Guest Post: The Three Biggest (Serious) Mistakes People Make With Their WordPress Websites

By Séan O’Connell

I once had three websites hacked on the same day.

My mother-in-law kindly telephoned to let me know that her granddaughter’s photo website was now a propaganda hub for an Saharan militant group.

Luckily, I had backups. So it only took three days to replace the machete mutilation tips with the angelic photos of smiling little faces.

Then it was on to the other two hacked sites . . . 

Those backups saved my sites. But I’d made two other crucial mistakes that allowed the problems to happen in the first place.

Instead of learning from the mistakes you will make, learn from mine. Believe me, I’ve made every mistake below and more.

So Many Mistakes You Could Make

In the case of WordPress, the primary focus of a novice is to set everything up and get things running as soon as possible. In this hurry, there are quite a few things that are ignored which may lead to numerous security vulnerabilities and affect your blog/site in the long run.

When you set up your WordPress site there are a ton of things to do. But if I were to pick the top three most CRUCIAL things you need to get right on any new WordPress site, these would be: backups, updates and security.

You’ll notice there’s nothing specific to WordPress in these three but they are as important for a WordPress website as for any other kind of online technology. These are the serious things that can have dire consequences for your business if they’re overlooked.

Most Common WordPress Mistake #1: You Assume Your Backups Are Being Done

Hands up if you’ve ever heard that backups are important! Keep your hand up if you feel as if you’ve heard it a thousand times!

And I’m betting that you aren’t very likely to cheer “yay for backups” when you hear it once more from me; more likely is that you roll your eyes and groan quietly . . . 

Mundane, boring, tiresome . . . yes, backups can be all of these things and less! There’s absolutely nothing exciting about them.

But when your website suddenly disappears, becomes completely inaccessible or gets hacked, that humble backup will be the most glorious life-ring you could ever imagine clinging to.

I’ve seen more websites saved thanks to backups than I can remember.

Having a smart, reliable backup procedure in place is the best insurance your business can have for your website. And it’s not just in case you’re hacked.

Modern software is complicated and WordPress is no different. It’s written by lots of different people all over the world. All of those plugins and themes have to somehow work together and, miraculously, they do. Most of the time.

But it does happen  probably more often than you realise  that things don’t work quite as nicely together as you’d hope.

  • An update breaks something.
  • Or you misconfigure a plugin and now you’re locked out of your site.
  • Or you change a setting in the administrator dashboard to see what happens and now all you can see is a blank white screen.
  • Or, indeed, as happens more and more often nowadays, your site gets hacked.

In all of these cases that boring little backup will be crucial to easily resurrecting your website.

Without that boring little backup, your site could be gone forever.

Do You Have This Mistaken Belief?

One of the most common WordPress mistakes is to assume your host takes care of your backups.

Most web hosting companies will tell you that they’ll backup your website every night as part of your hosting plan. If you think that means you don’t need to worry about backups then I need to correct you. According to the Terms of Service of most hosting providers, they are not obliged to provide you with working backups; you are explicitly responsible for backing up, testing that backup and restoring it if needed. For more on this you might want to read this post  https://wpstrands.com/dont-rely-on-your-hosts-backups/ and think again.

Here’s just a sampling from some famous hosting companies’ terms of service statements:

“You agree to accept as a risk the loss of any and all of your User Content”

“Customers are responsible for their own backups”

“We … do not guarantee the availability or restoration of any lost data”

“We cannot guarantee that a Shared Backup will be available for restore”

“It is your responsibility to backup data of all your content”

“it is your obligation to restore your website”

“. . .  no guarantee that the backup will work properly”

“You are solely responsible for keeping a separate backup”

Source — SiteGround, Bluehost, Inmotion, GoDaddy TOS

Do any of these statements leave you feeling confident that you can rely on your host’s backups? Not me.

I’m no legal expert so I’ve no idea how they get away with stating they will backup your data daily while simultaneously stating they don’t guarantee they will back up your data and you have to do it yourself. But that’s exactly what most hosting companies do.

The long and short of it is that you do need to take care of backups yourself. And if your business means anything to you, a sensible backup plan is the first thing you’ll set up before your site goes live.

Thankfully, WordPress makes it all very easy. There are many popular plugins for backing up your website available. These plugins can make a backup of all your site files and of all your site content in the database.

Check the official plugin page for some of the most popular backup plugins. And don’t forget to choose your plugin wisely. LINK https://wpstrands.com/how-to-choose-wordpress-plugin/

A Warning About Backup Plugins

Now, to be honest, I’m not the greatest fan of backup plugins. For most people, just installing a plugin, setting it and forgetting it is enough to remove their backup worries.

Not for me. If we look just a bit deeper into how these backups are done we can see there can be problems using a plugin for such a vital job.

For one thing, they have about a 90% success rate.

Granted, a 10% failure rate doesn’t sound too bad. But that means one in ten of those backups doesn’t go so well.

And if you backup daily, that means there’s a 1 in 10 chance you won’t be able to restore your site to the day you want!

I don’t know about you, but that’s not a risk I’m prepared to take with my site. https://wpstrands.com/dont-rely-on-your-hosts-backups/#tab-con-9

Secondly, many backup plugins store your backup somewhere on your web server. This means if your server has a problem or is hacked, there’s a good chance you can’t reach or use your backup that’s stored on it.  This is why you should opt for a safer and more reliable solution that separates your backups from your website.

And finally, plugins give you the sense that “I’ve added the functionality now so it’s all fine.”  But it’s a mistake to think that that’s enough. You need to check regularly that those backups are being done correctly. They need to work without errors and  the vital feature  they need to be able to restore your website. Hands up again if you regularly test your backups like that.

The Best Solution to WordPress Mistake #1

The most reliable backup strategy consists of a separate backup system that stores your website backup in a secure location (preferably multiple locations) away from your web server. It’s called not putting all your eggs in one basket.

You can manually create a backup via cPanel and store it on your own computer.

That’s better. But your computer could be stolen or your drive could fail. Your house could even burn down. I really hope none of these ever happen but sometimes they do. Hope is not a reliable strategy for backups.

You can have your backup emailed to you (if it’s small enough), sent to an FTP server (if you have one) or stored on some cloud storage you own (if you can afford it).

As you can see there are a lot of options and a lot to think about. It might all seem like overkill to someone who owns a smallish website.

This is why there are simple solutions, like using plugins, that will get you up and running now while you think about a longer term strategy. There is never shame in asking so if you need help with that just ask me and I’ll tell you what I know.

Most Common WordPress Mistake #2: Putting Off Updates

I once had three websites hacked on the same day. I couldn’t stop the sites displaying the hackers’ propaganda, I couldn’t update the pages to clean up that propaganda, I couldn’t even log in to my dashboard to see what was going on. I felt helpless, useless and had a knot in my gut because two of these website belonged to clients of mine.

Even with the backups I had it took days to get the sites cleaned up and useable again.

I’d made another of the most common WordPress mistakes  the website software hadn’t been kept up to date. A lot of people still don’t know that installing updates is the single most effective security precaution for their WordPress website.

It was no consolation that I’d previously tried to convince these customers to pay for regular maintenance and that they’d refused. The customers on that hacked server who were being kept up to date hadn’t been hacked at all.

Updates Everywhere

Everyone who owns a modern digital device knows a thing or two about updates. They are annoying, inconvenient and ubiquitous. But they’re extremely important.

Why they’re important / What can happen:

The most common way websites are hacked is through out of date software. So, it stands to reason that the single most effective way to keep your website or device secure LINK is to keep its software up to date. New security problems are being discovered all the time, so it’s important to constantly update and patch that software.

The same is true for your WordPress website. The WordPress team are diligently cond constantly repairing security problems and updating the software to keep pace with changing technology.  

These updates come fast and furious  in 2018 there 18 new versions of WordPress released (22 new versions in 2017) and a whopping 59 updates across all the different supported versions of WordPress (113 updates in 2017)! Yep, WordPress is a popular target among hackers.

At a deeper level, there are more updates to look out for. PHP, the programming language that powers WordPress, recently (December 2018) stopped providing updates for older versions of the language. Yet many WordPress websites are still running on a version of PHP that is more than 7 years old! Again, your hosting company will not necessarily make these updates for you. And again, you need to test that all your plugins etc will work on the newer version of the language.

The Solution to WordPress Mistake #2

The solution is simple  keep the software updated. I know putting this into regular practice is not always easy. You need to install the update as soon as possible and you need to test that update works well with all the other bits and pieces of code on your site.

The easiest way to do this would be to automate both the update installation and the testing afterwards. Unfortunately, there’s no simple way to automate this testing just yet. There are so many plugins and themes and so many possible combinations of them on so many possible server configurations that it’s not even possible to calculate all the ways they can interfere with each other.

Plugins to manage updates do exist but I really don’t recommend using them. You have no way of knowing if the update plays well with your site without manually checking it page by page.

The absolute simplest solution is to outsource this as part of a full maintenance subscription for your site.

Most Common WordPress Mistake #3: Not Taking Basic Security Precautions

WordPress has pretty good security built in. But any system is only as strong as its weakest link. And, as has been through for all technology throughout history, WordPress users are the weakest link, not the software itself.

Following are some of the most common WordPress security mistakes people make.

Poor Passwords:

In 1990 some of the most common (English language) passwords included words like password, iloveyou, qwerty and 123456.

Over a decade later, in 2001 the internet was a vastly different place. So you might expect passwords to have evolved as well. Some of the most common passwords in 2001? Password, qwerty, iloveyou and 1234567.

Again, in 2011, password, iloveyou, qwerty and 123456 featured among the most common passwords online.

Fast forward to today; now we’re all much more computer-savvy and aware that hacking is becoming more mainstream. Surely we’ve learned a thing  or two about the importance of choosing a strong password? The most common passwords in 2018 include . . . you guessed it: password, 123456, qwerty and iloveyou.

Sigh. It seems Paulo Coelho was right when he said “People never learn anything by being told, they have to find out for themselves.”

But this has to change.

One of the most effective ways for anyone to to break into your WordPress website is still to use a robot (a program) to endlessly try different combinations of common passwords on your login page.

Your username/password combination is your first line of defence here; don’t make it an easy door to unlock.

The Solution to WordPress Mistake #3

Use sensibly difficult passwords.

For example, instead of your birthday year and month followed by your cat’s name  “111983fluffy”  take a phrase that means something to you and make a password from it. Taking the first letters of the words in “This is a better password for my site” and substituting some of them with numbers could give you a great password like “T1a8PfmS1te!”

Better yet, use a reliable password manager like Lastpass or 1Pass LINKs

Poor User Account Management

This mistake is overlooked by most WordPress users.

I come across many sites where every user who has ever had access to the site has been given the role of administrator. Site owners do this so that that person can do what they need to do on the site without bothering the owner.

The potential problems with this are obvious; the more people with full access to the site, the more chances there are of someone making a mistake that effects everyone, including your customer.

Couple that with the fact that most of these people aren’t trained in the underlying technology and you can see the possibilities for disaster here.

Solution

  • Delete your default administrator account, admin.
  • Only give administrator rights to someone who really needs it, then remove it until they need it again.

Not Tidying Up Unused Plugins and Themes

Out of date software again . . . hackers and their robots LOVE this stuff!

To add new functionality to your site, you’ll probably try a few different plugins until you find one you like. The rejected plugins are usually left lying around, unused. Deactivating a plugin does NOT remove its entries in the database nor does it remove the code used in the plugin files. The same goes for themes.

Even a plugin you aren’t using on your site can be hacked if the hacker knows about some little security flaw in the code. How do they find these flaws? The same way I do: through sites like the WordPress vulnerability database, of course. It will even email an alert when new problems are found!

Solution

  • If you don’t use it, remove it. It’s very easy to reinstall something later if you really need it.

Ignoring the hackers

Hacking’s a very real problem, and an ever-increasing one. The more technically inexperienced people who use a popular open source platform like WordPress, the more opportunity for hackers to spread their mischief.

Did you know that most hacking is done by robots mindlessly searching for known security problems in popular software like WordPress? In fact, your website is probably being attacked on a daily basis without you even knowing it. One of my clients recently discovered that 40% of his total site traffic came from automated bots trying to find a way into the site! That’s huge and it would be only a matter of time before they find a way in unless precautions were taken.

What to do? Time to panic?

So what can the average non-security expert do to protect his/her WordPress site against all of this craziness going on around them 24 hours a day? It sounds more than a little bit overwhelming.

Well, the precautions covered in each section above, although simple, will go a long way.

But you need to keep doing them. And you need to never stop doing them. It’s tiresome and time-consuming when you’ve a business to run.

One Solution to Rule Them All

My thinking is that you should never even have to think about all of this stuff. Every time I go out for a ride on my motorbike, I don’t worry if the right mixture of fuel and air is being ignited to make the explosions needed to power the bike. Or even if my gearbox is properly connected to my driveshaft. And I shouldn’t. I leave that stuff up to my mechanic who’s trained in it, who I trust and who checks it properly every year.

Each of the above common WordPress mistakes is quite easily avoided. But add them all up along with the other non-trivial tasks of actually running and building your business! It gets to be quite a lot of work, typically a few hours a week.

And that’s just maintaining things that are running normally. If you actually run into a real problem you can add a few more hours or even days onto that. That’s time you aren’t helping your clients.

You’ll also have noticed that there’s no set-it-and-forget-it solution  all of these are ongoing tasks. That’s why, as with other areas in your business like accounting and administration, it makes sense to outsource this technical babysitting.

It’s Not You . . .

I hear it from a lot of people: “If WordPress is so popular and easy to use, why am I having such problems with it? Why is it causing me so much grief and time?”

