all may sound intimidating, but it’s actually really simple, and anyone can do it.

Ellen: YES!  We both use this method in our businesses and have seen huge growth.  When you start speaking clearly about the problems you solve in a way that your clients resonate with, people actually start remembering what you do.  

What’s the number one mistake you see coaches make when they are first starting businesses?

Ellen: They try to help everyone.  Here’s the deal – when people hear ‘I  work with everyone!’ it gets interpreted as ‘no one’.  I see new coaches all the time saying they help people live a ‘more fulfilled life’ – when I ask who specifically they work with they say ‘oh everyone!’ – when I ask how many clients they have it gets really quiet.  

Another huge roadblock for new coaches like Becca mentioned, is talking with too much coaching jargon.  Coaches understand what ‘shifting perspectives to align with values’ means, but it’s because we’ve all gone through classes!  New coaches need to be vigilant about explaining what they do in language that their ideal clients use.  So I guess that’s two mistakes, but they go hand in hand.

Becca: Trying to work with everyone. Gahhh, it drives me nuts! Not only does it not help with their marketing, but I can guarantee that they also don’t WANT to work with everyone. We’re allowed to be selfish in our businesses for the sake of our clients. What I mean is that by only working with clients who totally light you up, you’ll do WAY better coaching, you clients will get more out of it, and work will always feel good for you.

New coaches also tend to have these open ended packages (typically 2-4 sessions a month, for minimum 3 months, on an ongoing, seemingly never-ending basis. No one wants to buy a never-ending service! I don’t know who started with that model, but those don’t sell. New coaches are often reluctant to break away from the way it’s typically done, but we show them a way to structure their packages that makes WAY more sense, and that gets them more clients.

What’s your view on coaches choosing a niche? How should they go about that?

Becca: We believe in expertise first, niche second. Most people go about it backwards – they want to come up with a niche first, before they are even really clear on what they want to do.

So for example, instead of saying “I help single moms”, they might say “I’m an expert organizer and I help people with really busy lives to fit all the millions of things they need to do into their days without getting totally overwhelmed”. That leaves them lots of room to work with different kinds of people (if they don’t want to choose just one niche), but also positions them as the expert in something, so they get known faster for what they do. So YES – choose a niche, but make sure it’s grounded in your expertise.

Ellen: Exactly! Because as we know, businesses evolve.  Developing your business around your expertise makes it simple to apply it to different groups (niches) – and if you want to transition niches, it’s a simple pivot, not an re-brand.  It’s also much more of a natural extension of who the business owner is as a whole person, so it makes the marketing and sales aspect a lot smoother.  

How will this help Coaches in terms of Marketing?

Ellen: Using this system coaches become super clear about where and how to market themselves, and they’ve got the words to make people hear them.   It enables the coaches to speak clearly about the problems they solve, and articulate the results they offer.  Which is totally what people want!  They want you to swoop in and solve their problems!  Which our coaches do now.  Many of the coaches that have gone through Coaching Business Jumpstart have landed new clients the next day because they finally knew how to talk to potential clients.  How’s that for short-cutting the learning curve?

Becca: Most coaches don’t even know what the term “marketing” really means (I certainly didn’t when I got started!). But marketing is really all grounded in being specific about what you do – so in that sense, everything we teach them will help with their marketing! Especially because we help coaches get confident in what they are doing. Too many coaches don’t see their true value, they tend to leave out all their past experiences and just see themselves as new coaches. But we teach them to integrate ALL parts of who they are into their business, so that they feel totally confident in what they do and how they offer it to people, and confidence is KEY in marketing yourself. If you don’t believe in what you do, how can you expect anyone else to?

Where can people find you ladies and learn more about the Coaching Business Jumpstart?

You can get in on the program and find out more about our individual coaching businesses at We currently have a self-study version for sale, and will be running the live event again on September 14.

If you’re a coach struggling to make your business work, Becca + Ellen have your answer with Coaching Business Jumpstart. This program is your ticket to making the business side of coaching feel fun and easy. You will learn exactly where you need to start, lay out a plan for moving forward, and leave with the skills and knowledge to make your dream coaching business a reality. You’re great at what you do. You KNOW you can help people. Now if only you knew who those people were, where to find them, and how to get them to hire you! Coaching Business Jumpstart teaches you how.

How to Identify Your Own Message

Don’t market yourself, market your message.

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

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

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

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

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

1. Directional Messages – What You Should Do: 

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

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

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

2. Messages of Possibility:

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

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

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

3. Messages of Reality:

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

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

What are your people missing that prevents them from succeeding?

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

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

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

5. New Idea Messages:

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

6. Reframing Messages:

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

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

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

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

What are you daring your clients to try?

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

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

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

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

Don’t Market Yourself, Market Your Message

bg home 300x234 Dont Market Yourself, Market Your MessageDon’t market yourself, market your message. 

This is the theme I want to explore in what promises to an epic post. I’ve been wanting to write this post for at least half a year and have been slowly collecting ideas and inspirations for it. At this point, I need to put out what I’ve got and I would love to get your honest reflections on it.

Here’s the starting point: if you have a business, you are going to be known for something. It’s inevitable. The question is this: will you be known for the right things? Will your reputation bring you the kinds of clients you want?

This is something I’ve explored extensively in my blog posts about identifying your platform and articulating it in a page.

Up until now, I’ve seen that there are six things you can be known for – but over the past few months, I’ve felt drawn to add a seventh – your message. I’ve realized that your message to the world can actually be one of the most powerful things you can be known for.

Don’t market yourself, market your message.

That was a phrase I heard from my colleague Morgana Rae (who’s message is: ‘make money by putting love first’) that got me thinking about it. Something in it made sense to me. 

And then I was looking at my colleague Mark Silver’s website where it stated his core message so clearly: ‘every act of business can be an act of love.’ So clear. So evocative. So meaningful.

For the past year, I’ve been beginning to talk about the message of ‘slow marketing movement’ (in the same vein as the slow food movement) and noticing the resonance that has with people far beyond talking about marketing tactics and tools. 

I’ve noticed that when I share the message that ‘marketing is a vital part of doing good in the world’ it resonates with people. When people understand that marketing can actually feel wonderful, warm and be a force for building community and expression of our values that people light up. 

I’ve noticed that the businesses I’m most drawn to tend to have some sort of a message they’re promoting. 

So, I want to explore this theme here and welcome your feedback on it.

I am writing this not being totally clear on what my own core message is but knowing it’s an important conversation to have.


What it is?

So, what is a message?

This is, honestly, the part that still feels a bit fuzzy to me and where I could use your help. 

