Facing the Sting: Why Solopreneurs are destined to stay that way forever

I just found my way to a blog post that stopped me dead in my tracks and lit my bottlerocket to the moon.  This guy is bananas – as a bit of a marketing snob and wordsmither myself, I’m mesmerized by Peter Shallard’s (@PeterShallard) poignant way of communicating the honest-to-God truth about what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur.

In his post, “The Truth – Why Solopreneurs are destined to stay that way forever,” Peter cuts right to the soul of what is keeping so many independent professionals stuck.

Here’s a brief intro to what Peter says about the destiny of solopreneurs:

Most solopreneurs have dreams or vague plans to one day make it to the big time. A proper company and staff to boot. Whether it’s an in-house team or outsourced global workforce, every business owner dreams of growing the family, even if only to a single virtual assistant.

Yet such dreams are almost never realized.

Despite the lower-than-ever cost of bringing outsource talent onboard, entrepreneurs still struggle more than ever to actually getting around to doing it.

I have a nose for self-sabotage and something here reeks of internal conflict! This post explains why you still haven’t hired that person you know you should. Hint: It’s all in your head.

“I just can’t let go”

Famous last words of the archetypal solopreneur who endlessly procrastinates hiring the help they need.

I want to just copy the whole freaking post and paste it here for you to read.

My experience hiring my first virtual assistant

I remember when I hired my first VA three years ago.  I was kinda terrified, not gonna lie.  I mean, looking back, it wasn’t a big deal, but it felt like a HUGE commitment to siphon off part of my cashflow every month to another resource, in spite of my being very clear that I needed to get leverage, stat, if I was going to keep growing my business.

I’ve seen my clients grapple with this over-and-over again.  Truthfully, the reason I have a marketing team that executes booking / publicity, marketing administration and social media marketing for our clients is because the thought of trying to find a qualified, solid resource to execute on their strategy (once they’ve defined it through my Marketing Gameplan program) was intimidating and overwhelming to them… and I saw them struggling once they hired someone because they didn’t know how to bring out the best in that resource.

Make the shift from solopreneur to entrepreneur

I love how Peter closes out his post, with a charge to all “solopreneurs” to get about the business of breaking through to greater possibility and fulfillment as an entrepreneur.  Remember our charge: Who must I become to complete this quest?

Getting a team of people to do important work is harder than it looks. It requires a special set of skills that you won’t learn in school or from your parents. It’s tough and your unconscious mind knows this.

That is why your veins are riddled with fear. Your intuitive self is trying to stop you rushing into a situation that it knows you can’t handle. The same thing would happen if you lined up to ride a rodeo horse. Fear. It means there is something coming up which you need to prepare for.

This post isn’t about “how to be a manager” – it’s about how to pay attention to the signals your mind is sending you. It’s about how to overcome a hugely limiting form of self sabotage, that’s stopping you achieving your business goals.

If you’re a solopreneur who has always dreamed of building a team, it’s time to start preparing your mind for the challenge. You’re not procrastinating because of “control” issues, you’re procrastinating because you’re not ready… yet.

So get ready. Read, learn, train. You know how to be an entrepreneur. Now it’s time to learn how to be a manager.

You can check out Peter’s blog here (add him to you RSS Reader – good stuff!).

How are YOU getting leverage in your business by outsourcing and bringing in help?  And how are things going for you? Let’s talk about your experiences in the comments!

Fighting to Succeed in Business: Have you ever doubted your calling?

I'm breaking through!“If the muse exists, she does not whisper to the untalented.” (from the forward to The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Stephen Pressfield)

I’m afraid they’ll find out I’m a fraud.

I feel guilty charging people to do something I find so easy.

This is really hard. . .is this really what I’m supposed to be doing? Why does it feel so natural and easy on the inside, yet so damn hard and gut-wrenching to try to “get it out”?

What keeps you from breaking through?