Well, first, you aren’t stupid. That’s actually the secret common WordPress mistake #4.

It’s true that WordPress dramatically lowers the barrier to setting up a business online. But that ease of use is also part of the reason for the difficulties WordPress causes.

We now have people who are untrained in technology wrestling with software running on systems that are being updated and changing at an ever-increasing pace. How are you supposed to keep up?

My answer to that is simple: you aren’t.

I’d go so far as to say that you have no business trying to.

Conclusion

Of course there are dozens of posts online listing the most common WordPress mistakes and most likely the above three wouldn’t be in most people’s top three.There are hundreds of trivial little things that you can do wrong!

But I list them because if something goes wrong on your site (e.g. it goes down, it gets hacked, or it just disappears after an update) the consequences of making these above mistakes can be disastrous to your business!

They can mean the difference between being able to fix your problem in half an hour instead of never being able to recover completely. They can mean the difference between your site becoming a porn hub because you were hacked via a simple plugin vulnerability or having a resilient site for years to come.

Now you’re armed with the knowledge, the choice is yours.

To learn more, visit wordpressforgood.com or go a step further and ask me for a free analysis of your website!

Sources: 

  • https://www.finearttips.com/2013/03/3-big-mistakes-artists-make-with-their-wordpress-websites/
  • https://www.jeffbullas.com/the-15-most-common-wordpress-mistakes-to-avoid/
  • https://devotepress.com/tutorials-hacks/10-common-wordpress-mistakes-avoid/
  • https://wpmastery.xyz/9-wordpress-experts-share-biggest-website-mistakes/
  • https://www.wpbeginner.com/beginners-guide/25-most-common-wordpress-mistakes-to-avoid/
  • https://torquemag.io/2017/03/wordpress-security-mistakes/
  • https://www.theverge.com/2018/12/13/18139431/donald-trump-2018-worst-password-splashdata
  • https://wpfixit.com/wordpress-mistakes/
  • https://fancythemes.com/common-wordpress-beginner-mistakes/
  • https://www.elegantthemes.com/blog/tips-tricks/7-mistakes-beginner-wordpress-users-make
  • https://www.zdnet.com/article/top-20-most-common-passwords-of-all-time-revealed-123456-princess-qwerty/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_most_common_passwords

 

Seán O’Connell helps conscious business owners who rely on their WordPress website to avoid technical overwhelm. Find him at wordpressforgood.com

Guest Post: A Simple Way to Keep Track of Your Hub Marketing

By Lisa Baker

What would it mean for your business if your email subscriber list doubled next month?

What if your client list doubled?

Better yet, what if you knew you could double your client list whenever you wanted, with just a few simple steps – and you could do it without spending any money on your marketing?

If you’re like most entrepreneurs, that would transform your business (not to mention your wallet).

And that’s the kind of results you can expect when you partner with influencers to implement a hubs marketing strategy.

Hubs marketing is simple: it just means finding the people your customers already listen to and the places where they already are, and asking those people and places to share and recommend your products and services.

Hubs are the influential people whom your ideal customer is listening to. They’re the famous bloggers, the citywide farmers’ markets, the healing festivals, and the big nonprofits where your ideal customer is hanging out, listening, and spending time.

Like the hub of a wheel, they’re the centre where many spokes branch out — a whole network of places and people where your customers already are.

And when hubs talk about you, people come to you.

But how do you get hubs to talk about you?

Many people believe it’s pure luck: You have to already know the right people.

Others think it’s networking: You have to slowly schmooze and network your way into the influential “cool kids” club.

But I believe that connecting with hubs is very simple: You ask.

Sound terrifying? It doesn’t need to be. If you have the right elements in place first, you can reach out to hubs with confidence and connect with them simply and naturally.

You just need three things.

First, you need a truly valuable offer.

Creating this mostly has to do with deeply understanding your niche. Once you understand exactly what’s unique and different about what you’re offering in your business, and you’re able to articulate that in a clear way, then it’s easy to attract the attention of a hub. The key here is being different – if you reach out to a hub asking them to share something that’s exactly like what everyone else is doing, they won’t be intrigued or interested; they’ll be annoyed.

Discovering and articulating your niche is a lot of work, and it can take some time. Here are some ways you’ll know when your niche is ready for you to reach out to hubs:

  • When you meet someone at a networking event and you tell them briefly what you do, their response is something like, “Wow! Tell me more?” or “Whoa. What does that mean exactly?” or “Oh! I know someone who needs that!”
  • When you look at the message and offerings of the most influential and well-known people in your industry, your response is, “That’s a great start, but they’re leaving out this really important thing…” or “I disagree with their approach; it’s much better to…” In other words, you can clearly describe what you feel is missing from what most people in your industry do, and the missing thing is something you offer.
  • You’ve studied the major influencers and players in your industry, and you can honestly say you are the only business you know of who does [fill in the blank] for [whoever you do it for]. The thing in the blank could be the specific thing you do, the exact way you do it, or the people you’re doing it for, but either way, it’s definitely, truly unique.

Your niche doesn’t have to be perfect before you start reaching out to hubs, but it needs to be close. It needs to be about 70% of the way there. You need to have a pretty solid idea of what your message is and why it’s different.

I recommend that before you start reaching out to hubs, you test your niche description at a networking event. Go to an event focused on people in your industry, and see how they respond to your introduction of yourself and what you do. If they aren’t immediately intrigued by your one-sentence description of your work, then your niche isn’t quite ready yet.

Second, you need hubs who are a great fit for you.

Marketing is always about finding the right fit with customers, and hubs marketing is about finding the right fit with hubs.

Just like finding a fit with customers, the right fit with a hub encompasses two things: the how and the what. How means your approach, your mindset, your vibe, and your general worldview. What means the specific thing you offer and whom you offer it for. Both of these need to align for you and the hub to be a good fit.

“General worldview” is a broad filter that can be hard to discern from a distance, but my rule of thumb is always this: If you don’t truly, honestly admire a hub, then don’t try to partner with them.

Skim through their website and social media, and check with your gut. Do you like the things they’re sharing? Do you get a good feeling from their language and their message? Is your instinctive reaction “Wow, I want to be friends with them!” or “Ick?”

Find the partners whose online presence makes you feel like you can’t wait to go out for a beer with them. Sure, you can’t really tell from their online presence or reputation. Yes, you’re just guessing. But anyone who’s influential will have some kind of public persona. And your reaction to the public persona they project will often be an accurate indicator of whether your general approaches are aligned. Go with your gut.

The what of fit is often harder at first, but it’s actually easier to determine.

Many entrepreneurs, when looking for hubs, think first of the influencers who do basically the same thing they themselves do, only bigger and better. If you run an organic fruit stand, your first instinct when looking for hubs is to think of influencers in the organic fruit space.

But this is a mistake.

If you’re offering the same thing – or essentially the same thing – that the hub is offering, then why would they need your offer?

They don’t.

Instead, you need to find hubs that offer something similar but different . . . or who offer something different to the same people you serve . . . or who offer something related that adds to your offer.

In other words: If you sell organic fruit, look for hubs that sell organic vegetables. Or look for hubs that teach how to make organic jam from fresh fruit. Or look for nutritionist and dieticians and personal trainers who help people eat more healthy. Or look for publications that feature local organic food sources. Or look for vegan and raw food meetups for people whose main diet is fruits and vegetables.

The key here is finding the little circles of your niche – the small, specific groups of people who might be interested in what you have to offer. These circles need to be more specific than you think they should be. You’ll know you’ve found a good little circle when ideas for hubs start to immediately come to mind.

For example, say you’re an animal intuitive helping busy owners take better care of their pets. Who are your people? Pet owners, obviously – but that’s your broad, big circle. Dog owners? That’s still too broad. But how about dog owners who want to bring their dogs to work? Now you’re talking – and you can search for companies in your city with dog-friendly policies.

Third, you need a system for reaching out to hubs.

Here’s the reality: Hubs marketing is much faster than any marketing you do within your own networks, but it still takes time. And even when you do it right, it takes a minimum number of hubs before you start to see results.

Sending one email to one hub is not an effective strategy for growing your business.

On average, you should be able to do a partner promotion with about one hub for every ten emails you send to hubs you don’t already have a connection with.

That means, if you want to do one partner promotion a month, you need to send at least two emails a week.

For each hub, you’ll need to find the hub, the right contact person, and the email address.

You’ll need to keep track where you are in conversation with each hub so you know who you should follow up with, who is waiting for information from you, and what you need to do to prepare for each partnership.

And, if you want to continue to grow and scale your business, you’ll need to keep records of what types of partnerships you did, what worked and what didn’t, and what the results were for each partnership.

If you do all that, then over time, your hubs outreach will become easier and easier, because you’ll quickly be able to see exactly what type of hub is best for your offer, as well as what type of partnership helps you gain new customers and subscribers.

But for all this, you need a system: you need some kind of hubs database.

Your database needs to do three things.

First, it needs to be a “mind dump” spot where you can add any ideas you have for a new hub you could reach out to.

Second, it needs to help you track exactly where each conversation is with each hub, so you know when the ball is in your court and what your next step is for each partnership.

And third, it needs to help you track the results you get from each partnership, so you know which types of hubs you should find more of, which types of partnerships you should do more of, and which types of hubs and partnerships you shouldn’t do.

When you’re first getting started, I recommend a really simple system for this: a Google spreadsheet.

Here’s the spreadsheet I give my clients when they’re first getting started with hubs outreach.

The first tab of the spreadsheet is for finding hubs. It looks like this:

The first column is how you found the hub. This is useful because if a partnership does particularly well, it’s valuable to go back and look to see how you found that hub in the first place. Where the spreadsheet says “Google ‘keyword’”, change “keyword” to the phrase you used in Google to find that hub (like “dog-friendly offices Atlanta”).

The second column is for the category or little circle. It’s best to keep these down to two or three at first, so you don’t go wildly pitching every type of hub. Going back to the organic fruit stand, the type of partnership you would propose with a meetup group will be different from the partnership you would propose with an organic vegetable grower. Choose no more than two or three little circles to start with to keep your search focused.

The next three columns are “Biggest Platform Size,” “Platform of Biggest Audience,” and “Past Partnership Example.”

These form the foundation for your initial hubs research.

“Platform” means the place where the hubs’ audience is most concentrated. For example, some hubs have a huge Facebook audience but almost no Instagram audience. Others have a huge email list and very few blog followers. There are various ways to research the size of a hub’s audience on each platform, but all you need to do right now is glance through their social followings and website and make an educated guess.

The main thing you’re looking for is where the best place would be for them to host a partnership with you. Ideally, you want to do a partnership on a platform where the hub has a big audience, where they regularly host promotions, and where you know your audience is likely to be.

For example, if they have a lot of Facebook followers, and they frequently interview expert guests on Facebook live posts, and you know that many of your ideal customers are on Facebook, then put their number of Facebook followers under “Biggest Platform Size,” put “Facebook” under “Biggest Platform Example,” and put a link to one of their expert interviews under “Past Partnership Example.”

Then it’s easy to fill out the next column: you want to propose that they interview you on a Facebook live.

You don’t need to spend a lot of time on these columns figuring out the perfect partnership, because often, you won’t know until you talk with them. Even if you think something would be an ideal partnership from your perspective, it might not fit their business model (they might have recently decided they don’t want to do Facebook lives anymore). Right now, you’re just trying to make an educated guess about the kind of thing they might be willing to do.

For example:

  • Do they have a blog?
    • If so, how many comments on average does each post have? This will give you a general idea of the size of their blog readership. (You can note this simply as “5 comments average per blog post” for “Platform size.”)
    • Do they publish guest posts on their blog? You can easily find this out by googling their website (“website.com”) and then the words “guest post.”
    • If they publish guest posts, do they include a bio at the end with a link to the author’s website? This gives you an indication of whether you would be likely to get any visitors to your site or new subscribers if you wrote a blog post for them.
    • If the answers to #2 and #3 are yes, and each post has at least 5-10 comments, then you can make an educated guess that they would be open to a guest post proposal.
  • Do they have a podcast?
    • If so, how popular is it? This is very difficult to judge, but you can look at the number of reviews on iTunes, and you can look at iTunes rankings to see where the podcast shows up. You can also look at their blog to see if they publish podcast episodes there, and if so, how many comments are on each podcast post. You can also look at the host’s social media following and make a guess about their podcast audience size from that.
    • Do they interview guests on their podcast? If so, would your topic be a good fit compared to the other guests they’ve interviewed?
    • If they do interview guests, do they publish a link to the guest’s website on a post about the podcast? Do they talk about the guest’s website and services in their interview?
    • If the answers to the second two questions are yes, then you can make an educated guess that they might be open to a pitch for you being a podcast guest.  
  • Do they have a community/forum/membership group that people can join?
    • If so, how big is it, and is it paid or free? Paid membership sites are great places to offer workshops or be interviewed, since all the members there are already spending money on the kind of thing you want to sell.
    • Can you find any information about what content is inside the group, and if so, does it mention expert guests or interviews? Does it list any examples of guests?
    • If so, then they might be open to a pitch for you to be an expert guest inside their community.
  • Do they have a Facebook page or group?
    • If so, how many fans or members does it have?
    • Do they host interviews or workshops with experts on their page?
    • If they do, then they might be willing to host a workshop with you.
  • Do they have an Instagram page?
    • If so, how many followers does it have, and how many comments/likes does each post get on average?
    • Do they ever post about other experts or brands on their page?
    • Do they host live videos on their page?
    • If so, then they might be open to posting about your offer or posting a live video of you.