Here are my thoughts so far . . .

Your message is like the words on a coat of arms, a motto, a slogan or tagline. It takes your whole platform and distills it down to the essence. It’s the thing you can’t help but talk about and steer every conversation towards. 

It’s an idea that you are so passionate about and find yourself reading about, listening to TED Talks about it but . . . you feel like there’s still something missing that you want to see brought out into the world.

It’s the drum you beat. It’s your core thesis you want to prove. It’s an idea you know that, if it were embraced on a mass level, would change the world. If this message were really ‘gotten’ there’d be so much less suffering. It’s the way things oughta be.

It’s often the words you wish you’d really understood when you were younger and struggling. It’s the words you really want a particular group of people to hear.

Your message is likely the answer to this question: ‘What would your TED Talk be about?’ Every TED Talk is about an idea. Some might feature projects – but they all have a crystal clear message in them. Something simple, direct, easy to understand and uplifting.

A message is not a promise of a result. It’s not empathy for their struggles. It’s not a full blown point of view. And it’s not just a statement of values. There’s a point to it.  

Standing up at the front of a room and pitching people is just saying, ‘buy from me!’ But sharing a message is saying, ‘Whether or not you buy from me, I want you to know _______ because it will make your life and the world a better place’. And that’s attractive. It’s coming from a place of giving, not trying to get anything.

Don’t market yourself, market your message. 


Seven Criteria of a Good Message:

Again, this idea is new enough that I’m not even sure what the criteria is but here’s what makes sense to me right now.

  1. A New Idea: A compelling message usually isn’t a trite platitude (though it could be). Ideally it’s a new idea or an old idea said in a provocative new way. It’s an idea that’s been missing from a larger conversation. It’s something that no one else is saying it or saying in quite the same way you are.
  2. Short: It can be summed up briefly. Like ten words max. It’s a simple idea.
  3. Provocative: It’s a statement that makes sense but provokes further questions and deeper inquiry. 
  4. Repeatable: It’s something you could say it repeatedly throughout a keynote talk and it would make sense. It’s like the chorus to a song. Think, ‘I have a dream’. It’s the kind of idea you could base a keynote talk around entirely. Don’t market yourself. Market your message.
  5. Simple: Not a crazy, complicated idea. A simple idea with profound implications.
  6. Well Crafted: Crafting matters here. The exact right words. Bust out your thesaurus. Toss it by people. See which version seems to land the best with others and which feel best to you. 
  7. You: your message should somehow reflect or be an authentic expression of you. It fits you perfectly. It isn’t just said to sound good or used as a marketing tactic. It means something to you personally. It excites you. You love the idea of being known for this message and spending years (if not a lifetime) exploring it.


What a message will do and won’t do:

A message won’t sell your product on its own.

No one will read a nice slogan or tagline and say, ‘yep. I want to spend $1000 with that company. What a great message.’

But a message does give your business a center of gravity.

A message becomes a core idea that you can keep spiraling around and weaving everything back to so that, over time, they come to appreciate the depth and complexity behind the idea more and more. 

A message is something you can become known for. 

A message is something that will help attract the right people (who are also passionate about that message).

A message will help you find hubs (who also work to promote that message).

But a message alone won’t sell anything. You can’t just print it on your business cards and your website.

For a message to be alive you need to find constantly new ways to express and explore it.

Expression without a message is just noise.

A message without expression is just an idea.

But not just expressed by talking about it – expressed in the design of your website, in the names you give to products and services, in how you dress, your logo, your pricing. Ideally, though likely impossibly, everything you do should be expressing your message.

I’d welcome any thoughts , wisdom and reflections you have on this at this point in the comment box below. 

Attracting More Customers with Your Story

schuyler Attracting More Customers with Your StorySchuyler Kaye (pictured here) was a participant of my January, 2013 Niching for Hippies course. During and after the course, I heard him speak about his work in helping people uncover their story and using that in marketing. Then I heard he was leading a course on it so I thought I’d help him spread the word but also do an interview with him about it.

In my experience, story is everything in marketing. It’s both the means and the ends. Understanding our story and the journey we’ve been through helps us figure out so much about our business, our niche and what we have to offer. Sharing our story helps potential clients really feel into whether or not it’s a fit for them.

You can find out more about his free webinar, Attracting More Customers with Your Story, when you click here

It’s tailored specifically for small business owners whose online efforts aren’t attracting new or the “right” customer. If you have trouble answering your customers when they ask “why you?” If you’d like to get more warm leads from your online presence and if you wish your website could filter the “right” customers from the ones who aren’t . . . this will be worth your time.

He’s also leading a full seven-week course which starts May 14th, 2013 and you can check out here. There are only 16 spaces available. It’s really worth reading his sales letter just for some education on a great sales letter.

This isn’t an affiliate deal. I don’t make any money from spreading the word on it.

Why story? More and more people are talking about the importance of storytelling in marketing – what’s your take on why this matters?

Oh wow, this is a loaded question. I could tell you a lot of things like… how human brains are hard wired to quickly understand and remember stories. 

Or I could even mention how stories tap into the emotional side of the brain, which essentially determines whether someone wants to buy or not.

But the truth is that marketing is generally… boring. It’s boring because, in most cases, it talks above, around, or through the audience rather than to the audience. Are you offering a solution without witnessing the problem? Are you speaking in terms your customer can relate to?

From the time of villagers sitting around the fire, stories are what have led people to move toward their vision.  Stories work because they are NOT boring… to the right people. 

When you use stories in your marketing you allow your customers to experience the need you’re trying to solve in a way that is easily understood and memorable. It is also safe because it creates enough distance between your reader and their problem that they are able to see it from an objective point of view. 

(Easily understood + memorable) * safety = a warm lead 

Why is telling our own story helpful for marketing? Can you give three real life mini examples of clients or people you know who had stories relevant to their work?

I’ll be blunt… chances are you’re not the only one offering a solution to the problem. And with a computer and Wi-Fi access, your customer can probably find a number of those other solutions. So what’s going to separate you from them?

The answer is You. 

Telling your own story accomplishes three things when talking to your audience. 

  1. Communicates the purpose or the “why” you do what you do. 
  2. Establishes credibility that is not dependent on being first or better than your competition.
  3. Builds trust that you can help them solve their problem.

Tad, I think your story is a great example to start with (I’ll paraphrase):

You started out as a hippie that loved marketing. The journey of becoming a better marketer created a struggle between the love you wanted to share in your heart and the inauthentic or contrived approaches traditional marketers were teaching.