If you find yourself second-guessing your calling, or frustrated by the dig-deep work you have to do to “keep going” down this path toward actualizing your full potential, boy are you ever in good company. I’ve never met an independent professional who didn’t feel the frustration and the fear that evolving as a business owner inevitably brings. Every client I’ve ever had has privately confided in me fears and frustrations and nagging doubts about the path they’ve chosen. Dare I say, nearly every strategy call I’ve ever done (hundreds) has included a confession of sorts that revealed the frustration, the angst, the private pain of the beautiful soul on the other end of the line.

And it seems that the most volatile, frustrating moments appear when it’s time for the client to sit down and write or create products, content, or offerings intended to serve the masses.

In The War of Art , Pressfield reveals, “There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers (or painters, or musicians, or creatives of any kind) don’t, and that secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance (emphasis added).

Your biggest block: Your own resistance

Ah, resistance–that internal “block” that keeps us from moving forward or taking action. The whispers of fear, the lies that tell us we won’t succeed or that we’re frauds or that today-isn’t-the-day or this isn’t our time.  For those among us who are called to share their gifts with the world, to blaze this unique trail to uncovering their bliss, resistance is an ever-present force that must be confronted with courage as we trust in the call of the Universe for us to give, to expand, to grow.

So what does resistance look like? From The War of Art:

“First, unhappiness. We feel like hell. A low-grade misery pervades everything. We’re bored, we’re restless. We can’t get no satisfaction. There’s guilt but we can’t put our finger on the source. We want to go back to bed; we want to get up and party. We feel unloved and unlovable. We’re disgusted. We hate our lives. We hate ourselves. . . . If you find yourself criticizing other people, you’re probably doing it out of resistance. When we see others beginning to live their authentic selves, it drives us crazy if we have not lived out our own.

“. . . If you find yourself asking, Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist? Chances are, you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death… The more scared we are of our work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.

“The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work.  The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.”

I’ve often said that for independent professionals (people who are packaging their knowledge and expertise as authors, speakers, coaches, consultants, etc), growing our businesses can be some of the most intense spiritual work we’ll ever do. So how do we “overcome resistance?”

My friend, Scott Jeffrey, reminds us of a beautiful metaphor for understanding the nature of our true selves (that includes the giving of our sacred selves). In his blog post “Approaching Spiritual Work,” he explains, “Numerous spiritual teachers. . .say that the sun is always shining; we need only remove the clouds. The clouds represent our psychological and spiritual work. The sun is the Light that we are (the Self, with a capital “S”), only realizable when the clouds are removed. Our clouds are many: negative emotions, poor habits and tendencies, false identifications, addiction to our minds and thinking, and so on.

“Examining, understanding, and dissolving these clouds represent the core of serious psycho-spiritual work. That’s why it’s work. Once this is accepted as given, we can approach our darker side with courage, forbearance, and patience. Then, situations that trigger our negative emotions, for example, become opportunities to develop instead of reasons to feel bad about ourselves, getting discouraged about our ‘lack of progress’.”

The battleground for overcoming resistance is in our minds, in undoing our crappy programming and embracing our responsibility to give the world our best and make a difference. Go easy on yourself. This journey isn’t for the faint of heart. Your destiny is assured; the sun is shining bright. May courage take you all the way!

Need a how-to guide for working through your resistance? I’ve created a three-part blog series on creating solid content that includes some great strategies for finding your break-thoughs.  If you’re looking for some good reading, I love Byron Katie’s Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life and Patricia Carrington’s The Power Of Letting Go: A Practical Approach to Releasing the Pressures in Your Life.

Tips & tricks for more clicks on your blog

Social Media is getting a lot of hype, and if you’re like my clients and me, understanding this medium and knowing how to leverage it can feel overwhelming.  Social Media “experts” are a dime a dozen, and let me tell you: few people really know what they’re talking about.  Leveraged properly, social media can be a fantastic way to grow your influence, your list, get more clients and accomplish all sorts of cool things.  Toni (@tonibirdsong)and I have a few podcasts coming soon on this, but in the meantime, I want to offer a framework to help you understand social media as an important business-building medium.