Again, don’t spend too much time on each of these. Think about where you most want to promote your business (if you don’t have a visual brand, then Instagram probably isn’t for you). As you discover a new hub, skim through the platforms where you most want to promote your business, and see if it looks like they ever do partnerships there. If they do, or if you think they might be open to it, add them to your list. If not, move on and find another hub to add.

The last two columns on this tab are “Why I like them” and “Why they will like me.” For these, you’re making a note to yourself of two things: what attracted you to them (this is the “worldview” level fit), and how you feel your offer is complementary to theirs. Again, don’t spend a lot of time; just write a quick note to yourself so you’ll remember when it’s time to reach out.

This first tab in the spreadsheet is your brainstorm list. It’s your note to yourself about the hubs you think you might want to get in touch with.

Once you have 10 or 20 on the list, it’s time to move them to the second tab – the tab at the bottom labeled “Outreach.”

This tab has seven columns. If you click in a box in the first column, “Stage,” you’ll notice there’s a drop down:

The “Stage” column is to help you know exactly where you are in conversation with each potential partner: lead (you’re still just researching), contacted (you’ve sent them an initial pitch), followed up (they didn’t reply, so you emailed again), discussing (they’ve replied and you’ve sent them information), call scheduled (you’ve scheduled a call with them to talk through the details of a partnership), said yes, or said no.

The drop-down helps you keep track of your own process throughout the conversation with a hub. It’s a guide to your workflow. If you aren’t sure what you should do next in a conversation with a hub, it gives you a guide on what you want the next step to be.

The rest of the columns are for the information you’ll need to reach out: The name of the company or organization, the name of the best contact person, their preferred name you’ll use to address them, their email address, and the type of partnership you plan to suggest (based on your research from the last tab). Finally, the “date last emailed” will help you keep track if you drop the ball on a conversation and need to touch base with them to follow up.

Once you schedule a promotion with a partner, you can move them to the third tab: the “Results” tab. Here, you’ll track the results of your partnership:

These columns are designed for a coach whose goals are new email subscribers, discovery calls with new prospects, and new clients. But you can change the columns to match your own business goals.

As you do more promotions, you can start to see patterns on this tab, and you can use those patterns to refine what types of partners you look for in the future.

For example, suppose you did a promotion with a hub who has about 5,000 subscribers on their email list. They hosted an online workshop for you. You might want to add a column with “# Workshop Attendees” to your tracking tab so you can include that information here – I’ll explain why in a moment.

Let’s say your results look like this:

Suppose you also did a similar promotion with another partner who has about 20,000 subscribers on their email list, and the results look like this:

There are a lot of numbers you can look at here to evaluate which promotions did better.

First, you can look at the conversion rate of email subscribers on your partner’s list to attendees on your workshop. You can calculate this by dividing the number of workshop attendees by the number of email subscribers each partner has on their list. Dawn sent more attendees, but she only sent 0.5% of her list, while Tara sent 1%. So even though the number of attendees from Tara was half as many as those from Dawn, a much bigger percentage of Tara’s list was interested in your offer. This means that as Tara’s list grows, she’s likely to send even more people to your workshops in the future.

Next, look at the conversion rate of workshop attendees to email subscribers. This is the number of people who signed up your email list, divided by the number of people who attended the workshop. At Tara’s workshop, an incredible 60% of the people who attended signed up for your list. At Dawn’s workshop, only 20% did. This tells you that either your presentation was much better for Tara’s workshop, or your message is much more aligned with Tara and her followers.

The other conversion rates are similar: 10% of the attendees at Tara’s workshop signed up for a discovery call, while only 1% of Dawn’s attendees got on the phone with you.

And then, of course, 4% of your calls with Tara’s followers led to new clients and revenue. None of Dawn’s did, but the number of calls was so low, you can’t really conclude anything from that.

But what can you conclude from looking at these numbers, and how can you use this information to plan your future promotions?

First, obviously, you can conclude that Tara is a better partner than Dawn, even though her audience is smaller. Assuming that the presentation in your workshop was essentially identical for both partners, you can use this information a variety of ways:

  • First, analyze why you think Tara is a better partner. It probably has to do with her messaging and brand and its similarity to yours, so if you compare her brand, her emails, and her message and offers to Dawn’s, you can draw conclusions about what aligns with you and what doesn’t. For example, if Dawn talks a lot about higher consciousness and manifesting, while Tara talks a lot about girl power and uses cuss words, then it’s a solid guess that you should look for more edgy partners who are into girl power.
  • Next, look back at your first tab and notice how you found each of these partners. Look at how you found Tara, and use the same method to find more potential partners. Don’t repeat the method you used to find Dawn.
  • Finally, consider each step of your potential customer’s sales path in this worksheet, and think about whether you can improve things at any point along this path. For example, only 1% of workshop attendees at Dawn’s workshop signed up for a call with you. This could be because your messages aren’t aligned, but it could also be because of something you did differently. It’s possible that a small change in your presentation would result in a lot more calls. Do you have any other partners who are similar to Dawn that did send you clients? If so, what did you differently with them?

The more you track details like this, the more you can improve your promotions with hubs over time. Eventually, as you build up a record of numbers from past partnerships, you’ll be able to accurately estimate how many clients you should get from a new partner just by looking at their platform numbers on the first tab of this spreadsheet. That will enable you to predict your future income from the hubs partnerships you have scheduled, and you can adjust your marketing ahead of time to make sure you meet your income goals.

Remember those questions I asked at the beginning of this post, about what it would mean for your business if you got more email subscribers or clients? The reality is that for most entrepreneurs, the answer to those questions was “I don’t know.”

What would it mean for your business if your email list doubled from a hubs partnership you did tomorrow? If you haven’t been tracking these numbers, then you probably don’t know.

But if you start today, then a year from now you could have a solid foundation for accurately predicting exactly what it would mean for your business and your income. If you keep filling out this spreadsheet as you launch into your hubs marketing, you’ll also be able to predict how many outreach emails you need to send to get a promotion, as well as how many new clients you’re likely to get from a promotion.

And eventually, that means that instead of haphazardly hoping for new clients, you can create a system that predictably, sustainably brings you new clients at the rate you want, in exactly the timing you need.

Want to know what to say to hubs once you start reaching out to them? Join Lisa’s email list and get a free 5-day email course, “How to Email Any Influencer.” You’ll also get a copy of her book about her philosophy of connecting with influencers, How to Grow Your Business and Be a Better Human. Also consider taking Lisa’s quiz What Type Of Influencer Partnership Is Best For Your Business?

About Lisa Baker: Lisa’s dream is to end homelessness, racism, and climate change (not necessarily in that order). She’s a marketing consultant for small businesses who works on saving the world as a side gig. She’d like to change that.

Guest Post: Google Grant Ads by Simon Choy of ConnectAd

by Simon Choy of ConnectAd

So, what are Google Grant Ads and where did they come from?

Google Ads are the sponsored search results that you see at the top of Google when you search for something. Now usually you have to pay Google every time someone clicks on an ad that you run, but if you have the Google Ad Grant, you get $10,000 per month in free credits to pay for those clicks. This is all provided pro bono as part of a philanthropic effort from Google, which started in 2003.

This sounds too good to be true. What’s the catch? Why is google doing this?

The grant is an amazing opportunity, but it doesn’t work for all nonprofits. For example, it can be tougher for very localized groups to use an effective amount of the free ad credits since there’s inherently less people to promote to. Other big factors include whether the nonprofit has the time to actually run Google ad campaigns, and the know-how to do it properly. If they don’t, the grant may end up being severely under-utilized and not make any tangible difference. In terms of why Google doing this, I think in large part they genuinely want to help nonprofits achieve meaningful impact. It could also serve as a natural transition into running parallel paid ad campaigns outside of the free grant credits.

What’s the story of how you got involved with them and what is it that you do?

In 2010, our founder discovered the Google Ad Grant program, which had amazing potential but would be difficult for nonprofits who generally didn’t have the time or technical savvy to use effectively. While there were many companies providing a digital marketing solution to for-profits, almost nobody was helping the nonprofit sector, so ConnectAd was formed to be that solution. What we do is focus entirely on helping nonprofits grow their impact using effective digital marketing tools like the Google Ad Grant.

Who are Grant Ads for? Who are they not for?

Google Ad Grants are for any eligible nonprofit organization. Eligibility only has three requirements = 1) You’re a registered nonprofit in any one of the 50+ countries listed 2) You have an active website 3) You’re not a hospital or healthcare organization, educational institution, or government entity.

How do these non-profits afford to pay you? Can using these ads help them generate revenue?

We always work with nonprofits on a month-to-month subscription basis, so if it’s truly not beneficial to them, it’s easy to stop. I believe that nonprofits we partner with see the value in enhancing their digital presence, and decide to invest in it. Of course we understand that nonprofits budgets are limited, but if I were a nonprofit organization looking to maximize my dollars to engage my audience online, what better way than to spend a little to leverage a program providing potentially $10,000 per month in ads. For example, even if I’m a small nonprofit, it’s important to engage my stakeholders online – and with a limited budget, I would look for ways to stretch it as far as I can. That’s why it makes sense for even small nonprofits to leverage our services and the Google Grant because they can truly amplify their spend.

What are the top three mistakes you see people making with these ads (or that might be made)?

1) Sometimes people will create ads in their account and leave it to collect impressions and clicks. An account with the Google Grant Ads needs to be maintained and managed otherwise it will be at risk for suspension. Google has a minimum click through rate of 5% for Ad Grant accounts, so a campaign/ad created and never touched again could lead to suspension because it wouldn’t be meeting their requirements when left dormant.

2) Ads that are not geo-targeted correctly – which means that there is no particular place where the ad will show up. Let’s say you have a nonprofit that runs a local program in San Francisco but the ads are targeted to all of the US. There’s a good chance that most of the traffic coming in from the ad will be from locations where your program does not operate and will therefore be irrelevant to those users.

3) When there are no conversions being tracked. A conversion could be downloading a PDF, signing up for a newsletter, registering for a program etc. Although it seems positive to see an abundance of clicks, impressions and grant spend in your account, we aren’t able to determine if those users engaged with your website if there isn’t conversion tracking. Conversion tracking can accurately determine how the grant program is providing value, or not, to your organization.

What are the top three things people should use these Grant Ads for?

Google Ad Grants can be used for a myriad of purposes to achieve nonprofit goals (e.g. Promote awareness, gain new emails, sell tickets to events, new volunteers, etc.).

What services do you offer around this?

We offer the All-In-One Google Grants Service with dedicated account management by our team of AdWords certified account managers and we also provide optimized landing pages and in-depth Google Analytics services – designed to drive specific, valuable results beyond the click. You don’t  just want people clicking on the ad.  Clicks by themselves do not equal success.

When they click that need to lead them to a landing page where they is some specific call to action (e.g. Emails, volunteers, selling a product or service, in-kind donations) and to understand not only the results of a digital marketing campaign, but where success came from and what caused it. Better data = better approach = better results. We have also just been recognized by Google as an Ad Grant Certified Professional, one of 20-25 companies worldwide with this certification.

Any other resources you can think of that would be helpful for people to check out?

We recommend attending one of our free CharityHowTo webinars on the Ad Grant opportunity, as well as our website’s blog – which will be more active in 2019 with best practices of the Ad Grant opportunity and other valuable digital marketing information for nonprofit organizations.

About ConnectAd and Simon Choy:

In 2009, ConnectAd founder Simon Choy found a summer job in the digital marketing industry where he learned about managing Google AdWords. His work with for-profit companies gave him an appreciation for how complicated campaigns could get.

Later that summer, he discovered the Google Grants program, but was surprised to find out that nobody was out there helping nonprofits. Agencies serving for-profit companies were everywhere, but why wasn’t anyone assisting nonprofits in taking advantage of $10,000 per month in free ads?

Always having had a passion for social enterprise, Simon decided to be that person and opened ConnectAd in 2010 with the mission of helping nonprofits. Since then, ConnectAd has remain committed to only working with nonprofits, managing their Google Grants. They are proud to say they’ve helped almost 200 nonprofits get their Google Ad Grant. Using the grant, ConnectAd has generated over 50 million dollars in ads and 1.8 billion ad impressions! connectad.ca

Guest Post: 4 Commonly Crossed Boundaries in Your Business (And How to Firm Them Up) by Julie Wolk

by Julie Wolk

It’s time to talk about boundaries, people!

This is a subject often broached in personal development – holding boundaries is considered essential for maintaining emotional health (for example, you may choose not to spend time with a particular friend who drains your energy).

But boundaries are rarely discussed in a business context.

And yet, boundaries in business are crucial if you want to run a business with integrity — and actually enjoy doing it.

I see my clients face SO MANY challenges in their businesses that are directly related to boundaries that are too loose or even nonexistent.

So let’s dive in. First, I’m going to tell you the two main reasons your business needs boundaries . . .  and the one secret to creating them.

In the second half of the post, we’ll walk through the four most common ways boundaries are crossed in your business (and how to avoid this).

Your business needs boundaries for two main reasons:

1) So that your business has integrity

Imagine a river and its banks.

The bank makes the river a river. Without it, we have . . . a puddle. Or maybe a delta or something (which is lovely in its own right, but not a river).

Without structure — a boundary to contain it — things get kinda messy. Erosion happens, contaminants find their way in, and the flow can get off course and unpredictable.

With strong banks, the power of the river is channeled successfully. The banks hold the river so that the water can flow, twisting and turning, rushing and trickling out to the sea.

Similarly, your business needs structure, and specifically boundaries, to not only contain it, but to DEFINE it. What is your business and what is it not? How does it operate and how does it not?

The boundaries define the business.

This definition gives your business integrity. What do I mean by integrity? It gives your business strength and reliability.

Something that your clients and potential clients can know and count on. Something that YOU can know and count on, too.