This led you to find ways of marketing that felt good to your heart and included working with the people you loved most in the world… other hippies. Now you help hippies all over market their products and services in a way that feels true to their roots.

Here is a recent client story:

My client’s mom was a very successful doctor, and it was always expected that she become a doctor too. The trouble was that she didn’t want to be a traditional doctor and so the internal struggle of balancing her own and others’ expectations began.

She spent years learning everything from psychology to hypnotherapy to help her deal with this inner struggle until she found her solution. Now she is a “doctor” who solves problems of a different kind by helping others who want to find joy but struggle with expectations.

A part of my own story:

I spent a great deal of my life achieving approval by modifying my image to gain acceptance from those around me. Those skills were invaluable in marketing my first business right up until the point when they weren’t. That’s when the struggle of surviving and changing with the whims of my customers and competitors became overwhelming. 

With my experience with storytelling in business, spiritual practices, and a willingness to look inward for my answers, I found a heart-centered branding solution that worked for me… and now I work with other small business owners to help them through that same transformation process.

You went through my Niching for Hippies program where we did a lot of exploring around this notion that your deepest wound is often a doorway to your truest niche. What’s your personal take on this? Is there anything you’d add or amend to that notion?

Definitely. I spend time exploring wounds in my course on “Attracting customers with your story” for a very similar reason.  

Who would you trust to help you with a problem? Someone who is certified to help you …or someone who has lived the problem and found a solution?

Your story of how you struggled with and solved the problem that you now help others with is the perfect way to share that experience with your customers in a way they can understand, remember and relate to.

If I were going to add anything to this concept it would be that it is also helpful to look at your early accomplishments. They can be windows to your niche since many times they are what reinforce your beliefs and expectations. 

What’s the connection between our story and our niche? 

You are sharing your story to help your customers determine that you can provide the right solution for them. 

In that way they work together. As you understand your niche, you are able to share the stories from your life that better serve your customers. Just as when you explore your story, you will find it can help you self-select your niche.

It seems like finding your story is also a sort of integrity and safety mechanism. Like, if you haven’t achieved a particular result, maybe you shouldn’t be teaching others about how to do it? Would you agree?

Yes I do agree, but more so for you than your customer. Let me explain with a story.

I remember being excited with all the possibilities that were in front of me. I had just left the company I worked for and was going to venture out to make a difference in the world. The trouble was… I didn’t know what difference I wanted to make.

A buddy of mine had an idea to create a web service that helped restaurants schedule their employees. It seemed like a great idea, and so I decided to join him in bringing the product to market. I found that marketing a service I didn’t use to an audience I wasn’t part of wasn’t the best business for me… 

My story never had a restaurant in it… the closest I got to working for a restaurant was helping them remove the food they put on my plate… by eating it. The trouble wasn’t that our solution didn’t work… it worked great. The issue was that I was out of integrity to my purpose, which left me unmotivated and wanting more.

I enjoyed working with my buddy… but I was still searching for the difference I wanted to make.

For me, finding my story actually created clarity around what I feel is my purpose. I guess I would call it less of a safety mechanism and more of a compass to guide me through the wilderness.

I’d also caution people with the word “result”. When I hear “result” it can sound like a destination, but in many cases it is really just part of the journey.

Do you have to have everything figured out in order to be able to help people? I don’t think so… you just have to be further along the path than they are.

You speak about five steps to your process. Can you walk us through them in case study of a client you’ve worked with?

Absolutely, I’ll use the same client above and share snippets of her story to add clarity. She helps adults living in NYC, who believe that life should be fun, but struggle with perfectionism, anxiety, frustration and stress.

1. Natural Authority: Your ability to do what you do comes from many aspects of your life beyond your business. Knowing those aspects is the first step to shift from comparison to story.

With a doctor and an engineer for parents, it wasn’t hard to see how she became a problem solver who wanted to help people.  The expectation for her to become a traditional doctor landed her in an internal struggle between her parents’ expectations and what her heart desired.

Notice how this sets the stage showing how she was groomed to help those struggling with perfectionism. Next she shares her journey to finding a solution…

2. Point of View: Knowing how to apply your natural authority to help your customers solve their problems will complete the shift. It will build trust with your customers. They will know that you understand what they’re going through and there is a solution.

She moved to Israel to study Psychology where she became aware that her issue was created in her mind; yet knowing it wasn’t enough to solve it.

Frustrated in her first attempt she tried yoga, meditation, energy healing, nutrition, all the body sciences, and about the body-mind connection at one of Tel-Aviv’s holistic colleges; yet doing wasn’t enough to solve it either.

She then spent the next 11 years learning everything from life coaching to Neuro-Linguistic Programming but it wasn’t until she became a board certified hypnotherapist and Past Life Regression practitioner that it all came together.

Finally, after years of pursuing freedom from the pressures to become something she wasn’t, she had found a solution that worked fully… it was a combination of knowing, doing, and working with the subconscious mind. 

Observe her point of view coming together… This part of the story shows her audience that she’s been through this before and come out the other side. It also tells about how she sees the solution coming together… “The combination of knowing, doing, and working with the subconscious mind.”

3. Reputation: Most people don’t want to be the first to cross a possibly rickety bridge. Sharing your external credibility in the right way can help build confidence that your bridge is safe. 

In her story you can see supporting external credibility in the schools she’s gone to, the years she’s been working, the certifications she has, etc. They show her customers that other people are verifying her ability to help them with this problem. 

4. Icebreakers: You can encourage your customers to begin a relationship with you by sharing some personal icebreakers. 

She works with the Brooklyn Animal Shelter to help heal cats so that they’re ready for adoption. She loves photography and walking barefoot when the sun’s out.

By sharing some personal details she has created an opportunity for people to know who she is and not only what she does… This reminds her customers that she is human too, not a business just trying to sell them something.

5. Audience: It’s your story, but it’s about your audience. Recognize how to get their attention, and remember what they need from you. It will make the difference between having them read your story — or not.

Note that these excerpts from her story are told because they answer questions that her customers might have… like: “Why should I pick you?” and “How do I know your solution works for me?”

Pick me because I’ve been through this before and have found a solution. I have certifications and experience that support and validate my story and life experiences that have prepared me to solve this problem.

What are the surprising benefits that people might not expect when they really begin to explore their own story?

I think my client above may have said it best:

“This course exceeded my expectations. I thought I would end up with a story on my “about me” page, and ended up with a whole new clarity about my purpose and the clients I wanted to work with.” 

I found that to be my experience as well. The process aligned my business with my heart… my purpose. That brought so much clarity to who my customer is, what I have to offer them, and created more compassion and understanding for what my customers are going through. 