I read a tweet the other day (wish I could remember who so I could give credit) that said “Social Media success is based on knowing how to relate.”  Yes, yes, ding ding!  The simplicity of that flipped me out — knowing how to relate. In life and relationships, we connect with others through the things we have in common, through empathizing, encouraging, sharing resources and generally being supportive.  Twitter and Facebook success, in particular, is driven by this premise.
Social Media success is guided by the basic principles of relationships:
  1. Show interest in others (engage with others around their conversations)
  2. Be courteous and show gratitude (Thanks for RT [retweet], responding kindly to engagement from others)
  3. Support the successes of others (RT, congratulate, engage)
  4. Provide advice, content, perspective that is genuinely supportive and useful (blog content, tweets, quotes, opine on relevant news, etc)
  5. Curb the hard-selling (social media is based on pull marketing – you “win” by being attractive, not forcing your message down throats)

Content marketing (leveraging your expertise into content like articles and blog posts) is an integral part of a successful social media strategy.  Creating great content requires effort, both intellectually and creatively, and it requires some savvy that for many of us, isn’t intuitive – we’re gonna have to do a little brain stretch to learn this stuff.

The biggest challenge I have personally is I want things to be perfect – but perfect is the enemy of consistency when it comes to pretty much all social media efforts.  We are all flying by the seat of our pants, trying to make time for social media while serving our clients, improving our offerings, creating new offerings, networking, speaking, putting out fires, and so much more.  Perfection comes with time. As you make progress, you make things more and more perfect.  Like training for a race, you don’t expect to be able to run a well-conditioned 5K the first time you train.  You start where you are with the goal of getting moving.

The deeper we get into the social media, the more we learn and we’re seeing some nice results for our clients.  I promise to share our nuggets with you as we go!  If you want help executing your plan, I’d love to talk to you.  If you want to do it yourself, I hope this information serves you.

And please: tell me what headline-creating strategies work for you in the comments!

How to Write Magnetic Headlines – This statistic POWERFULLY drives home the importance of headlines in this post: On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. This is the secret to the power of your blog post, and determines whether your content gets read. This post sets up a fantastic 11-part series on creating great headlines – love it!

15 Ways to Rework Your Next Blog Post Title – This is a really, REALLY fantastic post with some easy tips for helping you get “in the zone” to create a powerful blog title:

  • Communicate a Benefit
  • Create Controversy or Debate
  • Ask a Compelling Question
  • and more! Plus good examples.

Read.this.FIRST! All gems.

How to Craft Post Titles that Draw Readers into Your Blog – It’s really important to understand the very versatile way that your blog titles will appear across the net.  This post points out that your title will appear in:

1) Search engine results,

2) RSS feeds,

3) Links from other bloggers,

4) Social media sites, and

5) On your archive pages (depending upon how you format them).

“In each of these occassions the title can be the only thing that people see and the sole thing that people make the decision to visit your post on. Write a boring, complicated or confusing title and it doesn’t matter what you’ve written in the post – very few people will ever read it.”

10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas that Work – This post really delivers on its promise of giving you great formulas for your titles.  A couple examples:

1) “Who Else Wants [blank]?”

2) “Here’s a Quick Way to [solve a problem]” and

3) “What Everybody Ought to Know About [blank]”

How to Craft Kick-Ass Titles & Headlines – My favorite part of this post was the distinctions to help you understand what type of title you’re creating: 1) Self-Interest: The best headlines are those that appeal to self interest. They offer the reader benefits that they want, and they can get from you, 2) News: Humans are pre-disposed to seek out what is new and different in their environment, eg. NEW, CHEAPER IPHONE CALL PLANS RELEASED, 3) Curiosity: Appeals to our curious nature, eg. LOST: $1 BILLION DOLLARS

25 Action Words for Creating a Newsworthy Headline – I often hear myself telling my clients to switch up their copywriting so that their writing in active voice (rather than passive voice) with strong verbs to inspire action. This is a great list of strong, ACTIVE verbs to use in your headlines.