(This feels really good when you nail it, by the way).

Now of course (and we’ll get into this in a moment), your banks can be too high . . . ever seen a levee break?

2) So that YOU don’t burn out

Now we get to talk about poison oak. You didn’t think I could make an analogy about poison oak in a business blog, did you?

Some people think that poison oak is just there to make you extremely itchy. It’s not. My herbalist friends have taught me to respect poison oak and call it, “Guardian Oak,” and there’s a good reason for this.

Guardian Oak grows at the edges of disturbed areas. Basically, humans come in and clear an area to build a house, and we disturb an intact forest in the process. And what sprouts up at those edges where it’s been disturbed? You guessed it — that’s Guardian Oak’s favourite hangout (which is why you often see it at the edge of a hiking trail).

But here’s the interesting part – I’m told the oak grows there to create a boundary between the disturbers (the humans in this case) and what’s left of the healthy, intact forest.

It’s saying, “Please do not pass, I am the guardian of this forest, and my job is to keep it healthy.”

If you go messing around in the oak, you are most likely going to get a nasty rash, and there’s a decent chance it’ll stop you from trying to disturb the area more, no?!

Ok, that was a long-winded way of saying that sometimes you need to create a boundary around yourself to keep the forest of your life intact.

You need to protect yourself, your health, your well-being . . . from the disturbances (aka, humans who want things from you!) so you don’t get burned out.

So how do you create good boundaries?

Before we dive into the four main ways our boundaries are crossed in our businesses, I want to tell you the secret to creating proper boundaries.

Boundaries must be flexible.

Like a tree swaying in the wind, a boundary is strong and rooted firmly in the earth, but not so rigid that it breaks during an average rainstorm.

It has to have give.

I always tell my clients: Make your boundary. You can always make an exception.

People have this idea that if you make a rule, you must rigidly keep it. But if you did that, you would not have the opportunity to try new things, take advantage of new opportunities, and learn stuff you might not have otherwise learned.

Of course if you always cross your boundary, then we’re back to the whole bank-less river thing (not a river, remember?).

It’s a balance.

But just like a plant has a porous surface, allowing water and oxygen in through its openings, a good boundary has some permeability.

So how do you decide when to be flexible, when to bend a boundary? Each situation is different. You need to go inside and ask yourself if it feels right to you to bend your boundary in this particular case.

Sometimes it will be a resounding yes! I am THRILLED to offer my work to this person at a discount because she’s amazing and she needs this work and it feels in service and I need the practice anyways.

And sometimes, you will get a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach that will say, Do not even think about lowering your rate to work with this person, they’re just going to keep asking for more, and frankly it already feels shitty.

Please listen to this voice. And then make a case-by-case decision.

The 4 Boundaries Most Often Crossed in Your Biz

I have noticed that many of the challenges people face in running a business are actually simply a problem of boundaries.

I’m going to walk you through the four main places where I see boundaries crossed in business all. the. time.

If you can get a handle on creating boundaries in these four areas, you will be well on your way.

I’ll tell you about these four challenges in order of how a client approaches and enters into your business:

  1. Your Niche is Weak or Nonexistent

Well before someone chooses to work with you, they need to know what you do and for whom you do it so that they can determine if it makes sense to hire you.

And for them to know what you do and for whom you do it (otherwise known as your niche), YOU need to know this information.

It is in this way that your niche is the very first boundary of your business.

Because inherently embedded in the niche is what I call – the non-niche. Ok fine, I just made that up.

But seriously, what you DON’T do is as (or more) important as what you DO do. Who you DON’T work with is just as (or more) important as who you DO work with.

When someone comes to you who does not fit your niche, your niche acts as a filter or boundary, making it way easier for you to say, no, I’m not the right person for you, but might I recommend my colleague so-and-so?

Now some aspects of your niche will be more obvious than others. For example, I work with people who sell services, not physical products. I don’t know the first thing about selling products. I wouldn’t even get on the phone with someone selling any kind of physical product because it would be a waste of both of our time.

But I’ve also found that I like working with people who are action-takers, yet that one is a little harder to know without a conversation. So in my consultation calls, I need to ask questions that help me understand whether or not this person is an action-taker so I can decide whether we’re a good fit or not.

Does this person fit within the boundary of my niche?

Because if they’re not, and I work with them, what happens?

Well to be honest, it feels like crap. And it’s draining. And you are not a happy person after a day with the wrong clients on the wrong projects.

Oh, and to boot, you don’t do your best work with these folks because you’re trudging through it, and they can totally feel it, and then they don’t refer other people to you (or maybe even say negative things), and so it’s actually bad for your business too!

So what am I saying here? First, you gotta know (or learn over time, really, because it’s an iterative, evolutionary process) specifically who you are meant to work with and what you’re uniquely effective at and passionate about doing, and be able to say NO to people and projects that are not well-suited to you.  Draw a boundary and enforce it (and make occasional exceptions, see first part of this blog post).

You will be much happier and more successful in your business if you only take on people and projects who are well-suited to you.

And not to mention, you can’t be all things to all people. That’s a sure-fire recipe for burnout.

  1. You Don’t Confidently Ask for and Expect Your Fee

Ok, so they’re a great fit and have decided to work with you. Yay! The next step is their payment. This is the second place on the journey where so many entrepreneurs get wiggly — they end up charging less than their services are worth.

This leads to bitterness in the short run, and burnout in the long run, because if you keep doing things for cheap, you’ll always be hustling for more clients and there will never be enough hours in the day. Can you say exhausting?

So what to do? Set a fee that feels right to you and be clear about it. And expect that if you feel good about your fee, then the right clients will pay it.

I use a combination of three things to decide on my fee:

  • What I actually need to earn overall in my business
  • Where I want to place myself on the range of similar services offered in the marketplace
  • My intuition (literally, a gut check on the number – what feels right?)

Then, I think – in advance – about any exceptions I may want to make to that fee. Is there a type of client who I want offer a discount or scholarship to? Do I want to have a certain amount of pro bono clients or sessions per year? Do I want to charge less initially because I’m experimenting with a new program (beta testing)?

And then, after I get as clear as possible, I choose my number and I simply tell people what it costs (pro tip, you have to be able to say your fee out loud without puking or it’s not the right fee). Or even better, I put that fee right on my website so they know even before they talk to me.

Again, it’s OK to make exceptions occasionally, just don’t make it the rule.

  1. You See Clients Willy-Nilly Instead of Having a Schedule

Payment’s in. Woo hoo! Now it’s time to book those sessions. Seems simple, right?

Well not if you don’t have boundaries on your schedule.

Have you ever scheduled someone to make it super convenient for them, only to realize that it’s incredibly inconvenient for you? Yeah, we’ve all been guilty of it. It’s easy to want to accommodate, but again, the more you do evening sessions that cut into family time, or morning sessions before you’ve had your coffee and a shower, or work right through lunch, the more frustrated you’re going to be, and the more likely you’ll hit burnout in the long run.

If you don’t currently have specific days and hours that you see clients, I want you to create them right now.

I know it’s not always as easy to do as it sounds. Many people fear clients won’t work with them if they aren’t super accommodating. I can say from experience though, it is rare that people who really want to work with you will not find a way to see you during your hours. People respect professionals with time boundaries and find a way to fit it in.

Now, again, there’s always an exception here and there. For example, I have a client in Europe who I see a little earlier than I normally would see other clients, but I love her and I want to do it. See, that’s ok too!

But here’s my most important scheduling tip: Before you create your business hours, put everything else on your calendar that’s important to you. Vacations, days off, working out, family time, meditation time, yoga class, dinner out, whatever it is, put it on your calendar FIRST, and then create your business hours around your life. You will be happier for it.

  1. You Over-give Physically and Energetically

Now it’s time to actually work with your new client. And here, the final boundary issue rears its ugly head.

This one is soooo tricky because it’s sometimes really hard to see where our energy is leaking. I’ll give you one example of this that I see over and over again, but I bet you can think of others, too.

I see clients feel like they “should” give their clients more and more of their time and expertise, even if it goes beyond what their clients have paid them or what’s been promised to them. Or, maybe it IS what’s been promised, and the problem is that your offer includes an overabundance of support, and it’s just too much for you to manage for multiple people.

This behaviour often comes from a place of scarcity. You fear not having enough clients, or a client not sticking around for a long time, and you keep giving, giving, giving. The more you provide, the better, right? Maybe, maybe not.

Your client may be very satisfied, but you? You’re exhausted and feel like you can never catch up. And, sometimes even your clients can get overwhelmed when you offer them too much support or too many things to do/read/consume.

This boundary is closely related to the fee boundary and needs to be considered with it.

What is actually the right and fair amount of service to give your client for the money they have paid? Of course, I can’t answer this question for your business in this post, but it’s something to deeply consider as you design your programs, especially if you find yourself scrambling to answer client emails the second they roll in, or if you give away way too much valuable one-on-one time for not enough money.

Like I said, it’s the most complicated one because it’s fuzzy and hard to see, but if you ever feel like you’re working really hard to hang on to your clients, and feel like if you don’t give more, your clients won’t be satisfied/think you’re good enough/hire you again, you might have problems with your energetic boundary. In other words, you might be an over-giver.

People who provide a service that helps people often get caught in this trap, because, well, we really want to help!

But we all know the rule about the oxygen mask on the airplane by now, right!?

And finally, it’s messy at the edge.

You may be familiar with the concept of transition or edge zones in ecology. If not, it’s the place or boundary where two ecosystems meet. It’s inherently more complex. Two worlds colliding. Twice the number of plants and animals all trying to figure it out together.

When we approach making and holding boundaries, it can get messy. It’s not always easy to tell someone No . . . We find ourselves in rich emotional territory (Is it ok for me to feel this way? Should I just do what he’s asking?) and things can feel complicated.

It’s because you’re in a transition zone.

But when the boundary eventually becomes clear and you can hold it with ease (and we all know it can take a few tries!), it’s easy to see what belongs on this side of the fence and what does not.

And you’ll be shocked you ever let yourself book a client during your yoga class.

And more importantly, your business will feel strong and clear and full of integrity. And people will notice that. And you will feel strong and clear and healthy and filled up enough that you actually enjoy running your business.

Which means you will actually have the ability to serve MORE and BETTER.

And that’s what we’re going for.

Boundaries are a hot topic at the January Replenish Winter Reflection & Strategy Retreat for Women Entrepreneurs. If you’re interested in creating powerful boundaries for a successful and fulfilling 2019, I hope you’ll join us!

Julie Wolk helps coaches, consultants, and healers grow rooted, blossoming, burnout-free businesses by modelling them after the way nature works. She’s a firm believer that if we step off the hamster wheel, and tune into nature’s rhythms, we can grow more sustainable lives, businesses and even—gasp!—a better world. A lifelong nature freak, she has over 15 years of experience turning vision into reality, and would love to help you create a simpler, more enjoyable, nature-led life and business. You can find her at www.juliewolkcoaching.com.

Winners of the 2018 SYTYCN Contest!

I am thrilled to announce the winners of the 2018 So You Think You Can Niche contest!

Backstory: for a week at the beginning of September I invited people to submit their niche summed up into 140 characters (that’s the length of a Tweet!), and then to rate at least five other people’s niches from 1-10 and offer feedback to one another.

The results were fantastic, you can check them out HERE if you like. We had 63 niche meme entries, 300 Facebook “likes” on those entries, and almost 800 thoughtful, constructive comments.

I am deeply happy and encouraged by the quality of content and interaction. In addition to being fun, the So You Think You Can Niche contest for 2018 has been a wonderful platform for learning and a genuine success, which is extra lovely, because this is the very last time I’m holding this contest!

And the winner is: 

Carrie Hoffman!

Carrie received an overall rating of 9.5/10, and of all the 9.5/10-ratings in this contest, she had the most feedback comments – thus making her our winner and proving that the amount of genuine, thoughtful, rated feedback really did matter!

My sincere congratulations to Carrie – she entered a super clear niche for her work running yoga and adventure retreats around the world for people in addiction recovery.

Carrie takes home the first place prize of a 90-minute coaching session with me ($450 value) + she’ll be featured on my blog in the future + a free hard copy and a digital copy of my book The Niching Nest + a spot in my newly launched Niching Spiral Homestudy Course ($300 value) to give to a friend  – she doesn’t need it ’cause she’s so smart + her own spot in that same course (in case she does want to join the course herself, though this one’s non-transferrable).

— — —

2nd & 3rd place: Nicki Iskander and Natalia Ria

Nicki received a 9.5/10 rating overall and had the second most comments of all the 9.5/10 ratings. Natalia had a 9/10 rating overall and had the most comments  of all the 9/10 ratings. They will each receive a 30-minute coaching session with me ($150 value) + a free hard copy and a digital copy of The Niching Nest + a spot in my newly launched Niching Spiral Homestudy Course ($300 value) which is transferrable to a friend if they’d like to gift it instead of using it themselves.

— — —

The SYTYCN contestants who placed 4th through 10th each win $100 off my newly launched Niching Spiral Homestudy Course – a discount the winner can use or pass onto a friend.

My congratulations to these folks:

4th place: Melinda Eliza Sabo [9/10]

5th place: Judith Koy [9/10]

6th place: Tina DeMarco [9/10]

7th place: Caroline Leon [9/10]

8th place: Shelley Sage Heart [9/10]

9th place: Marieke Bosch Larose [9/10]

10th place: Juliette Valentina [8.5/10]

The tie-breaker for niches with the same rating was, first off, their decimal standing (we rounded up/down to the nearest single decimal for final public ratings), and secondly, the number of comments offered on that niche.