Here’s some info on Schuyler’s upcoming courses.

Attracting More Customers with Your Story

Tailored specifically for small business owners whose online efforts aren’t attracting new or the “right” customers.

  1. Have trouble answering your customers when they ask “why you?”
  2. Would you like to get more warm leads from your online presence?
  3. Do you wish your website could filter the “right” customers from the ones who aren’t?

If you feel a resounding “yes” to these questions, then here are two opportunities starting at free that you’ll want to check out:

No-Cost Webinar see the details here:

Full seven-week course see the details here:

A Bit About Schuyler: Hi, I’m Schuyler Kaye. I help small business owners who want to make a difference and need to attract more customers through their online presence. I’ve been in the business of branding since I decided being a short, fat, nerdy high schooler wasn’t the way to start college. My experiences during my graduate work at Stanford University in conjunction with marketing my first business led to my heart-centered branding program. I love to travel, dance, play guitar, and eat more green chile than is generally advisable. For more info on my work:

Mini Case Study: The Food Garage

155649 174478489373455 1625233426 n Mini Case Study: The Food GarageOne of my colleagues, the excellent Rene Michalak of Red Deer, Alberta, was creating a project called the MEGGA Watt project. From that name you, like I, might assume it was some alternative energy project. He was putting tonnes of stuff out about it on social media but I never really ‘got it’. I liked him. Respected him. Wanted to support him. And was totally confused and too busy to really dig into it.

It’s a good note to remember: the confused mind says no. And here’s another one: very few people will work very hard at all to understand you.

As I tried to understand it more, I found myself overwhelmed with jargon: permaculture, stacking functions, obtaining many yields from a single element in a system, systems analysis, Micro-Energy Generating Garage Assembly, Geodesic domes, Growing Dome, environmental footprint, Climate Battery, environmental impact, subterranean heating and cooling system (SHCS). closed-loop, zero-waste systems, aquaponics and aeroponics.

Some of those terms I understood. Some I didn’t. Taken in together it felt overwhelming. And I had no idea how it all tied together or what it even was.

Until we sat down together and he told me the URL:

Food Garage? Oh! Suddenly this was all beginning to click.

What do they do at the Food Garage? They turn your garage into a year round grocery store that could feed a family of four.

And a grocery store that is powered by green energy.

I immediately got it.

Now, the MEGGA Watt project had had a tagline: The Rise of the Food Garage but, amazingly, I totally didn’t catch that.


1) Choose a name that is simple for people to understand. If it’s not totally clear, at least make sure it doesn’t send a different message entirely. A nice thing about this name is that it names the two main things involved and it’s also an oxymoron – it combines two things that normally don’t go together which is often compelling for people and evokes curiousity. And the name also speaks to the result people get – your garage will produce food. Such a simple idea!

2) Make sure the relevance of what you’re offering is clear. Don’t get lost in the technicalities of HOW you deliver that result up front – first make sure they understand the result they’ll get and the problem you’ll solve if they work with you. See if you can sum it up in seven words or less. ‘Turning Your Garage into a Grocery Store’. Easy. Once they understand that, the details all just help to build the case of how you can get them where they want to go. If you read the top of their homepage, I think they’ve really nailed the result they’re offering: 

“You’re about to find out how to turn your garage into a veritable organic grocery store that can feed a family of four for an entire year, produce all of the renewable energy you’ll need to do it, learn practical skills that will amaze your friends and family, and seriously increase your property value, all in the comfort of your own backyard.”

3) Cut the Jargon. Whenever possible – eliminate jargon and write at a grade seven level. Get rid of big words in your sales copy. Eventually you’ll need to educate them and use those words. But that’s further down than the initial sales conversation where clarity matters more than anything.

4) Use metaphors. Turning your garage (a real thing) into a grocery store (the metaphor). We understand what a grocery store is and so it can help us picture what the thing is without needing to understand all the technical stuff. 

You can follow them on twitter, like them on facebook and check out their website here.

And you can check out a sweet video explaining the project here:


Seven Community Building Lessons in Becoming a Hub

Screen Shot 2013 04 02 at 9.32.03 AM Seven Community Building Lessons in Becoming a HubThere’s an incredible power in being a ‘hub’ in your community. When people get that you’re genuinely committed to the well being of your community, they will trust you more. While everyone is running around trying to get status, you are gaining stature in the community. Paris Hilton has status. Oprah has stature. 

And, one of the fastest and most powerful ways to become a hub in your community is to gather the existing hubs together.

When you do this, everyone wins. You win because you are now known by all your key hubs. Your hubs win because they get to connect with each other. The community wins because a community with well connected hubs works better. 

On October 20th, 2012 sixty of Edmonton’s baddest ass do gooders got together for a day of networking and community building at The Good Hundred Experiment (which was naturally followed by the Good Hundred Party).

It’s an event I was co-organizing with my colleague Nadine Riopel, author of The Savvy Do Gooder as a project of The Local Good (a project I co-run in Edmonton).

The Story of The Good Hundred Experiment . . .

Here’s how it came to be: In the spring of 2012, there was an election on in Alberta.

In early 2012, a group of young people in Edmonton decided they wanted their generation to be more informed and involved. They planned a viewing party for the leadership debate; something that many 20 and 30 somethings would be unlikely to check out on their own, and even less likely to discuss with friends.

By making it a social event at a bar, they got over 70 young people to show up, pay attention, and talk it over. They made it cool and easy to engage in the political process. They achieved their goal of creating more politically active young adults.

Seeing this, Nadine was inspired. It reminded her that there were many ways to do good, and many amazing people finding their own paths to the change they wanted to see in the world every day. She decided that she wanted to take a closer look at some of these folks, and at how they were generating such fantastic results.

So she started the Edmonton Do Gooder Project to profile several amazing local do-gooders and their work. One of the first people on her list was me.

Hearing about the project, I was struck by how many do gooders I’ve seen making positive things happen, in different sectors and using different approaches. But many of them don’t know each other. Living in the same city; sometimes even working on the same issues.

So many moments of, “how do you not know this person?!”

And I’ve seen how so many are struggling to get over the same hurdles; not enough money, volunteers or resources to get the work done; overwhelm; burnout; and such steep learning curves.

It’s so easy to get stuck in our various silos (e.g. anarchists hang out with anarchists, academics don’t tend to mix with entrepreneurs, etc.).

And I decided to approach Nadine with the idea of bringing these people together for a day of connecting, and of working together to make each do-gooder’s path a little smoother.

bios 300x224 Seven Community Building Lessons in Becoming a HubAnd the Good Hundred Project was born.