I’d love to hear your best headline strategies in the comments!

How to grow your business through referrals

Grow your business through referrals I ran into a colleague I hadn’t seen in a few years at a networking meeting recently, and when I asked him how his business was doing, I was really happy to hear that in spite of the downturn in the economy, his business was doing really well.  He described his business as growing steadily year-after-year, and said that his #1 way of getting new clients now was from referrals.


Let your great work speak for itself through great referrals

I remember conversations we had years ago about his business, and he told me how hard it was to sell what he offered because it was “unconventional.”  When people needed it most, they typically didn’t have the money.  He seemed really frustrated, but he stuck it out. For the last 5 years, he’s been consistent about going to networking groups, making friends, and doing great work for the clients that he was able to get. Over time, people noticed:  his colleagues heard from their colleagues about the great work he was doing. They noticed his consistency, and trusted that since he’d been around for a while with a smile on his face, he must do good work.  As they learned about what he did for his customers, and they kept seeing him “all over town,” they began to think of him when someone they knew might benefit from what he offered.  His tenacity filled his pipeline with leads that now come to him almost effortlessly: a referral-driven business is hands-down the easiest business to leverage and grow.

There’s real value in your reputation

I often hear people talk about “strategies” for getting others to refer you.  Some of them work, and work well.  But there is nothing like being buoyed by your reputation alone:  it is effortless, fun, synergistic, and financially-lucrative.

Get out there and network

Today is a great day for you to start prioritizing a solid networking strategy:  Identify the groups and/or associations around town where your ideal client is a member and make sure you make an appearance.  Don’t obsess about your business cards and having an “elevator pitch.”  Just go.  Be nice, make friends, engage in good conversations, be supportive of other members, and as opportunities come up for you tell people what you do, go ahead and share.  But don’t over-share. Keep focused on them and be encouraging.

Next month, when the group gets together, show up. Talk to the members.  Ask so-and-so how their project is doing. I can almost guarantee you that they’re going to ask, “How’s business?” Tell them. If you’re clicking, invite them to coffee.  Build the relationship.

If they tell you that a big “day” is coming for them, make a note on your calendar and email them on the big day, tell them you’re thinking of them and wish them luck.

BE FRIENDLY. Be supportive.  Come from your heart.

And most importantly, BE CONSISTENT.  Attend 60-80% of the meetings.  You will likely start to see a trickle of referrals after 3-6 months.  By 18 months, you should be getting a few referrals a month. Four to five years in, there is a good chance your business will be THRIVING with referrals-only.

Be genuine and avoid kickbacks

Throw away the gimmicks.  Don’t ask people for referrals.  If they ask you if you can help a friend, be enthusiastic, tell them you’ll do a free call or whatever-it-is they can give their friend that is helpful and doesn’t require anything from the other party monetarily.

I quit offering a “kickback” to colleagues years ago … it doesn’t work.  If they like you, they’re going to refer you.  If they’re only referring you for money, it’s not a good referral to start with.  I even had a very successful friend and colleague chastise me when I *first* started my business because he did NOT want me offering kickbacks. If I started doing that, he said, he’d never refer me.  When he sent someone my way, he was putting his reputation on the line.  He didn’t ever want people to think that he sent them to me because he had something monetarily to gain.

And he’s right.

In my opinion, the only time you commission your services is when it’s another complementary business that’s bringing you in under the guise of partnership.  That’s ethical, common, and fair.

If you’re good and take care of your clients, if you consistently show up and work for the highest good, you will grow a referral-driven business that you can ride to the moon.

Question:  How much of your business is referral-based?  What do you do to nurture your collegial relationships in the marketplace?

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A ninja trick to help you LEAP to the next level

Finding Clarity when you're feeling blocked, uninspired, overwhelmed, stressedI recently had a conversation with a colleague who knew he needed to take things “to the next level.” He was feeling pressure financially (as we all do at times; I mean, doesn’t almost anything that ails us almost always have some kind of financial impact?) to “make things happen,” yet he felt stuck.