— — —

BEST IMAGE/MEME AWARDS go to people who created an eye catching, easy-to-read meme that really echoed their work or offering. This is a subjective category – I’ve looked at a lot of memes in my time and I chose memes that were striking and memorable to me, that were clear and welcoming and made sense with the niches they are supporting. These folks win $100 off my newly released Niching Spiral Homestudy Course – a discount the winners can use or pass onto a friend.

And the best image/meme winners are: Heidi Andersen, Melinda Cassidy, Heather Evans, Doly Garcia, Jenny Good, Joselito Laudencia, Caroline Leon, and Natalia Ria.

— — —

THE BEST COMMENTS PRIZES go to the people who gave the best, most useful and insightful feedback to many others in the SYTYCN contest. They each get a spot in my newly released Niching Spiral Homestudy course ($300 value) because they’re the kind of people I want in it (this is a non-transferrable prize).

Thanks for the amazing effort and deeply thoughtful feedback folks, my congratulations go to: Rachel Clee, Jenny Good, Nicki Iskander, Randy Jones, David Jurasek, and Frances Oman.

— — —

List of  Final Ratings:

Lastly, you’ll find the  list of the final ratings for everyone who entered the contest below. Congrats and thanks to all these lovely, brave contestants!

Please note: the calculation was made by finding the average score of a niche-meme’s ratings and averaging that total with my (Tad Hargrave’s) rating, and then by counting comments to break ties, and then number of “likes” to break any remaining ties. 

1CarrieHoffman9.5
2NickiIskander9.5
3NataliaRia9
4Melinda ElizaSabo9
5JudithKoy9
6TinaDeMarco9
7CarolineLeon9
8ShelleySage Heart9
9MariekeBosch Larose9
10JulietteValentina8.5
11DanielleGardner8.5
12MeganHyslop8.5
13WilCarlos8.5
14JoselitoLaudencia8.5
15AndrewCain8
16DolyGarcia8
17JennyGood8
18SophieDierickx8
19TerraWatley8
20John PaulMason8
21KimKimbuall8
22NancyJuetten8
23AdiHowarth8
24FaraTucker7.5
25AdamUrbach7.5
26RebeccaFisher-McGinty7.5
27CJShelton7.5
28JaneBinnion7
29LauraStyler7
30StephanieBandosik7
31AnnaleneHart7
32RachelClee7
33LauraQuilligan7
34PatriciaDonovan7
35RandyJones7
36HeatherEvans7
37RowenaCoshan (Mae)7
38LuiseJorgensen6.5
39AnneBryan6.5
40HeidiAndersen6
41ArabellaLondon6
42KatieWalker6
43JenniferHolden6
44LauraTucker6
45JulietteValentina6
46CeliaChapman5.5
47MelindaCassidy5.5
48BarbaraMurphy-Shannon5.5
49AnriW5.5
50BethMoore5.5
51AnriW.5
52JessicaMoore5
53DavidJurasek5
54GwenRose5
55FrancesOman5
56SandieHucal4.5
57Rhonda (Rev. Roni)Lipstein4.5
58SarahGilligan4
59SandieHucal4
60KhuyenBui3.5
61NicoleCasanova3.5
62MelanieMeurehg3.5
63AndrewMacDonald3

Guest Post: How to Teach a Rockin’ Intro Class That Isn’t a Scripted, Sales-y, Cheesy, Waste-of-Time Webinar

By Julie Wolk

Oops, you caught me . . .  I’m a webinar voyeur.

I love watching what other business coaches are doing . . .  both to learn what to do and, of course, what NOT to do (and then write lengthy blog posts about it).

So I saw an ad this morning on Facebook that enticed coaches into creating a consistent flow of clients into their practice (resulting, of course, in a 6-figure coaching business, because well, what would an FB ad be without a 6-figure promise?).

It was actually a decent ad . . .  casually written, not too sales-y, and it named very clearly the challenges that new coaches face when attempting to grow a business.

So I clicked (I mean, I was going to click anyways, cuz I’m a voyeur, but whatever).

There was a nice, simple landing page that told me that I was going to learn a 3-step system to generate 2, 5 or even 10 more clients each month.

Still ok. Clear, if totally unoriginal.

I signed up.

And . . .  It went downhill from there.

When I hopped on the (pre-recorded) webinar, I was immediately talked at for 15 minutes about my problems.

Wait.

Don’t I know my problems already? Didn’t your ad very clearly identify them and didn’t I already click on it and sign up?

If I weren’t just being a webinar voyeur, I would have shut the thing off after 3 minutes of that crap.

(But instead, I suffered through it, because I really wanted to dramatize this blog post).

And then there was the power point – with the exact words he was saying. Super engaging (not).

And of course, the script. And we all know it’s a script, because there are all these other coaches out there selling the “exact webinar script I used to earn 5 million dollars in 5 weeks.”

It honestly makes me want to scream:

“DO YOU TAKE ME FOR AN IDIOT?”

I know, calm down, Julie.

Finally I got approximately 5 minutes on the actual 3-step system to get 2, 5 or even 10 more clients each month, and was then subjected to 20 minutes of, wait for it . . .

The Sales Pitch.

Can we say waste of time?

Ok, so we know what we don’t like.

But here’s the thing.

Intro classes (whether you teach them live, on the phone, or as a webinar) can be an incredibly effective, authentic and FUN way to get new clients and fill your workshops and programs.

But if even the word “webinar” makes you roll your eyes, then keep reading for a different way to do it.

A Natural, Non-salesy Approach to Intro Classes that Relies on Your Wisdom, Not on Gimmicks, Scripts, or Ridiculous Sales Pitches.

You’ve got wisdom to share. Yes?

You’ve got a niche and a great package, retreat or group program. And now you want to sell it to people. To sell it, you need to market it first (I think you already know that).

But people don’t usually just jump in and buy a high-level program, package or retreat when they know nothing about you.

I can tell you from direct experience that if you just post on Facebook about your amazing 6-month coaching package, people won’t buy it. They probably won’t even get on the phone with you for a free consult most of the time.

But if they get an hour or two live with you?

And you share your wisdom, your analysis, your vision, your approach, your method . . .  if you show them the possibility of change and you stir up excitement and answer burning questions and bring your full, passionate self?

Well then . . .  they might sign up for that 6-month coaching engagement (or at least hop on the phone for that free consultation).

An intro class is the perfect low-risk, low-cost, low-commitment marketing strategy to help people get to know, like and trust you and what you do so they feel comfortable buying your higher-value program.

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When Do I Create An Intro Class?

If you have clarified your niche, established your point of view, and created a package or program, then you are ripe to create a rockin,’ high-value, intro class.

And remember, the point of your intro isn’t to make loads of money, it’s to introduce people to your work so they might eventually purchase your services. They are usually low-cost ($15-$25).

In other words, your intro class is the top of your sales funnel (or client pathway if you prefer). Simply put, here it is:

Low-Cost Intro Class –> Free Private Consultation –> Purchase of Package/Program

Seriously. That’s it. This could be your entire business.

And the best part is, you can teach this same class over and over again to different people (you really don’t need to create a bunch of different classes).

Your business could literally be one two-hour class, free consultations, and a high-value package. That’s ALL YOU NEED. Imagine that.

(I know, you have 20 other things you want to offer. But just consider it . . .  especially if you’re into growing a financially sustainable business in an organic, streamlined way, and not burning out. You can always add more stuff later).

I filled my 1-1 coaching practice in a little over a year teaching intro classes every couple months, plus doing some strategic hub marketing (aka networking).

When you need new clients, instead of just praying those referrals come through, all you do is teach your intro class (and I’m all about praying, but peeps, you gotta take action too).

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So What Do I Teach In Said Intro Class?

If you want in-depth instructions on how to design the entire intro class based on the cycles of nature (yep, it’s super cool), check out my previous post here. But here, I’ll focus on the content you’re teaching specifically.

First, here are three general tips:

  • Be transparent in your marketing for this class. There is no need to fool people into joining your class so you can sell them something. Heck, you can even tell people beforehand on your sales page, like I do, “In addition to being a content-rich, value-packed class, this is also a great way to get to know me and see if private coaching/my fall course/my cool retreat is right for you.”
  • Let your wisdom sell itself. This is an opportunity for you to provide real value to people and for people to see that you’ve got some street cred. Don’t worry about selling your program. If you design the content of your intro class to naturally lead people to want to explore working more deeply with you, then you don’t need to spend 30 minutes on a sales pitch. Intrigued people will want more.
  • Be real. People want to know YOU. Use an outline and bullet points, not a word-for-word script. Take deep breaths and don’t worry about being perfect.

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How Do I Structure My Intro Class?

In your intro class, you’re basically going to give people a map or overview of what you do to help them solve the problems they have. You’re going to give them great information and useful tips they could take home and start to implement – but they’re not going to figure out all their issues and solve all their problems at this class (that happens in the in-depth workshop or coaching program you’re selling).

You’re simply going to tell them why things are the way they are and how to make them work better according to your point of view and methodology. You’re going to show them what’s possible.

People worry about giving away too much. Here’s what I think: Give it away.

If your students are super smart and precocious, they’ll try to do it themselves (and could probably make some decent progress if they’re disciplined, because after all, you’re going to give them a really good map). Take this as a compliment.

But for most people, they’re going to need some additional help actually implementing. And that’s the point.

If you’re a healer, they’re not going to get healed during this class. If you’re a business coach, they’re not going to start making more money on this call.

They’re going to get a map, and if they dig your map, then they can hire you to help them implement it.

Here’s a format you can use for the main content of your class:

1. Define the Presenting Problem. This is a brief section to acknowledge the problems or challenges the people in your class have and to energetically bring everyone together. It can be just a couple minutes (not like the guy this morning that told me about how awful my life was for 15 minutes). You’re basically saying, “Here’s what I see as the challenge you’re facing. Do y’all vibe with this? Well, OK, glad we’re on the same page here, let’s dive in and figure this out.” One key here is that at this point, you are not analyzing the problem nor telling them what YOU think their real problem is, you’re acknowledging the outward problems or symptoms they are presenting (you’ll get to that analysis later!).

2. Offer the Alternative Possibility. This is another brief couple minutes to clarify that in fact, things can be different, and you’ll be teaching them just how they can be different starting very shortly, yay! This is also known as the “big promise” of your class, or you could also call it an intention. What do you hope people receive by the end of this class? Announce it here so they know where you’re going with all this and can get excited about it (people like to be told what’s gonna happen).

3. Explain Your Point of View on the Situation. Now we get to the meat of it. This section is all about context and credibility. They need to understand where you’re coming from and that you have an important analysis or diagnosis of their situation and challenges and what to do about it. Now you start to tell them what you see as the true cause of their problems.

Your point of view tells people how you see the world, how you see their problems, and how just maybe, they’ve been going about solving them in a way that might not be working so well for them (and this is not to shame and blame them, it’s to help them). Perhaps they’re challenged because society’s set up in a screwy way that doesn’t support it. Or maybe it’s because everyone else in the industry seems to think there’s a simple band-aid approach. Or maybe it’s because they’re getting in their own way. Of course your point of view will be unique.

After you’ve analyzed the problem, it’s a good moment to offer your unique take on the solution, which is different from everyone else’s way of solving the problem. Because if the problem is actually about X (as you stated above), then you’re going to need a different approach to solve it: “Well here’s my approach . . .”

4. Lay Out Your Methodology. This is the heart of your intro class. In this section, you’re going to lay out your map to the solution. This is where you get to share those 3 tips or 5 steps or whatever it is your solution consists of. And I do recommend numbering and naming them, because it’s way easier for people to grasp and remember. In my intro class, I teach the definition of a Natural Business, the 4 Principles of a Natural Business, and the 8 Stages of the Natural Business Cycle in my intro class.

This is likely the longest part of your class. Each of your points may have several sub-points. If you’re doing the class live, you might have people do an exercise, a dyad, or journal. Just make sure your thoughts are organized into an outline in advance. Make a goal for what 3-5 things you most want people to walk away remembering.

5. Weave in Some Stories.  Include a few real-life client stories, examples, or case studies. They should be about people in your target audience specifically. This will help your students relate in a more real way to your work and show them what’s possible. 

After all this, for those who feel a resonance with you, your point of view and methodology, there will be a natural inclination to want to go further and to create this for themselves.

The natural next step is to offer that to them.

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How to Make an Offer (Not a Sales Pitch)

Offer. Just like it sounds. I’m offering you something. You don’t have to take it. I’m just offering it.

With a pitch, you literally need to catch it or jump out of the way so you don’t get hit.

But you do need to let people know what you have available for them; they won’t magically just get in touch because they think you’re cool (well a couple really eager ones might actually, but don’t bank on this).

If you’ve given over solid information, the offer is simple,  all you need to say is something like this:

If this all sounds resonant/compelling/fun/exciting to you, and you want help actually implementing it and making these kinds of changes in your own life, then I’d love to talk to you about it.

I’m sending around a sign-up sheet now so you can choose a time to talk to me if you’d like.

It’s simply a 30-minute, no-pressure consultation call to see if you’re a good fit for my program/retreat/course.

And, I believe you’ll find the call itself very clarifying/powerful/insightful/inspiring, whether or not we end up working together.

Thanks so much!

That’s not so bad, right? You can do that!

So take a crack at your first intro class. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Teach it to 5 people. Just give it a shot.

Want some help? Get in touch.

JulieWolk_Hollyhock15Julie Wolk helps coaches, consultants, and healers grow niche-rooted, burnout-free, blossoming businesses by modeling them after the way nature works. She’s a firm believer that if we step off the hamster wheel, and tune into nature’s rhythms, we can grow more sustainable lives, businesses and even — gasp! — a better world. A lifelong nature freak, she has over 15 years of experience turning vision into reality, and would love to help you create a simpler, more enjoyable, nature-led life and business. You can find her at www.juliewolkcoaching.com.