Seven Community Building Lessons

Lesson #1: Have a clear objective and perspective.

There are few things worse than bringing together a group of amazing people and saying, “We should all do something together. What you do you all think it should be?”

That way lies madness. You can get away with that move once. Maybe twice. But after that your credibility is gone. Those events are largely a waste of people’s time.

It’s far better for the convener to put out the word that, “We’d like to bring _____ kinds of people together to explore ________/ have ________ kind of experience/ learn how to _______.”

Something people can ‘get’ right away.

If no one responds then it’s probably because they didn’t experience that as a real need in their community. If there’s no need, then there’s no need for a gathering. In our case, we saw the need for people to connect outside of their silos to get fresh support and perspectives. It turns out that we weren’t the only ones feeling that need. And so sixty people responded that they were willing and excited to spend $40 and a Saturday to attend.

We wanted to support savvy do gooders in meeting each other. That was our promise.

Ever since I founded the Jams project in 1999, I become convinced of the power of bringing good people together in a good way and trusting that good things will come from that. The Jams started with the wondering of what would happen if we brought together 30 young people for a week (from around the world who were all up to good things and in leadership roles in their communities) without a lot of guest speakers. Just letting them connect with each other.

“What are your outcomes? What are the deliverables from this?” funders would ask us. “Will there be a declaration from the youth of the world? A statement of priorities? A new network?”

“Nope,” we replied. “Just friendships. And trust. And we trust that good things will come from that over time.”

And it did. There have no been over 100 Jams in many countries. Those week long gatherings have resulted in dozens of new projects, some new organizations and hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding going towards good things in communities that, formerly, had not had access to those resources.

We had a clear objective: help Edmonton’s savviest do gooders be even more effective in what they do by connecting them with each other. Simple. We knew that through conversations with each other and just knowing about each other’s work and the resources available to them, they’d be more effective in what they do. Our belief is that by having a more strongly and tightly woven community of do gooders that, over time, this would lead to more conversations and collaborations that could help more good to be done in Edmonton.

Lesson #2: Pick your people carefully.

Over the years, I’ve learned that, outside of a clear intention based on a need in the community, 90% of an events success is about who you invite.

A big reason is that, the major reason that people decide to come to any event is because of who will be there. Especially when you’re talking about bigger movers and shakers. The busier people get, the more jealously they guard their time. If someone’s a hub they do not want their time wasted. But, if they know that the event is going to be full of people they’re inspired by and want to hang out with, they’re more likely to come.

That’s why we created an RSVP page where folks could see the photos and bios of who was coming. We updated it regularly. We wanted people to know clearly with whom they’d be spending their precious day.

It’s important to be really clear about who your event is for and to not imagine that it’s for everyone. We kept the Good Hundred Experiment secret because we wanted to make sure that we were picking people we thought would be a fit for the event – people who would add something to the conversation, as well as gain something from it. We wanted people who either had a proven track record of do gooding or were onto a really good idea and pursuing it with a lot of hustle. We wanted the attendee list to be a list that had us feel inspired to show up.

This also has a lot to do with respect, I think. Respecting the time of the people you’re inviting. Inviting the right people sets up the day to be a success.

And so, after months and months of hand picking, inviting and following up with some of Edmonton’s finest – the day finally arrived.

Lesson #3: Have a Clear Schedule and Structure, But Don’t OverSchedule

This is the hardest thing to summarize.

If the focus of the day is clear, it’s much easier to create the schedule and flow of the event.

Our focus felt very clear: help savvy do gooders in Edmonton meet each other.


So, we created a schedule and structure of the day that we thought would best facilitate that.

We started at 9am (on a Saturday. #whatwasithinking?).

People arrived, got some tea and coffee and immediately began to look at the wall full of photos and bios of the participants we’d put up (pictured right). In fact, people kept coming back to it throughout the day. When you’re designing an event, it’s not always just about the ‘schedule’ but about the structural and environmental pieces you put in place for people to connect.

The wall of bios became a way people could learn about each other without having to talk directly to the person.

We created the #good100 hashtag for twitter which people used to tweet all day.

We made sure that people sat with new people regularly.

Think ‘structure’ not just ‘content’.

Throughout the day and afterwards I heard many people voice a feeling of intimidation, ‘how did I get invited here?’ That’s how you know you’ve got the right people – they’re so inspired by each other. #goodnews.

We began with some hello’s and welcomes from Nadine and myself and then immediately invited people to people into groups of six with people they didn’t know and then gave them three minutes each to introduce themselves answering five simple questions (name, project name, what your project does, what’s coming up next for you and what you want to talk about today). Simple.

After 15 minutes, they did it again with another group of six. After the second circle, someone tweeted, “only ninety minutes in to the event and I’ve already got my money’s worth”.

Remember: our stated goal was to help savvy do gooders network. People signed up for that promise. And then we delivered on that promise.

426280 10152212871280195 2091824250 n 225x300 Seven Community Building Lessons in Becoming a HubDuring the day I saw so many people, who’ve been doing good Edmonton for years and years, meeting each other for the first time. I heard important conversations that I know will lead to inspiring projects in the years to come. We’re building a fertile soil of trust and letting seeds be planted so that collaboration isn’t forced or pressured but happens organically.

After the small group introductions, participants got into groups of three and each member of the triad got 25 minutes of coaching from the other two participants. This was based on the metaphor of their project being like a boat taking their communities from Island A to Island B.

The two people coaching were under strict instructions to offer no advice to their colleague for the first 20 minutes. Their only job was to ask questions, be curious and listen. I think we often jump to advice too soon.

They asked questions like, “Why do you do what you do? What is your vision for your community (Island B)? Where is your community now (Island A)? What’s your project (the boat)? And why do you do your work the way you do it? (the map)”.

At the end of the 20 minutes they were left with a much clearer sense of the persons project. And then they had five minutes to share their very best, hard won wisdom from years of doing their own projects.

For a lot of the participants, this was the highlight of the day.

We then had lunch where people were invited to eat with some new people. They found those people by reaching into the brown paper bag which held their catered lunch and pulling out a small, wooden, puzzle piece sized toy. Some people had balls, some had butterflies, some had fishes. I had lunch with a cool bunch of fishes.

And, in the afternoon, we broke off into the themes of work that folks were most passionately working on (e.g. local food, community building, women’s empowerment). This was probably the least successful and most challenging part of the day as we didn’t give very clear instructions on how to have that conversation. That was a good reminder about the importance of giving a clear intention and structure. Our intention was vague and we gave no instructions on how to have the conversation. That ended up being frustrating for many.

burning 300x224 Seven Community Building Lessons in Becoming a HubThat was followed by breaking out into groups based around ‘burning questions’ that people wanted to explore during the day with each other (see photo on right).