This is a frustrating part of being an independent professional, for sure.  We get busy “doing” things, taking care of clients, and when we start to feel the pressures of responsibility to get our businesses to a certain level, in the midst of our struggle, we feel SO uninspired.  Sometimes, we get to the point where we even feel bored with what we find ourselves doing every day with our clients … not a powerful space to be in if we want to attract more business, right?

Don’t let fear interfere with your life

I live my life by this motto: Any decision made out of fear is the wrong decision. If I’m contemplating a strategic move of any kind, personal or professional, before I’ll commit to anything, I need to know that I’m not going to make this decision because I’m afraid of something:  failure, success, the opinions of others, losing respect or admiration, avoidance of conflict, not having enough money – notoriety – etc.

The Indian sage Nisargadatta Maharaj affirms, “To see clearly, the mind must be pure and unattached.”

Finding that pure, unadulterated space when we’re feeling pressure or emotionally taxed can really be tough.  Still, it’s absolutely crucial that we develop that “muscle” in our minds, because to grow a business, we often need the strength to move stress and clutter aside so we can captain our journeys and tap into our own creativity.

The right questions can pull you out of the doldrums

When a colleague contacted me recently because he felt like he should start marketing his business, his tone sounded flat and uninspired.  It’s a whole other blog post to talk about why it’s nearly impossible to market successfully from an uninspired place.  I told him, “Good marketing comes from a powerful, motivating vision.  So, where do you want to go with your business?  What excites you?  Where are you being divinely guided to make a difference in the world?”

It seemed my question took him off guard; I think he expected me to launch into a bunch of marketing jargon that promised moonbeams, unicorns and pots of gold within 90 days.  We spent the next hour talking about what he was passionate about, uncovering the things that inspired him to become a coach in the first place.  He reconnected with what he loved, and from that passionate place, we began mapping out what growing his business might look like.

Understanding how the creative process works and learning to align with it is crucial to your success as an independent professional.  Pick up a copy of Scott Jeffrey’s book, Creativity Revealed: Discovering the Source of Inspiration if you’re ready for a deep dive.

The truth about internet marketing – and how to make it work for you

Internet Marketing alone won't fill your piggy bank. While listening to the chatter about how independent professionals like us grow our businesses, I always hear lots of talk about “internet marketing.”  I’ve even heard people call themselves “Internet Marketers” as a vocational title — as if to say that they’ve spent time figuring out how to market things on the internet and they made gobs of money (or not), and they’ll teach you how, too.

Now, being a bit of a marketing snob, I almost find it offensive that people who don’t have a lick of academic training in marketing, business ethics and best practices would call themselves “experts” in anything marketing-related.  I think it’s bad for our industry and bad for your business.  Frankly, a lot of these “Internet Marketers” are touting crappy strategies and tactics that can quickly diminish the value and credibility of your expertise.  As an independent professional, I think you should be very wary of any “marketing” person who talks only about websites and sales letters and squeeze pages, with no real attention given to your platform,  your offerings and the messaging that is going to be leveraged by those websites, sales letters and squeeze pages.

There are two cornerstones to a great strategic marketing plan:

1)  A strong offering that solves real problems in the marketplace

2)  A solid understanding of your customers, their “flocking” habits, and their needs, frustrations and goals.

When you understand who your customers are, how they’re organizing themselves in the marketplace, and what messages connect and resonate with them, you can better-evaluate which marketing channels are right for you, and what messages are right for those channels.

Now, let’s talk internet marketing again.  Internet marketing is a CHANNEL. It’s one avenue by which you can connect with your customers.  The snob in me can always tell when someone *really* gets marketing because they refer to Internet marketing within the context of an overall strategy.  A solid marketing strategy is going to include both offline AND online efforts.  Good marketing is also  going to be based on “deep drilling” that has profiled well both what you offer and who your customers are, with effort and intention devoted to getting the messaging right.