Guest Post: How to Raise Your Rates Naturally AND Feel Good About It

By Julie Wolk 

Warning: Long, detailed and very useful blog post ahead.

Do you cringe and shake your head at even the thought of raising your rates? And yet you secretly wish you could do it? But then don’t feel like you can? Or should? And so you give up on it, or keep postponing it ’til later?

You are not alone. So let’s talk about it.

Pricing is a complex subject, and one that we could tackle from many angles, but today I’ll focus on how communicating the true value and results of your work is one of the best ways I know to raise your rates and feel GOOD about it.

But before I dive in, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

There’s a good chance (especially if you’re a woman) that you at least sometimes doubt the value of your work. You may even feel like an imposter:

“Who am I to charge this kind of money?! There are so many people who are better than me at this.

You may find reasons even after you’re already earning good money, for why you’re work still isn’t that valuable:

“Oh, they would have done that on their own, they’re so awesome, it wasn’t me, I just encouraged them a bit.”

I’m calling bull*%#@.

Now let’s be clear . . . I am NOT a fan of that whole “charge what you’re worth” thing. I don’t think we should even joke about putting a dollar amount on our self-worth (ugh, how damaging).

But, we do need to charge people for what our services are worth, and more specifically, we need to charge for the results we provide to our clients.

And I have a feeling you are providing some amazing results. Yes?

Now, if you are just starting out, and you truly don’t have a lot of experience, I am NOT saying to start charging “premium prices” right off the bat. You need to do this with integrity, and charging less when you’re just starting off in order to gain experience and testimonials is A-OK.

But let’s say you’ve been at this for a while, and frankly, the clients you have (even if they’re not as many as you want) LOVE the results they’re getting.

But you’re not charging enough, and you know it. Or people have even told you you’re not charging enough, but you’re still scared to pull the trigger.

Ok, so here’s my advice:

Stop Selling Your Time (and Your Modalities) . . . and Start Selling Results

It’s typical for a coach, consultant or healer to charge by the hour for their specific modality or area of expertise (coaching, massage, leadership training, etc).

But there’s an inherent problem with this: you can only charge so much for an hour of work, and there’s only so many hours in a day.

But even more important than that, how much transformation can you actually create in an hour?

Here’s the thing: Along with their full participation, you’re creating change for your clients through your work. It’s not about how much time they spend with you, it’s about the results that happen through your work together.

I heard somebody say once that she was charging by the “a-ha,” not by the hour. Love that.

Everyone comes to you with some desire to change something, am I right?

You help them change it in the process of working with them. Right? And usually, it happens over the course of some time, not in one session. Right? (Not that you can’t do great stuff in a session, but longer-term challenges usually require longer-term solutions).

So when you can clarify your target audience’s problem and the specific results that they can expect when working with you, potential clients are way more likely to dive in and work with you.

Because they did not come to you for your time, they came to you to help them change something in their life.

But the problem is that you’re probably not communicating all that well about how you’re going to help them make that change, and thus you end up feeling timid about charging a higher rate for your work.

BIG TIP #1: Talk About Results

In your marketing copy and in your sales conversations, speak FIRST about your work in terms of the transformations, results, or benefits that people get from your work. Talk less(or later) about how you do things (all your 10 different modalities or whatever), or how many minutes you do them for, and instead address their problems, and speak to how you help them solve them.

For example, you don’t go to a career coach to be deeply heard and held in a safe spacefor 50 minutes (although that is lovely stuff, and you may let them know about that lateron in your marketing copy), you go there to figure out what you want to do with your life.

And, I don’t go to acupuncture to get needles and moxa for 75 minutes, I go there to heal my shoulder pain – it honestly doesn’t matter to me whether he uses moxa or not (what the heck is moxa anyways?). And frankly, I’d be psyched if it took less than 75 minutes!

So especially if your current marketing copy is oriented around your modalities or HOW you deliver your work (“I offer 60 and 90 minute sessions of coaching or consulting”),when you start to orient around results and transformation (I help you find a new career!), people can finally see what your work is really worth to them . . . they can see the VALUE (finally!). And they will pay for it if it’s what they need.


BIG TIP #2: Package Up Your Work and Take Them on a Journey of Change

Since it’s pretty hard to get the aforementioned results in one session, package up your work into a program specifically designed to help your target audience solve a specific problem they come to you for.

And when I say package, I’m not talking about 10 sessions for the price of 8.

I’m talking about designing a robust offering with a set price that includes:

  • A certain amount of sessions over a fixed amount of time, perhaps including an extended/in-depth introductory session,
  • Your availability in between via email or text,
  • Additional guides, trainings, or resources to help them on their journey,
  • And any number of extras that will help them achieve the result they came to you for.

This type of package costs more than the individual sessions, because it provides better results. You are taking them on a journey of change.

When you package up your work into a program that focuses on getting a particular result for a client, you can raise your prices and feel good about it. Why?

Bottom line, you will get more and better results for your clients.

As you know, real change takes time. Imagine having three or six months to work your magic. You think you would feel more confident about getting results for people? You think you would get more done? Plus, packages support you to offer your best because they allow you to relax into your craft, instead of worrying that each session be a total revolution for your client (so much pressure!).

Not to mention all the other benefits of offering packages including the fact that you have to do less marketing because you need way fewer clients to make a good living.

How To Set Your Initial Fee

Ok, so let’s say you’ve got this shiny new package now (and if you don’t already have one, you can start super simply, just as I outlined above).

And, you may be afraid to put a big price tag on it. I hear you. It’s very important to be able to get the words out of your mouth without choking when you’re talking to a potential client.

It has to feel good in your gut.

So we’ll do a gut check.

But first . . . find the number that equals the cost of the sessions you are offering added together (based on your current rate), plus about 20-25%. So if you usually charge $125/session, and your package is 8 sessions over two months, your minimum charge for the package would be $1200.

Now for the gut check. You can do this as a guided visualization:

Imagine someone handing you a check for the package they are about to begin with you. There’s a number written on that check . . . what is it? Does that number resonate with you? How does it feel as you accept the check? If it feels right, great! But see if you can make the number a little higher and still feel good. Visualize another $100 or $500 added to that number. If it feels uncomfortable, try to notice whether it’s a good edge . . . bold, but right-on, or if it truly feels too high for where you’re currently at in your business journey. Do you need to lower it a bit? Add a little more? Breathe into each number you try until you find the one that feels just right (kind of like Goldilocks). What’s your number?

A Fun and Organic Way to Raise Your Fee

If you know me at all, you know that I am all about an evolutionary, natural approach to business.

We are constantly learning, adapting, growing, changing, and putting something new out there and going ‘round the cycle again. Business (and life) is not linear!

But most of us have gotten stuck at least once because we think that if we decide that something is a particular way, then it’s that way forever.

The reality is that there’s always room for evolution and change. Nothing’s permanent.

You can change your price every single time you offer your package if you want. Really?!

Yes, really. That’s what I did when I first started my business, I swear.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Do another gut check. Dream into the price you ultimately would LOVE to receive for your package, even if it’s a ways off until you believe you can actually charge that much. Let’s call it $1800.
  2. Settle on your first price (using the method above). Let’s call it $1200.
  3. On your next consultation call, offer your new package at $1200 (remember, this is a number that feels good in your gut NOW so it should not get stuck in your throat).
  4. As soon as you get a new client at the initial rate, commit to raising your rate a little bit. Maybe it’s $100 more for the next client. It gets easier after someone says YES, trust me.
  5. Or, depending on how much experience you have, you may also decide to do three (or whatever number) packages at the $1200 rate, and then up your price by $100.
  6. Eventually, you’ll get to $1800, and it will feel awesome.
  7. And of course, you can always offer payment plans.

It’s that simple.

It might take a year to get there, but you’ll slowly get more and more comfortable asking for a higher rate . . .

  • As people say YES to your package,
  • As you work with more people and gain experience and get better at what you do,
  • When you’ve tweaked your package and added more cool stuff to make it even more effective,
  • As you witness the results that more and more of your clients are getting,
  • And as they write the testimonials to prove it.

You can do this. Start small and go for it.

Just remember, your expertise at helping people solve their problems is VALUABLE.

JulieWolk_Hollyhock15Julie Wolk is a business coach who helps hard-working  consultants, coaches and healers slow down and build super-streamlined, burnout-free businesses by modelling them after the way nature works.  For 15 years she’s guided talented visionaries to manifest the success and impact they desire. People love her down-to-earth approach and that she takes into account the uniqueness of each person she works with. juliewolkcoaching.com

Guest Post: Sliding Scale 2.0 – No One Left Out

By Josh Van Vliet, Director of Community, Academy for Coaching Excellence

1000px-Emblem-scales.svgI recently read a guest blog post by Peter Rubin about Privilege-Based Pricing here on the Marketing for Hippies blog (if you didn’t see it, it’s great – go check it out here). In it, Peter shares about this interesting and innovative way that businesses can help address social inequality through pricing structure.

Reading this, I got really excited, because at the Academy for Coaching Excellence, my teammates and I have thought a lot about this too.

At the heart of it, our work is about building a community, a world, where everyone is supported 100% and no one is left out.

Our contribution to that vision is to provide coaching and coaching skills training to people, so they can bring clarity, focus, ease, and grace to their own life, and empower others to do that as leaders or professional coaches. We offer programs for personal and professional leadership development, as well as for professional coaching certification.

In these times of widening inequality and deep uncertainty, we as a business saw that we have a critical opportunity to be a leader in our profession and our society.

So we’ve been asking ourselves:

How do we price our services to reflect our stand for creating a world where everyone is supported 100%, and no one is left out?

Given the fact that different people have different access to resources, often due to factors outside of their control (such as class, race, socioeconomic status, ability, and gender), how do we include everyone, as much as possible?

. . . And run a sustainable, profitable business at the same time?

Enter the sliding scale.

So how did you arrive at this sliding scale?

We started by creating a scholarship fund.

It helped, but it took a lot of energy to run, because it relied on us ultimately making a judgment about how much scholarship to offer someone.

On top of that, the application was enough of a barrier to entry that some people wouldn’t bother applying, or felt like they didn’t “deserve” a scholarship.

We also offered folks resources, coaching, and guidance on how to successfully crowdfund some or all of their tuition for the course.

We’ve supported people to collectively raise over $50,000 to cover course tuition, travel, and other costs, and it’s helped make it possible for many people to attend who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to attend.

And, we know that this is only part of the equation.

So we looked around to see what other people are doing, and discovered a few different organizations using a tiered sliding scale approach (like the Rockwood Leadership Institute).

How does your sliding scale work?

Here’s how we describe it on our website:

We stand for a world where everyone is supported 100% and no one is left out, and our pricing reflects that vision. Our sliding scale empowers people to participate who could not otherwise do so, and enables us to offer our life-changing work where it can do the greatest good.

We use an honour system, and don’t require you to disclose your income. We also honour that both expenses and income factor into your situation, so we ask that you discern the price truly right for you — whether that is below or above your suggested tier.

So that our work serves those who could not otherwise afford it, please invest the amount that is a “stretch” but not a hardship, factoring in your access to outside support (i.e. family and/or fundraising). Referring to the scale below, ask yourself:

  1. What investment level would be comfortable for me?
  2. What level would be a “stretch” but not a hardship — truthfully factoring in my access to outside support?
  3. Am I willing to register at that level?

This is an example of our sliding scale, for the Thriving Changemaker Intensive, our foundational 4-day course:

Gross Annual

Household Income

. . . OR Organizational Budget

(if your organization funds you)

Suggested

Investment

$90,000+$10,000,000+$3,000
$70,000 – $89,999$4,000,000 – $9,999,999$2,500
$50,000 – $69,999$1,000,000 – $3,999,999$2,000
$25,000 – $49,999$0 – $999,999$1,500
$0 – $24,999Not available$1,000


What’s the response been so far?

Virtually entirely and overwhelmingly very positive. To give you a sense of what we’ve heard, here’s what one person wrote to us in response:

“This helps tremendously – financially, psychologically, spiritually – and actually brought tears to my eyes. Your decision to do this feels within me like a synching in alignment with my intentions and values. Thank you for being the change for social change with your sliding scale offer for The Thriving Changemaker Intensive.”

I think the only issue so far has been that it makes registration a bit more involved, especially for someone who has never experienced a sliding scale like this before.

A big part of the work for us has been to refine the way we communicate this approach, so that it’s as simple and clear as possible.

And, on the other hand, it has made “the money conversation” infinitely more simple, because people understand that A) this is an incredibly valuable program we offer, and B) they are empowered to simply pay at the level that is authentic and appropriate to their situation.

Won’t people just pay the lowest price?

It turns out they don’t. We’ve had people register at every tier — including those who pay at the highest tiers and tell us that they are truly glad to do so, because they are so aligned with our mission of inclusion and accessibility.

What have you learned about effective sliding scales?

In order to make a sliding scale work, you must:

  • Effectively communicate the value of the offering. A sliding scale sometimes becomes a way to handle the worry “no one is going to pay me for this” (of course, I NEVER did this in my private coaching practice when I was getting started…wink wink). If you’re not enrolled in the value you are going to get from whatever the service or program is, it makes sense that you wouldn’t pay a whole lot for it.
  • Effectively communicate your values. If you share why you’re doing it, and how their choice impacts others, it takes it out of the context of “let me get the best deal” and puts in the context of being a part of a community. It gives meaning to what they are paying, beyond a simple exchange of money for services.
  • Give people a clear and simple way to decide what to pay. When we’re confused, we don’t take action. If you have no idea how to choose what to pay for something, you’re more likely to either a) not sign up, or b) pay whatever’s easiest, which will be related to whatever reference points you’ve got, such as the low end of a sliding scale (or whatever you make up, if you have don’t have any reference point).