I joined in on the discussion around ‘how do we make our projects diverse and accessible’ which, for me, lifted up some excited ideas for the future of the Good Hundred Experiment.

Lesson #4: Uniqueness is not a weakness. Diversity makes us stronger.

To quote participant Waymatea Ellis, “Uniqueness is not a weakness.”

I worked as hard I could to make the event as diverse as possible (in terms of age, gender, ethnic background, type of work etc.).

I believe that diversity gives us more points of view. It makes us wiser and our solutions better. It helps complicate things in the most wonderful way. It gives our projects and perspective subtle nuances they would never have had before.

The group we had was amazing and fairly diverse and I’m excited about the possibility of have more young people, more ethnic diversity and also to have more funders, foundations and granting agencies present so we can start connect the people with access to the money to those who most need that money.

It’s easy to get trapped in our silos and have our events be only activists, only white people, only the hip hop scene . . . but our communities can be explicit without being exclusive. They can be clear in themselves and honour the unique gifts they have to bring and their unique natures but also build bridges with other communities.

I think that bridges make communities richer.

Lesson #5: Representative Leadership.

What’s clear to me is that, if we want the next event to be more diverse, we can’t simply invite a more diverse crowd, we have to have the leadership of the Good Hundred Experiment be representative of the communities we want to attract. They need to be involved in the design of the next event (which we hope will be a two day event) the selection of participants and the facilitation.

To have an all white facilitation team try to run an event for a group that’s majority people of colour, or an all male facilitation team running an event for women, or an all straight team running a healing workshop for the LGBTQ community, or a group of billionaires being the only facilitators of a program for those who are struggling financially . . . wouldn’t be optimal.

Recently in the United States there was a panel of women’s reproductive health issues . . . without a single woman on it.

Barack Obama is the first black president and that brought out people to vote who had never voted in their lives because they’d never seen their own interests or community represented.

When we started the Jams project, the first event was a fairly diverse mix of participants with four white, North American facilitators and one facilitator from Mali. But, after a few years, the groups are far more diverse and so are the organizing and facilitation teams. The facilitation seems to represent the people in the communities which makes everything easier. And the diversity adds an intelligence and richness to the design of the event – more heads are better than one.

I have consistently found that when I facilitated with others who came from different backgrounds of race, class, gender etc. – they noticed dynamics in the group that I was 100% oblivious to – hadn’t clocked it at all. But they caught it. Which allowed us to adapt and respond beautifully.

There’s nothing more welcoming than to see that the leadership of a group putting on your event has someone who looks like you, comes from your background and who represents you. It relaxes you.

In our table exploring this theme of diversity, we talked about how even the venue one chooses can affect how welcome and excited people are to come to your event. An organizer of the Latin American Film Festival had noticed that the Edmonton Latin Community wasn’t that excited about coming to the U of A for the festival, ‘It’s so far! I always get lost! I don’t know my way around!’ they would tell him. A member of the community is more likely to know these things and save you from expensive mistakes. 

It’s also one of the reasons that niching around your past wounds and struggles is so powerful. You’re a native to the territory, not a tourist. Whenever I see people choosing target markets they have no background in, I know they’re in for a steep learning curve. They will have to learn the language, tastes, values, point of view and so much more of the community they’ve chosen to serve before they get anywhere. If you want to be a in a position of leadership in a community, it helps if you’re from that community. If you’re wanting to create an event serving multiple communities – make sure that the leadership of the event is representative of that.

When your following looks at you and your team, they should be able to see themselves in you.

Lesson #6: Celebration!

Screen Shot 2012 10 24 at 6.24.21 PM 150x150 Seven Community Building Lessons in Becoming a HubIt can be easy to get caught up in work, work, work.

But so much of the glue that holds communities together comes from informal socialization and celebration. Parties. Potlucks. Picnics. Gatherings with no agenda other than to enjoy each others company.

The evening of our event was the Good Hundred Party. While the day had been invite only – the evening was open to everyone to come. In the end, we had about 100 of Edmonton’s finest do gooders and community members.

I saw many good folks catching up after months of being out of touch and new connections being made.

By the end of the night, I had completely lost my voice and left while the party was still bumping knowing that folks were still weaving itself just fine without me.

It’s an exciting time for the Edmonton do gooding community. The more we get to know each other, the more possibilities there are for collaboration. And the more we work together, the happier we’ll be.

Lesson #7: Reflection – Bringing in the Harvest

Make sure you take time regularly to reflect on your event. What went well? What went poorly? Ask for feedback.

At the end of the Good Hundred Experiment, we passed out index cards and invited everyone to write down, on one side, any reflections they had one the day – what they loved, what they’d change, what they’d love to see next time etc. On the other side, we asked them to write down the specific names of everyone who they wanted to see there next time. Many of these names were completely new to us.

Sit down and reflect on your event and harvest the learnings from it to make sure your next event is even better. Write it all down and make clear outlines for activities so that you can give them to any facilitator in the future and have them run it succesfully. Reflection can allow you to scale what you’re doing so it doesn’t just rely on you. It allows you to create checklists, outlines and instructions so that others could step in and have a successful experience. That’s how things grow.

If you try to do it all yourself and you aren’t willing to learn from your experiences your efforts will become stale quickly and you will burn out.

For more reflections on the day . . .

To read reflections from other participants you can go to Nadine Riopel’s blog post You Are Not Alone, Deborah Merriam’s blog post or to the Natural Urban Mama’s blog post.

To see more photos from the day click here.

To read a storify account of the day from the point of view of Twitter click here.

To read a storify account of the party from the point of view of Twitter click here.


panorama Seven Community Building Lessons in Becoming a Hub

three foundations of a thriving business

three fingers 225x300 three foundations of a thriving businessAt some point last year, it became clear to me that there are three main things most entrepreneurs need to have handled in order to thrive. They overlap each other like circles in a Venn Diagram.

And I realize now that I’d never written about them explicitly. So, here we are.

First, there’s a seven minute video of me sharing the overview and then I’ve written a recap and bit more about my thoughts on this.

First of all, I want you to imagine that a successful business is like a stylish bucket full of water. And then we need to ask ourselves, ‘why don’t most people have a full bucket of water?’



three foundations2 300x228 three foundations of a thriving business


FOUNDATION #1: Your Platform

Your platform is what you’re known for.

It’s your brand, your identity, your reputation.

It’s also the basis of every, single marketing decision you’ll ever make. It’s the core of what makes a business either authentic or not, original or a copy cat.