With the right strategy, Internet marketing is priceless.  It can help catapult your business to a whole new level when the right conditions are in place to leverage the impact of your Internet marketing channel (including the two cornerstones mentioned above).

The moral of the story: Approach Internet Marketing wisely

1)  If you’re looking for in-the-trenches help with your marketing, you need a partner that’s going to understand both the messaging and the channels.  Choose wisely.  In your preliminary talks with them, you should feel like they “get” you, and they should challenge you with good questions that compel you to dig deep.

2)  If you’ve nailed the messaging and have some momentum in your business, testing out some strategies from “Internet Marketers” might be useful.  I subscribe to the Walgreen’s philosophy on these things:  crawl, walk, run.  Don’t bet the farm on a single strategy or tactic.  Test it, figure out how to get the channel to work for you, then scale your efforts to reap big rewards.

3) Use “Internet marketing” wisely and don’t let it become a snake oil that keeps you from doing the deep work required to really grow your business.  Without the proper context, Internet marketing will rob you of a lot of time, a lot of money, and possibly a lot of credibility with your audience.

How do I find someone to market for me?

“I need to find someone to market for me.” I heard this twice last week. And I’ve heard it dozens, if not hundreds, of times before when talking with the coaches, speakers and other experts. “If someone else would just do the marketing for me—and I’ll pay them!— my business and life would be perfect.”

Ahhhh, wouldn’t that be great? I mean, I agree with the sentiment, though the reality is that I don’t know ANY successful independent professional that just shows up and collects a check. It just doesn’t work that way.

No one can connect with your prospects like you can

To be successful in this business, you have to learn to be comfortable talking to prospects about what they’re struggling with and articulating how you can help. No one is going to connect as powerfully with the people you serve than you. An assistant isn’t you. He or she isn’t going to be able to intuit and navigate the challenges your prospects are facing like you can.

You can’t be disconnected and market yourself successfully

Oftentimes, the reasons people have trouble marketing themselves is they haven’t take the time to really understand who they serve, why the marketplace needs them, and how they need to package themselves to connect. It’s a pipe dream to think that you can somehow disconnect from this process of figuring things out and leave the “heavy lifting” to others. I mean, uncovering these distinctions radically changes how you deliver your content and how you serve your clients. Being disconnected from the process means that you aren’t making the necessary adjustments to how you deliver, and I believe this incongruence is pretty much the number one reason people struggle to get their businesses off the ground.

Now, you can get help finding leads, you can often set up systems to manage your grassroots marketing (newsletters, blog posts, etc), and you may even be able to find help networking. But at the end of the day, marketing your business successfully to a closed deal doesn’t often happen without your involvement.

Be involved in building your marketing strategy

This often comes up when I start working with a new client – I won’t take a client on who just wants us to figure everything out for them and “do all the marketing.” While we have a great team of people who DO help our clients with marketing, we can’t “figure things out” without the client’s involvement in strategy and content creation; oftentimes, the work we do serves as a backdrop for our clients as they interface with the marketplace and close deals.

In my last post, we talked about asking ourselves the powerful question, Who must I become to successfully complete this quest? One of the answer is: you must become comfortable talking to people about your business, and engaging with others to create powerful strategies for connecting with the marketplace and resolving problems.  If you feel resistance to engaging in this way, go deeper. Introspectively examine why, understand your own psychology so you can break through.

In Scott Jeffrey’s post, Letting Go of Resistance, he explains:

All of your emotional upsets—personal and professional—represent points of resistance. Problems become pervasive when we hold negative emotions related to them. What does this mean? An event is just an event. We tend, however, to project our own meaning onto events. If an event doesn’t go as planned, as our projected ideal said it should, we are upset.

But the event itself is neither “good” or “bad.” We’ve all had things happen that seemed “bad” at the time but turned out to be a blessing later on.