How is it fair to “force” some people to pay more than others?

The tiers we offer are simply a suggestion. We ask that each person see for themselves what the authentic rate is. We know that there are more factors than just annual income that determine a person’s ability to pay. The truth is, there’s no way we could determine the authentic price tier for someone. What we can do is give people some simple guidelines for how to make their choice, and empower them to do it.

What have you learned?

Trust people.  One of the principles of our work is that people have their own answers. They really do know what’s authentic for them to pay, what’s aligned with who they are, and what they value. And when you give them the choice, plus the context in which they are making that choice, they will generally choose to pay what they can authentically afford.

An appropriately-priced sliding scale helps flatten the “money conversation.” One of the biggest worries people have when considering joining a course or program is “I don’t have the money.” And for some, that may truly still be the case. We know this system isn’t perfect, and there are some people for whom even our lowest tier is out of reach. But for many, the conversation becomes instead: Is this the right thing for me right now? And if they see that it is, money is much less of a concern. Indeed, some people have been very happy to pay more, knowing that it helps others attend who otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

It looks like pricing inclusivity is good for business. Over the short time we’ve been experimenting with this (six months now), we’ve increased the number of people we’re serving, AND we’ve seen a slight increase in the average price paid per participant. Time will tell if this continues to hold true, but we’ve been thrilled with the results and the response so far.

How can people learn more about your work?

Visit our website: acecoachtraining.com, where you can find free resources, like our online training Hope in Action: Find Your Center and Empower Your Purpose in Times of Trouble, and learn more about the Thriving Changemaker Intensive, our foundational in-person course in Sacramento, California.

JoshVanVlietJosh Van Vliet leads the creation, implementation, and evaluation of programs at the Academy for Coaching Excellence. He is a professional coach, dancer, teacher, and musician, as well as social entrepreneurship coach, and trainer for Move The Crowd. Josh has taught swing and blues dancing; worked as a case manager with Gilead Community Services supporting clients with mental illness to live independently; and led movement classes for kids in schools through Recess Rocks. acecoachtraining.com

Guest Post: How to Teach a Class to Get New Clients . . . Based on the Cycles of Nature

natural-business-cycle-revised-4-16-for-9-6-16-blog-postGuest Post by Julie Wolk 

Today I’m going to teach you a very practical marketing skill that I love and use regularly in my own business: teaching a free or low-cost intro class that gives people a taste of you and your offering so they can’t wait to work with you.

And get ready – it’s a long post, but it will walk you through all the steps you need to design a really rocking class.

If you have something interesting to teach and you enjoy teaching (or you’re willing to push yourself a bit and put your gifts out there, nudge-nudge), this is one of the easiest ways to get new clients.

What’s unique about what I’ll show you here is that it’s a nature-based model for teaching and learning. It will give you the confidence to deliver an effective class, and have your students feel deeply held in a strong, interactive, inspiring container… that feels totally natural, and not awkward.

There are two main problems that we’re going to try and circumvent here:

  1. Many of you have something to teach but you don’t necessarily have facilitation experience or a format to follow. This means that even if you have amazing brilliance and wisdom, people can get lost or bored, and worse yet, if you don’t have a plan for how to help people take the next step, you’ve lost a huge opportunity to actually get new clients after teaching your class.
  2. The other problem is that there is a lot of noise out there – and a heckuvalotta “free webinars.” And many of them are super low on content and super high on pushy, annoying selling. That’s not what we’re going for here.

What we are going for is you sharing your gifts with people in an inspiring way so that no hard sell is needed, giving people an distinct invitation to go deeper and apply what they’ve learned by working with you, and offering people a ton of value whether they end up working with you or not.

Some Logistics Before We Start

  1. You can do this live, on the phone, or via webinar. The format is similar for all, but here I’ll walk you through teaching a LIVE two-hour course, and then I’ll give you some simple tweaks at the end if you want to take it online.
  2. I’m not giving exact timing for each stage because it can vary, but for a two-hour live class, assume the BLOSSOM stage is one hour, and all the other stages together are one hour. 

Choosing a Topic for Your Class

Your class needs to give people a taste of your work and make them excited to learn more. It should be designed directly to solve a problem or need that your specific target audience has. So, if you’re not clear on your niche and your target audience’s biggest challenges, it will be hard to pick what your class is about.

A solid intro class gives an overview or map of your entire process. It’s different from a workshop where you hone in on techniques and walk away having created something new. Instead, you’re largely telling people how to do something in an intro class, but they’re not actually DOING it (that happens in the course or package you’ll offer at the end of the intro class).

For example, I teach a class called “Tune into Nature to Grow a Business You Love.” It gives an overview of my entire philosophy of business, the 4 Principles of a Natural Business, and the 8 Stages of the Natural Business Cycle. It answers my clients’ yearning for a clear structure for how business works that also feels natural and easeful.

Just remember, you want the people who show up at your class to be your ideal clients, because you are going to invite them to work with you at the end of the class. In other words, your package or course will help them implement the map you teach.

Finally, you only need ONE CLASS! I teach the same class over and over again. Of course I refine and tweak it over time, and it changes and gets better. But there is no reason to reinvent the wheel here. That takes more time for you and confuses your message. Keep it simple!

A Nature-Based Model for Learning

You can see a picture of the Natural Business Cycle above (and if you’re curious about it, just go here on my website).

The Natural Business Cycle is based on an incredibly inspiring model created by Jon Young called the 8 Shields Model that I’ve studied and implemented for years in a variety of contexts. What I’m teaching you today is also based on this model. (If you’re intrigued about learning how to build healthy, earth-based culture and community by teaching people how to reconnect to nature using this model, I highly encourage you to check out the 8 Shields Institute).

This model basically posits that there is a natural learning process that tracks the natural cycles.So here we go! You can literally lay your class out according to the eight stages outlined below.

There’s a spot at the end of each stage for you to fill in the blanks and prepare YOUR class.

Stage 1: SEED

This is the very beginning. And SEEDS are magical, right? So much potential! So we begin with a moment of gratitude, a blessing, a moment of silence, a deep breath, or a simple “Welcome and thank you for being here!” (depending on the vibe of your work and the tone you want to set).

After saying thanks, it’s the perfect time to set an intention for your class. Again, this can feel very spiritual, or it can be super practical. The point is that while we are in the place of the SEED, or pre-birth, we set the tone for the entire class. Here’s what I say in the SEED stage of the class that I often teach:

My intention for our time together is that we take time out for the next two hours from this sped-up world to slow down, take a deep breath, and remember that we humans are actually of the earth! We ARE nature, and everything natural has a cycle, including our businesses.
 
If you like, this is also a good time to state your vision, the why behind your work, or the stand you are taking with your work.
 
Your Turn:

  1. What is the opening moment going to be like for your class?
  2. What’s your intention for this class?
  3. Why do you do this work? Why is it important?

Stage 2: ROOTS

Now that everyone has arrived and is present, there is the formal orientation or introduction to the class.  It’s more logistical in nature than the SEED stage. People like knowing what’s going to happen, and you want to tell them early on so they know what to expect. This helps them feel ROOTED and ready to grow and learn.

So here, you’re going to let them know you understand why they’re here by identifying some of the issues or challenges they might be showing up with. Then you’ll tell them what they’re going to learn in the class and how you aim to help them solve those problems.

Then, you can give them the brief agenda for the class: “After this introduction, we’ll do a warm-up exercise, then I’ll teach you about X, Y, Z, then we’ll have small group discussions, a Q and A session, and then at the very end I’ll let you know how you can work with me if you’d like to.”

Then you’ll introduce yourself. Tell your story… how does your experience relate to the content you are teaching them today? Use your introduction as a teaching moment. People want to get to know you, and this is your chance. Take a few minutes for this.

Then, if you’re in a live class and there aren’t too many people, I recommend going around the room and having each person introduce themselves and telling one small piece of info about themselves (there will be more time for people to get acquainted in the next stage).

Finally, tell people any logistics they need to know about: the bathroom is down the hall, etc.

Your Turn:

  1. What types of challenges might your students be experiencing if they showed up at your class today?
  2. What do you aim for them to learn today that will help with those challenges?
  3. What’s your brief agenda for the class?
  4. What’s your personal story?
  5. What’s the intro question for your students?
  6. Any logistics to tell them about?

Stage 3: SPROUT

It’s icebreaker time. The SPROUT is full of energy, and this is the moment to take advantage of the excitement in the room and get people interested in learning… about themselves, each other, and the subject matter.

You could do any number of activities here, from movement games to a simple sharing circle, but I’ll give you one activity that combines physical movement (great for getting people energized), getting to know the people in the room, and helping people hone in on their own intention for being there so they get the most out of the class.

Here’s how it works:

  • Have everyone stand up and wander around the room. If you’re feeling it, you can ask them to act in a particular way. For example, I’ll have people pick their favorite season or animal and walk around the room in that style. It’s goofy and loosens people up.
  • After a few moments, say “stop” and have people stand in front of the person closest to them (so they make pairs).
  • Tell them to ask their partner the following question and then switch. Give them each one minute to speak, and time them (tell them when to switch partners): What’s your name and what drew you here tonight?
  • Then have them walk around again as another animal or season (or whatever!) and have them stop in front of a new person and ask a new question: What’s your name and what do you hope to get out of the class this evening?
  • Do this one more time and ask a third question. I’ll let you choose this one. Make it something specific to why they’re here for your particular class.  
  • Round everyone up and have them sit down again.

Your Turn:

  1. What ice-breaker will you do?
  2. If you do the one above, what are your three questions?

Stage 4: BLOSSOM

Ok, here’s the part you’ve been waiting for. The part you thought was the whole class, but really it’s just this one part: the actual content of the class! Here you get to BLOSSOM and really share your beautiful gifts. This stage of the cycle parallels the heat of summer and the mid-day sun… you’ll put out a lot of good energy in this stage.

Of course, this IS an important stage, but it’s important to note that this is just ONE aspect of the class, and all those other parts are really important to having everyone feel held in a natural, holistic process.

So how do we give over the content in the most effective way?

First, you need to give people the context and framework for what you’re teaching. Don’t assume they know what’s in your head. Even if it seems basic to you, start at the beginning and give an overview of what you’re teaching before diving into the details. Make sure they understand why it’s so important too. If you’ve done this already in the SEED and SPROUT stages, great. No need to belabor it.  

Now, I want you to choose three (ish) things you want people to learn in the class. It might be, “Three Uncommon Ways to Heal Anxiety Naturally,” or “Three Mistakes People Make When Choosing a Niche.” (PS – This can also be the title of your class!). Map out the whole class, thinking in headlines, bullet points, and simple visual models. And I totally didn’t believe this when I was first started teaching, but if you can group your teachings into threes, people are much more likely to remember them. Further sub-divide each point into threes as well if possible.

A really tight way to deliver each of your teaching points is to first outline the problem, then the solution you are offering through your approach, and finally, the outcome they can expect if they do it.

Here are three pitfalls to watch out for:

  • Rushing and running out of time. Know that if your class is two hours long, the BLOSSOM stage will be an hour or less. And it will go fast. Which leads to…
  • Teaching too much (less is more). Teachers always try to cram way too much into that hour. Your students get oversaturated more quickly than you think, so it’s best to keep it simple. After you make a first draft, go back through and cut it down. What is essential to teach them? Cut out anything that’s not. Ask a friend if you need help with this.
  • Worrying about perfection and memorizing. The most important thing is that you to show up as YOU, feeling as relaxed and natural as possible. This is way more important than the perfect words. And this goes for the whole class, not just this section.

Your Turn:

  1. What is the context, framework or philosophy behind what you’re teaching?
  2. What three things do you want to make sure people learn during this class?
  3. What is the overview or outline of your class?
  4. Fill in all your bulleted teaching points (remember the rule of threes).
  5. For each main teaching point, can you name the problem people are facing, how your approach could help them, and what could happen for them if they do it?
  6. Time it, and then cut some out (it will take longer to teach in person than practicing alone).

Stage 5: POLLINATE

Whew, that was a lot! Now it’s time for the POLLINATION stage, the moment of conception. In the cycle, it’s actually a pause, a time to let our bodies catch up to our brains and soak up all the wisdom you’ve just imparted, so we can start to integrate it. So what does this look like in practice?

In a daylong class or a retreat, it’s a physical break: time for a walk, going to the bathroom, a meal or snack and conversation. During a short class like this one, I simply have people stand up and take a stretch break, or take a few intentional deep breaths as I say, “Well, that was a lot of information, let’s take a few deep breaths and let that all sink in!”

We need time to slow down and start to integrate and embody our learning. Give people a moment for this. The rest of the cycle will focus on further integration of the learning.

Your Turn:

  1. How will you hold this pause for integration in your class?
  2. What can you do for yourself at this moment to make sure you take a pause (hint, it’s a great time to take a sip of tea and take a deep breath!)?

Stage 6: FRUIT

It’s time now to for people to gather together and harvest the FRUITS of their labors. Basically, you’ll divide people into small groups so they can explore how to apply what they’ve learned to their own lives. And people LOVE this part… connecting and sharing and talking about themselves? What fun! And, it’s where the real learning happens. I like to take about 15 minutes for this section (longer if possible).

On a logistical level, you need to hold this tightly. Make sure you have a timer and a sound-making device (or a loud voice), and don’t be shy to walk around the room and let people know when it’s time for the next person to speak. Everyone needs a turn, and you need to facilitate this.