I want to submit that there are six things you can be known for. And that most entrepreneurs only focus on ONE of those things (which is also the one that makes them seem the most generic, boring and ‘just like everyone else.’ You can be known for what you do, but also why you do it, your point of view on it, you can be known for you and your style, you can be known for the particular journey you take people on and you can be known for the unimagined possibility you introduce into people’s lives.

Most businesses try to get known for what they do or make (e.g. I’m a massage therapist, I make widgets, I sell groceries). The challenge is that, unless you’re the only one in your area or community doing that then how are they supposed to make a decision about who to work with? How should they know if you’re a perfect fit for them?

When people don’t have a platform their marketing will always come across as generic and lack lustre.


4578c74f56bec1c127a28483e5f6a747 300x290 three foundations of a thriving businessFoundation #2: The Container

There’s no point in pouring more and more water into a leaky bucket. The first step is to stop the leak.

It seems obvious. But most entrepreneurs don’t so much have a leaky bucket as a sieve or strainer. It holds onto almost nothing.

And some entrepreneurs have a bucket that’s so ugly (to them) that they don’t even bring it with them to the river side. They’re afraid people might see them with it and laugh at what an old bucket they have.

It’s important not just that our bucket ‘works’ but that we’re so proud of it and so charmed with it that we want to take it everywhere. That we’d be so happy for people to see us with it.

I’ve known so many people who’ve gotten covered in the media for their work and have gotten no clients from it. Or they’re super well known and loved, but don’t have a lot of clients. So much water that pours in and then almost immediately out.

Your container is the embodiment of your platform. It’s what people see or experience about your business that immediately gives them a sense of whether or not what you’re offering is a fit for them. The clearer your platform, the stronger your container.

If you were hosting a party, the platform would be the theme of the party and the container would be all the decorations, the cleaning, the hot cup of cider offered to guests as they arrived. Your website is a container. Your landing page. The story of your business. The free workshop you do is a container. The blog is a container. The community that you cultivate and create is a held in the container of your online forums, live events, your email list etc. Your container is comprised of all the structures you create that warmly hold your community.

Your container are all the things they can see, hear and explore that give them a sense of you.

Your container are all the processes and systems you create that make it safe for people to check you out at a safe distance and slowly get closer to you and opt in to being in touch with you.

Imagine Oprah Winfrey tells everyone to check you out. Vaguely mentions what you do but not enough to give anyone a real sense of it. So, what do they do? They check you out online. But, what if you don’t have a website? Or what if your website doesn’t really clarify what you’re about? So many people would see your site, maaaaybe bookmark it . . . and then be gone forever.

But what if they found your website and the homepage immediately helped them figure out if what you were doing was a fit or not, the ‘about me’ page gave them a really good sense of who you were and what you were about. And then there was a way they could sign up for things to be in touch with you (e.g. ‘join my email list and get this free gift’ or ‘follow me on twitter or facebook’ or ‘come to my monthly free workshop’ etc). Imagine the following you’d build over time.

For a container to be effective, it needs to be clear (which means the platform should be clear). It’s good if it’s safe and welcoming, but atthe bottom line it needs to be resonant.

If they’re on Island A and trying to get to Island B, your container is, basically, your boat. And of course, a boat might have many rooms in it or different types of tours you could take people on (the different offers you could make).

Your container is the home made ready for the party. When they show up that they want to stay. They get to the door and they’re nervous, but then they smell the food, they see how beautifully decorated it is, they see the wonderful people inside, they’re greeted with a cup of hot apple cider and they hear the beautiful music etc.

One of my colleagues Bill Baren recently shared a thought about this. He had a client who was promoting a teleseminar and there was a webpage people would go to to register for the teleseminar. They were obsessed with reaching more people. But Bill asked them to pause and check out what percentage of people who were actually going to the landing page were signing up. It turned out that 10% of people who hit the page actually entered in their name and email to register for the free teleseminar. That means 90% hit the page and just left.

Doesn’t it make more sense,” he offered. “To see if we can tweak the page to boost the percent of people that say yes? Isn’t that a better use of energy? Instead of investing so much time and effort in getting more people, let’s see if we first can’t get more results from the people who are already coming. Right now we’ve got a tub with a huge leak. Instead of pouring in more and more water, let’s plug the leak first.”

When there’s no container it can be so confusing, ‘I’m doing everything right and I’m not getting any clients!’

Think of online dating. You create a profile. And then, you get a message from someone. But do you open the message right away? Often not. Most often, people will check out, ‘who is it that sent this message?’. So you go to their profile and, within seconds, you’ve determined whether or not it’s a fit. Your profile is a container. The message is just a path that gets them to it. Make sure the container is good.

Having a strong and clear container is the basis for creating ongoing , long term relationships with your clients.

And that’s vital.

Most entrepreneurs are obsessed with getting new clients. But it’s often much, much, easier to get an existing client to come back than to find someone entirely new. A massage therapist might make $100 on their first hour long massage (to keep number simple). But if that client comes back even three times a year for three years – that’s $900. The front end ($100) always pales in comparison to the back end ($900). And with some work (less than you’d fear, but more than you’d hope) you can increase the backend. What if they came in 4 times a year for three years? Suddenly, it’s $1200. With no new clients. And what if each of those clients referred even one new client? What if you offered workshops, products or other packages to them? Without a single new client you could be making much more money. And having your clients feel so much more supported.

Your container is your sales funnel. It’s the levels of offerings you have. It goes from the free samples to the bronze, silver and then gold levels.

I was in a Gaelic short film in the summer of 2011. You’d think that I would be spreading the word to everyone I know about it. But I haven’t. Why? There’s no website. No DVD’s are available. There’s no email list people can sign up for. Where would I send them?

One of my dearest colleagues has yet to create a website that’s really worthy of his work yet. I adore him. I want to spread the word for him. But he has no email sign up form yet. His homepage feels a bit vague. And I’m only going to have one chance to launch him to my list. I want that to count. I want it to matter. If I send people now, they’ll go and leave and he’ll get very little from it. I don’t want to waste my time.

A good container creates instant and ever deepening clarity.

A bad container creates confusion.

And I hate confusion. If you ask me to spread the word about you and you’ve got a bad container, it puts the burden on me to explain it all and make it clear to the people I’m spreading the word to. It makes it hard. Don’t make my life hard. If you have a bad container you’re not ready to approach hubs yet.

I want to be able to take one look at your boat and say ‘I get it’. Just from the kinds of boat, types of sails, the paint job, clothing of the staff on board . . . I want to know what the platform is. I want to know: aha! this is an adventure boat or a luxury boat or a fun times boat or a new agey boat.