If we accept that things are the way they are—without wanting to change how they are in the moment—we let go of our resistance and allow things to be. In doing so, we can enter a state of flow where we are more resourceful and better equipped to navigate life’s challenges.

Embrace marketing your business as an opportunity for you to truly make your work indispensable and to connect powerfully with those you are called to serve.

Question:  Are you engaged with the marketing of your business?  What do you believe about marketing yourself that locks you up?

4 Key Strategies for Booking More Business

In my last blog post, I told you about my advice to one of my clients who struggled to find a way to explain to his clients what he does: No one cares about what you do, so why bother trying to explain it?

When my coaching colleagues get together to talk about how to get business, this question often comes up frequently as: How can I educate people about coaching and why they should have a coach? I often chime in to these conversations. I understand why my colleagues say this, and I get that they’re frustrated because it seems the marketplace might not “get” who they are or why they’re valuable.

The challenge with this thinking, though, is it focuses your attention on the wrong thing: you.

To get people’s attention, focus on THEM

Here’s the truth: few people really care to learn about your business if they don’t think you’re relevant to them.  Rather than focusing on talking about your business, focus instead on listening to them talk about their business, their dilemmas, their needs, frustrations, hopes and dreams.

  • Empathize with them, show them that you understand their situation.
  • Ask good questions that shift their paradigm and help them realize another way of looking at things.
  • Offer resources that might be useful to them (have you thought about checking out XXXX?).
  • Share stories of clients who’ve found themselves in similar situations to your prospect and if they seem open, let them know how you helped.

Naturally, they will begin to “pick up” on the fact that you have something really valuable to offer, and they’ll begin to ask you questions about what they should do.

Look for opportunities to support people in conversations

And when they ask questions, answer what you can in the moment. Don’t “withhold” because they aren’t paying you. Be valuable. If they ask questions that can’t be answered in the moment, tell them so, and let them know that you have programs or resources that could help them when the time is right.

But don’t just say You can hire me to help you. TURNOFF. Truly be helpful in the moment … if they’re truly a prospect, they need your expertise beyond that question. The goodwill and credibility you build in the moment is far more valuable to you than the opinion you have that you might be tempted to withhold.

If you’re resonating with them, and if they’ve got sufficient leverage to make a change and create a different result in their circumstance, if you’re connecting and making sense, it won’t matter what title you give yourself; what will matter to them is that you obviously can help them.

Create an opportunity for a meaningful conversation, not to make a pitch

When it comes to getting business, it’s far more important that you understand who your customers are, what their pain / frustrations are, what they’re striving for, how they’re getting stuck, what outcomes they’re seeking, what dreams they have that are tied to realizing their goal, what conversations they’re having with others or themselves to try to resolve their dilemma, where they’re having conversations and what resources (however inept) they’re tapping to help them resolve their dilemma.

Your ability to connect with prospects and create opportunities to have meaningful conversations is far more useful than a pithy line or “positioning statement.” Don’t get me wrong … each of my clients has a succinct way they position themselves and a “statement” we develop they can use. But I don’t guide them to “focus” on figuring that out—instead, we focus on understanding their clients and looking for opportunities to connect with their needs in the marketplace.

When you’re networking this week, look for opportunities to have conversations with your prospects where you learn about them—really LISTEN—and ask good questions, offer support, look for opportunities to be of service. LEARN.

These are the kinds of opportunities you must master creating to fill your pipeline and grow your business.

What if your marketing isn’t working?

I got an email today from a local coach who was referred to me by a colleague. Her dilemma: she’s having trouble getting business (“I’m having trouble marketing myself as a coach”) and doesn’t have much money for marketing. Can I help?

Have I ever heard this one a thousand times.

Just yesterday, I was talking to one of my copywriters about a significant challenge we see among “vendors” of marketing services–they either help a client get the message right but the client doesn’t know how to market the message well, or they help the client get the “marketing” right, but it doesn’t produce results because the message is crapola.