Below are my favorite questions to ask to help carry the work forward (but you can also come up with ones that are specific to what you’re teaching).

Three Good Questions to Ask:

  • What lit you up about what you just learned? (or, what’s an epiphany you had about your own life/business?)
  • What’s something you might change about how you’ve been doing things after this class?
  • What’s a first action step you will commit to taking after this class?

Your Turn:

  1. What two to three questions will you ask people in order help them apply what you’ve taught to their own lives?
  2. What supplies do you need to bring to facilitate this stage?

Stage 7: NOURISH

In the NOURISH stage, you as the teacher get to draw out lessons from your students experiences to help them more deeply embody the learning for themselves. Just like a fruit nourishes our bodies or the soil, knowledge and wisdom nourish our minds and souls.

On a practical level, it’s time to share lessons from their small groups with the whole class and for the Q and A session.

So first, ask a few people to briefly share a little fruit, or lesson, from their small group discussions. Don’t skip this part! It is so inspiring for everyone in the class to hear what people are actually gaining from your class. And it sells your work BIG TIME (without you saying a thing) when people in the class get to hear everyone’s amazing epiphanies. Feel free to augment these learnings by responding or adding to them.

Then it’s time for Q and A:

Three tips for a lively Q and A session that doesn’t get out of hand:

  • Ask everyone to take a moment and write down a question they have. Let them know how much time there is for Q and A, and manage their expectations by asking them to come up with a concise question so that everyone can have a chance if they want it. (Then, if someone is rambling on and on, it’s easier to interrupt them and ask them to keep it short).
  • Try to make each person’s question relevant to the whole group by spotting lessons, creating teaching moments around them, and showing people how one person’s issue or challenge may actually be relevant to others. (If someone has a very specific or logistical question that will take a long time to answer and isn’t very relevant to others, invite them to come up talk to you after class).
  • Stick to time. Q and A sessions have the potential to get really boring. Ten or 15 minutes is generally enough in a two-hour class. If there are many more questions, stay late and talk to people AFTER you make your offer and close the class in the next stage.

Your Turn:

  1. Think about what people might come back from their small groups with and practice responding to some of their discoveries.
  2. Think about questions that people might ask in the Q and A session and practice responding to these questions. 

Stage 8: DORMANCY

We’re coming to the end of the class, the DORMANCY stage – a place of resting in the fertile soil that’s been created during this process.

This stage is not only about rest, it’s also about giving the space and the opportunity for new inspiration to come in. It’s the perfect time to let people know how they can work with you going forward.

And make no mistake: this is actually the most important part of your class (if you truly want to get more clients through teaching it). So pay close attention to the steps you need to take here to make sure that the people you are meant to work with have the opportunity to do so.

How to Make an Effective Invitation to Work With You:

  • I open this stage with a statement something like this: I covered a lot of content on this call, and I know that actually implementing it is a whole other story. And the reality is that for most people, actually implementing all this stuff is unlikely without support. And yet with support, it can make things so much more (your outcome here). And THAT is why I do (your type of program) with people.
  • If you are offering one-on-one work or a group program that requires a consultation to join, the simplest invitation is to sign people up for a free consultation right now, so that’s what we’ll focus on here.
    • First tell them the benefits they will get out of the consultation itself (not the whole program!), how and why it’s helpful for people. Think outcomes. Even though it’s free doesn’t mean they’ll take the time to do it.
    • Then tell them the details about how they sign up for it (you’ll be sending around a sign-up sheet, see below).
    • You don’t need to tell them all the details of your program offering during the class if they are going to have a free consult with you anyways.
  • If you are offering a course or something else that they can purchase on the spot or via your website (without a consultation), you’ll need more time to explain all the benefits of it and then the details and logistics. This is a slightly different strategy and will need to be a topic of another blog post!
  • Now, pass around a physical sign-up form for your free consultation. I actually put dates and times right on there and have people put their name, email and phone number in a time slot (and after the class, follow up with each person to confirm via email!).
  • Bonus tip: If for some crazy reason you don’t already have everyone’s email address from when they signed up for the class, make sure you get them at the end of the class. Many people will NOT sign up for free consultations, but you will still be able to add them to your email list so they can get to know you through your newsletters over time and reach out to you when they are ready (this is how you grow your tribe!).

Your Turn:

  1. What is your opening statement for this stage (feel free to lift mine)?
  2. What are you inviting people into at the end of your class? If it’s a free consultation, what is the program or package you are offering in that consultation?
  3. What benefits do people get out of your free consultation?
  4. How do people sign up for your free consultation?
  5. What forms do you need to create to pass around during this time?
  6. What is your follow-up plan for people who sign up for free consults? What about for people who don’t sign up for free consults?

And . . . Back to the Beginning!

I told you it’s a cycle. Here we have another ceremonial SEED at the moment of transition: a simple and brief “thank you for being here” (or a mind-altering closing meditation, whatever works for your business).

And now you’ve planted the SEED with your students for their next evolution around the wheel.

And finally, tweaks for taking your class to the phone or online:

  1. First, you don’t need to do a “webinar,” per se, especially if you are intimidated by the technology. Start with a regular old conference call line. Easy and free!
  2. Phone and online classes are better at 60-75 minutes. Engagement is much harder when people are alone with their computers and not in a room with other people.
  3. Skip the icebreaker in SPROUT, but do announce people’s names as they arrive if you have that ability tech-wise. In place of the icebreaker, I simply use an energizing statement: “Alright everyone, you ready to dive in? I’m excited to start!”
  4. I teach the BLOSSOM stage all the way through with no Q and A if I’m online and hold all questions until the Q and A section. Q and A throughout a call can feel disjointed (it can live too, and it’s important to maintain a balance of you teaching, but also not ignoring important questions).
  5. One way to add some interactivity on a call is to give people 15-20 seconds to journal or think about a question you ask. So at least they are interacting with the material, even if they’re not interacting with another person.
  6. The POLLINATION moment can literally be a deep breath together to let the information sink in.
  7. When you are doing anything interactive on a call or online, you want to tightly facilitate it. Some technology helps a lot with this! I use technology where people can raise their hands with their keypads and I call on them, or they can type in questions. I love MaestroConference as far as phone technology goes.
  8. During your offer, on the call, direct people to your consult application page or scheduling tool and encourage them to sign up right now for a free session with you. You can let them know you have XX spots this week for consultations to give it a little urgency. 
  9. Do the Q and A after you make the offer. This is because many people will drop off the call as soon as you’re done teaching and not stick around for Q and A. You want them to hear the offer, and then they can stick around and ask questions if they have them.

I hope this post was helpful!

It’s such a joy to teach and learn in this model, and I’ve found it very effective in my business as well.

 

Julie Wolk is a business coach comWebsite-Closed Smilemitted to helping purposeful entrepreneurs slow down and tune into nature and themselves to find the clarity, strategy and systems to grow profitable businesses they truly love and enjoy! For 15 years she’s guided talented visionaries to manifest the success and impact they desire. People love her down-to-earth approach and that she takes into account the uniqueness of each person she works with. Find out more about Julie and her work here: juliewolkcoaching.com

Play the Long Game with Your Sales Copy (and get more clients)

Guest Post by Ling Wong

How do you feel when you come across pushy sales pages with big red headlines, yellow highlighters and blinking arrows pointing to the “buy now” buttons?

(You know what I’m talking about . . . the “if you don’t buy you’re an idiot” kind of energy.)

40544993 - abstract geometric background. abstract geometric pattern on green background.A one-way conversation? A trapped audience to a monologue by a narcissist? Being yelled at? Being talked down to? A 7-year-old who can’t make a sound decision on her own?

You wonder if these “persuasion mechanisms” are truly effective. You surely don’t like being talked to that way . . .

Then you look around and see all those “internet marketers” who gloat about 6 or 7-figure launches using these tactics. Hmm, they must be effective, right?

(What they didn’t tell you is the refund rate, and the burn and churn . . .)

We’ve been told to twist the knife, add salt, and make the pain more urgent than a tornado warning; to pull the triggers of fears and scarcity; to stir up a sense of inadequacy; to make the potential buyers feel like crap.

We’ve been told that people are indecisive. They don’t understand their problems. We need to push them into making a decision we *think* is the best for them. (What a big ego!)

Deploying some sneaky “persuasion” techniques may get you one sale, but it’s not going to win you friends.

How many “info products” are sitting on your hard drive collecting dust because you were pressured into purchasing by sales materials that pulled some fears and scarcity triggers?

How does that make you feel? If you didn’t use the product because it doesn’t resonate with you, then you didn’t get results. Would you go back to the same business to buy more stuff?

Moreover, if you had a bad experience with these high-pressure tactics, you probably don’t believe in them whole-heartedly.

If you don’t have 120% conviction in what you say and do, how can you expect others to be convinced?

Now you’re Tad’s peeps, I assume you’re not selling some once-and-done cantaloupe widget to make a quick buck.

“Selling” deep, transformational work requires that we build trust and credibility with our community. It’s about connection and relationship.

It’s a long game. Pushy burn-and-churn tactics won’t get you there.

On top of that, I want to think my peeps aren’t stupid.

I prefer to give my clients some credit and trust that they have the ability make a decision that best serve their interest.

Let’s start by changing the assumption:

What if indecisiveness is NOT our nature?

What if indecisiveness is our reaction to what’s presented to us?

What if indecisiveness is an indication of insufficient relevant information?

What if indecisiveness is just one way of saying “I’m not fully convinced about the value of the product or service, and its relevance to my circumstances”?

Would you make a major decision without first gathering information and educating yourself on the subject matter?

Imagine you’re a caveman and you want to grind up some mammoth meat… Someone tries to sell you a food processor without any context, explanation or demo. You scratch your head and continue to pound the meat with a stone.

Sure, the food processor is the right tool that’ll give you faster and better results. But if you couldn’t link the problem with the solution, the solution is not relevant from your perspective.

I know, we’re all complaining about “information overload” and you’d wonder if feeding people more information is going to make them buy.

The answer is, yes and no.

No – they don’t need more “raw data” that’ll further confuse the hell out of them and throw them into analysis-paralysis.

Yes – they need a curated, logically presented set of information that links their problem to a proposed solution, from a perspective that resonates with their worldview.

This is particularly important if you’re delivering “deep” benefits and profound transformations.

You’ve to connect the “symptoms” – what triggers your potential clients to look for a solution and therefore land on your materials – with your services.

There are probably some intermediate steps between their complaining about the problems, to understanding the cause of their challenges, to connecting their problems to your modality.

They may need to be “initiated” into your world, learn a few new terms or concepts to interpret and articulate their challenges, before they can fully grasp the value and transformation you deliver.

Bridging this “knowledge gap” can make your sales materials more convincing while winning hearts and minds without being “pushy.”

Essentially, you’re incorporating the premise of Inbound and content marketing into the sales materials with a laser focus on connecting the dots between the symptoms and the solution (aka what you’re selling.)

It doesn’t have to be complicated. A few paragraphs of “educational” content on your sales page can make a world of a difference.

While providing valuable information, your content should answer these questions:

What do your readers need to know about themselves/their problems/you/your approach etc. before they can decide, one way or the other, whether your products and services are of value to them?

Is there any misconception or disinformation you need to address, so they’d stop shooting in the dark and get support from an expert (you)? 

Do you need to alleviate any fear about following a new process or around the changes working with you may cause?

How can you help them fill in the blanks and make a decision so everyone can move on? (Loose ends = energy drains, no bueno. 

Remember, “decision” can mean a yes, or a no. We’re presenting one side of the story to trick people into saying yes. Our responsibility is to help them take the action that best serves them at this moment in time.

Here’re a few extra tips when writing this content:

  • Keep it short, simple and focused. Don’t navel-gaze, don’t launch into your entire 6-years of Reiki training or turn it into a self-gratuitous spiel on gluten-free eating. Make sure everything contributes to helping the readers make an informed decision. (Informed decision = less buyers’ remorse = less refund + happier customers).
  • Understand where your audience is in relation to your area of expertise. E.g. you don’t have to dumb down the content if your ideal audience already has some basic knowledge. They’d think your products or services are not for them if your content is too “basic.” Educational content doesn’t mean beginner level knowledge. You could be addressing misconception or highlighting what they don’t know, which leads to poor or inconsistent results.
  • Incorporate your own point-of-view and convictions – they probably resonate with those of your ideal clients’. We all develop shorthand and make assumptions about the world based on our beliefs and experiences. If you could tap into them and use them as a common starting point, then you don’t have to start from zero and build more resonance right off the bat.
  • Tap into your ideal audience’s identity and inkling. Speak to an identity they’re already aspired to. Affirm what they believe to be true (of course, only if it’s in alignment with your approach,) rather than trying to strong-arm them into being a different person in just a few paragraphs (hint: you’d lose.)

If you ever found transitioning from talking about the readers’ pain to talking about your products or services to be somewhat awkward, I’ve good news for you.

This piece of educational content is also great material to transition from the “I hear you and I identify with you” piece to “here is my stuff – benefits and features” portion of the sales copy.

It changes the energy behind the conversation to one of providing value. You’ll feel good about it. When you feel good about how you sell, you sell more because you’re putting the right energy behind the act of “selling.”

Contact Ling Wong at: ling (at) business-soulwork (dot) com

Ling Wongimg_3672-199x300 : Intuitive Brainiac | Copywriting Alchemist. Through her unique blend of Business + Marketing coaching/consulting with a Mindset + Psychic Twist, she helps the maverick-preneurs uncover, articulate & transform their WHY into content that connects, resonates and converts – by way of an intuitive yet rigorous iterative process born out of her Harvard Design School training and 10 years experience in the online marketing industry.  

Get her brand new WEBSITE COPY ALCHEMY video here.