If you offer some kind of therapy, I want to know, ‘is it in person or over the phone? Am I sitting or lying down? Am I hooked up to some fancy machine? Are you touching me? Am I naked? Are all these things happening at once? (awesome).’

Remember: the confused mind says ‘no’.

Before someone even thinks about stepping onto your boat they need to know what kind of trip they’re in for. And people hate it when their expectations are broken. They got on what seemed like the ‘classy’ boat but it turns out it was the ‘raunchy’ boat. Then people are pissed.

Amway has a bad reputation for this. You meet someone. They seem nice. They invite you for ‘coffee’. You end up getting a 45 minute presentation. It’s sneaky. The beauty of a good container is that it’s immensely upfront.

Real life example: you go out an tell someone about what i do (path). they say cool and check out my website (container) and like it because of all the unique content that expresses what i’m about (platform). I run a free teleseminar (container). It’s hosted by a colleague who tells all of their friends via their email list (path). While they’re on the teleseminar I tell them about a next thing i have (path). So a container can also be a path. Once they’re in relationship with us there’s just an ongoing deepening. I tend to think of the path as ‘how do they find out about things?’

In my Six Week course I’m running right now, one of my clients shared this, “don’t forget the path to your website, it doesn’t matter how awesome your website looks, if there is no path to it, it’s as though it doesn’t exist. the main paths that a paying client would take to your website are search engine searches. so you have to know what your clients would be searching for (keywords) and you have to tell them something on your website that would show them that you have the answers.”

The platform is the gift you want to give. The container is the making of it. The platform is what you want to offer to the world. But not offering it in a foisting it upon others and being pushy kind of way. I think of the container as more like a space you create that you carefully invite people to. And you design the space so clearly that it would inherently attract people who are a perfect fit for you.

There’s a chain of hotels I heard about the models it’s boutique hotels after magazines. So, one hotel is a Rolling Stone magazine style hotel. Another is a Chatelaine style hotel. That kind of thing. You can imagine what the Rolling Stone style hotel would look like and how, even in the colours, construction, design of the rooms, food served might be different. They are not generic hotels. They’re particular. The hotel (container) perfectly expresses the platform (the magazine).

When we first start out, our container is like an old one room house. There’s really not much to it. We offer one thing. Maybe that’s individual sessions, workshops, a particular product etc. And it’s a lot to even get that together. But, as we grow our business, we have a chance to add rooms to our house. With each room, extension, addition and beautification we can hold more people and make our home more resonant with the right folks. Of course, each addition to the house is a project. And these projects often take longer than we’d think and go over budget and we’re left thinking, ‘is this worth it?’. Because while we’re working on that we’re not making money. But eventually, it’s all done and we step back and get chills. Our house is a little more beautiful and exciting to us. And we want to show everyone. And, eventually, our home is perfect. Not too big and not too small. It’s got just the right number of rooms all painted just the right colours. There are minor fixes to be made but, basically, we’re there.

And, at that point, our attentions moves mostly to creating more paths to our place. So, much of this process is about our time and attention. At first, most of it goes to the platform. Then it moves into creating the container. And then the paths.

Here’s an odd way of looking at your container. Have you ever dated someone and realized it wasn’t going anywhere? It had gone as far as it was going to go? So what did you do? Likely you left them. There was no more potential. Nothing else to get or give. Clients are like that too. If the show up and check out your website and there’s lots of free stuff but there’s no products to buy, no workshops to attend, no next steps . . . they will just drift away and find someone else who can better help them on their journey. A container is not simply a static thing. It’s a series of invitations into something more deep and wonderful.

The container has a lot to do with being ready. Preparing our home to receive guests. Making sure we’re ready for when they show up. Being craftsmen of our arts. Attention to details. Small things matter. Wrapping our gifts as beautifully as we can. This gives us a sense of pride. We’re excited (not embarrassed) to send people to our website. We can’t wait to show off our cafe. We know that the details are handled so we don’t fuss about them. We can relax. The container, we find, not only holds the potential client – it holds us too.


water pump 300x212 three foundations of a thriving businessFoundation #3: The Path

If the platform is the bucket design, and the container is the bucket, then the path is a faucet that water comes out of (and I suppose your clients and income would be the water). Not much point in having a beautiful bucket if it’s going to sit there empty all the time.

Another analogy: So many people set up their businesses in the middle of a forest with no paths leading to it. They are hoping that somehow, lost in the woods, the right people will stumble upon them and want to buy what they’re offering.

The more paths you have leading to your doorstep the more easily you can be found. This is the heart of marketing, making it easy for the right people who are a perfect fit to find you and say ‘yes’ to working with you.

But there are so very many ways to market what we do.

And that can feel overwhelming. Where do we start? Especially when everyone has an opinion about what the ‘best’ form of marketing is. There’s public speaking, writing, hosting events, social media, PR, advertising, online events, free samples of our work . . . So much.

Weight watchers has an interesting and very down to earth take on this. When doing their workshops, they’ll ask their audiences, ‘what do you think is the best form of exercise for weight loss?’ and people will throw out their opinions: running, walking, swimming etc. And then they’ll say, ‘Here’s the truth. There is one form of exercise that is the best. It’s proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be the most effective form of exercise for weight loss. Do you want to know what it is? The best exercise is . . . the one you’ll do.’

And there it is.

The one you’ll do.

I think the analogy of paths is good for another reason: they’re already looking for us. People are already struggling with certain problems and symptoms and looking for relief. Let’s make it as easy as possible for them to find us by making as many clear paths through the woods as we can. The easier you are the find, the more easily you will be found.

Many people think that marketing is about searching people in the forest. But we need to remember, the people we think we need to search for are already searching for us. And they’re highly motivated. So, let’s put our energy not into chasing anyone but into getting very clear about who the perfect someone’s are that we want to work with, creating wonderful and inspiring containers to receive them into and then making it almost impossible for them not to find out about us and check us out in low risk ways.

We can’t always afford to lay down a highway to our doorstep. Start with trails of breadcrumbs. Start where you can with the types of paths that resonate most with you.

When there are no paths it’s like you’ve got this amazing thing that nobody knows about.

My suggestion to you: pick three paths. Pick three marketing tactics and strategies that feel really good for you and invest deeply into them. Do you like writing? Speaking? Hosting? Think about the ways of expressing yourself that you are naturally drawn to and delve deep into those.

When a business has all three of these, a clear platform, a strong container and easy paths they tend to have all the business they can handle.

What do you think?