First the Message, then the Marketing

You can’t be successful with only one of these approaches. You have to get your message right, and you have to get the marketing of the message right. In that order, of course.

Marketing successfully relies on the convergence of a few key conditions:

  • Solid understanding of your market (who they are, what’s frustrating them, what they need)
  • Awareness of what makes your work relevant and special
  • Marketing efforts aligned with how they organize themselves and / or how they search for solutions (examples: speaking at association meetings, articles submissions in reputable directories with the right keywords, networking at events to build your relationships that can give you referrals)

During the first month of our relationship, one of my clients, who is a brilliant business coach and consultant, kept asking me the question, “But how do I explain what I do?”

My answer? No one cares about what you do, so why bother trying to explain it. (More on this in an upcoming blog post.)

It’s true. People don’t care about you, or what you do. It’s small talk. They care about themselves, their frustrations, their deadlines and pressures.

What do Quality Conversations have to do with Good Marketing?

To be successful at marketing to them, you have to get good at having conversations that reveal to people that you have answers. A conversation is simply an exchange of communication and can take place under many different scenarios: you talking to someone one-on-one, you in front of the room talking to an audience (or on a teleseminar or webinar), you talking to your “followers” through Twitter or your blog (to name a few).

And you’re not having a conversation about you. You’re having a conversation about them:

  • Here’s what you’re facing.
  • Here’s what’s frustrating about it.
  • And here’s what you’ve tried to do that didn’t work.
  • Here’s why it didn’t work.
  • And here’s what WILL work.

If you’re giving a speech, you do the talking; if you’re having a conversation, let them tell you their “problems.” Listen well, mirror back what they’re saying, then engage with the dilemma. Ask key questions. Offer a suggestion that might be helpful, should they invite your perspective.

Nothing about that conversation requires you to have a job title or a one-liner or a compelling speech “selling someone” on how brilliant you are. Let other people ramble on about themselves. Be the guy or girl who listens well and flat solves problems – a little mystery about what to call you only adds to the allure. 😉 (I’ll talk more about this in my next blog post.)

You can learn more about positioning yourself so that marketing is “effortless” by downloading my free special report: Manipulation-free Marketing: Position yourself right so that marketing works.

Question: What is your biggest marketing or positioning frustration? What have you done to create breakthroughs that make marketing yourself easier?

The Secret Sizzle for Making Your Customer Curious About Your Business

The purpose of business is to create a customer.
–Peter Drucker

I was talking to a colleague the other day who is struggling to take his business to the next level.  He’s an IT guy who helps companies “maximize their technology dollars.”

“I know when I stand up and say that I work with technology, 80% of the people in the room turn their brain off,” he laments.

Ew!  I think I might be one of those people.  Talking about technology, to me, is stressful, frustrating, and frankly, B-O-R-I-N-G!  This guy’s service offerings really are fabulous; he’s a best-kept secret because people “don’t want to talk about it.”  Been there?

So what do you do when your prospects, though they NEED you, don’t want to think about the problem(s) you can help them solve?  In the new book I’m finishing (details coming soon!), we talk about this in detail:  Before you can package your offerings, determine your marketing strategies or develop your promotional tools, you must know who your customers are and how to connect with them.  When we take our clients through this phase of the marketing-development process, there is travailing and gnashing of teeth; figuring this out can be tough.  But when the finally light dawns (and it always does), they have a born-again experience!

The first step in the sales cycle is ATTRACTION.  You MUST position yourself in the marketplace so that what you offer is attractive to your prospects.  You do this by understanding your prospects’ frustrations and pain, and showcasing your solutions to connect with them (leave out the “icky” details for now).  You are their RELIEF. Once you’ve connected with a customer’s pain and they’ve said, “Tell me more!”, you can schedule a follow-up “consultation” to provide more information.

This can be the most difficult, frustrating puzzle to solve in your business.  But solving it is CRUCIAL if you want to connect with qualified prospects.  No matter how difficult this conundrum seems to be, there IS a way to strengthen your position of power.  You can, and you must!