Small business consulting and coaching for self-employed people. Increase your reach and revenue. Boost clarity about your business and marketing models. Get practical tips, advice, training and techniques.
Each week, I hear people telling me they want to build their small business, but they don’t (or can’t) move forward on their dreams because they’re afraid.
There are so many things to be afraid of when you’re self-employed: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of illness, fear of lawsuits. No money, no time, no skills, no help, no support.
Being a small business owner takes a particular type of courage
You have to be willing to take action with no guarantees of success.
You have to be willing to put all your heart and soul into your enterprise, and you have to be willing to face and overcome the roadblocks that get in your way.
You have to be willing to dream big dreams — and have the guts to learn new things that you never knew how to do before.
On top of all that, you need the type of courage that shouts, “I must do this or I won’t have lived my life purpose!”
It takes strength, focus, and responsibility to succeed or fail on your own merits, and to be willing to ask for help or education when you need it.
Do you have it?
Do you have the courage to face your fears and keep walking towards your dream anyway?
Do you have the strength and dignity to act consistently and responsibly towards your business growth, on a daily basis, without whimpering in self-defeating behaviors and excuses?
Do you have the guts to set a big goal, create reasonable action plans that stretch and challenge you, and move forward on those tasks knowing that you have no guarantee of success?
Every business owner feels fear at one time or another
The next time you hear yourself saying, “I’m afraid,” reply with a knowing smile and say to yourself, “Join the crowd.”
Then, summon up that well of courage and take responsibility to create the life and business you’ve dreamed of.
Because, if you don’t have that type of courage, you probably shouldn’t be self-employed in the first place. Being self-employed is about challenging yourself and the world. It’s not about taking the easy way; it’s about taking the only way that will give you a sense of self-fulfillment and success.
Great question! I’ll work off the premise that by “product” you’re referring to anything from writing a book to creating a live or self-study training class.
Products can be a great way to sell to different price-points; if clients resist paying $400 – $1,000 a month for private one-on-one sessions with you, they might join a group or buy a book. Products are also a way to honor people’s chosen learning style. Some people prefer self-study; others prefer classes, while others prefer one-on-one mentoring.
Should you create product?
My response would be, “It depends on your business model, vision, and strategy.”
If your business model is to have a multi-tiered business where you offer multiple services and products, then yes, go ahead and create product. Make sure your financial plan and marketing plan is in place, make sure you have the support of a VA or administrative assistant if necessary, and then go for it.
If your business strategy is to position yourself as an expert in a certain niche, then yes, go ahead and create product.
If the vision for your business is to stay compact and focused, if the strategy is to reach people on an individual basis, then a product may be a distraction to the thing you’re actually selling: your personal service.
Small business owners shouldn’t create product just to create product — there should be a business reason for initiating the product creation cycle and a business reason for creating a particular product at a particular time.
I’ve seen too many small business owners create product which has no natural tie-in to their core marketing efforts to their primary target market. It’s like they’re launching a secondary business which needs its own marketing to capture its own audience. That’s a lot of work.
For instance, in the National Speakers Association, members are highly encouraged to create product, but with one strategy in mind: that you can sell that product to the audience after giving a speech. You literally sell books in the back of the room, or promote our next webinar series from the podium. Your marketing efforts are focused solely on getting speeches; the selling of the product happens naturally following the speech.
The small business owner needs to ask:
Why am I creating this product?
Do I have the bandwidth and money to create and support this product?
Do I have a natural avenue to an audience to sell my product?
And if not, how will I reach that new audience?
Creating products opens up a lot of marketing questions and marketing work, along with the time it takes to create and test the product. (Of course, you can always hire someone to create the product for you, but that’s another story.) My opinion is that a new small business owner, or a really busy small business owner, should consider carefully whether he/she has the bandwidth in time and money to begin creating and selling product in conjunction with their core business.
But if you have a good business reason to do it, and the time and money to invest in it, then go for it! Creating products is great fun and a wonderful learning experience.
Do you ever have that disturbing feeling that trying to squeeze one minute out of your day will render you senseless?
Like you, I struggle with finding time to write books, create new classes, and put together new information products and programs. I have a burning desire to create these things; I think about them and plan for them constantly. I guess it must be the “teacher” in me — I want to share what I’ve learned with other small business owners.
Each year our mastermind group meets in person for a live Mastermind Retreat Weekend. A few years ago, I came to the Retreat with just one burning question: How can I take a month off of work to write an updated version of a book and create a new class?
It seems an insurmountable dream and challenge. I hadn’t had a full month off work or school since I’d been in college (oh so many years ago!). A whole month off with only 2 projects to work on? Woohoo!
My mastermind group helped me to plan out a strategy for taking the month of August away from my business:
1. Figure out how much money you need to save so that you can cover your August business and personal expenses.
2. Figure out if you’d still work with existing clients, or ask them to halt work with you in August. I decided that I would work with existing clients, but not take on any new ones for August.
3. Figure out how to schedule your month off for maximum enjoyment and relaxation, and maximum productivity. After all, I was taking the month off to get 2 big projects finished. I decided to run my mastermind groups just a few days out of the month, and work on projects the rest of the time. I’d take Friday’s off work completely so that I’d have a month of 3-day weekends. I’d schedule time with family and friends during August for outings and visits, as well as some “me time” to walk in the woods or go to the beach and be in solitude.
4. Ask for support. I told my husband and my mastermind group I was going to take the month of August off; they loved the idea! I’ve also told my students and members that my hours would be limited in August, that I’d still be there to support them but that they might not get 24-hour turnaround to emails or phone calls. And then I told the world!
5. Stay present. This was a tough one for me, staying present and aware during the month of August. I paid attention to two things: how I used my time, and whether I was creating the balance between work and relaxation that I was seeking.
It was a great adventure and I’m looking forward to doing it again!
Every month, you’re innundated with offers for workshops, classes, weekend intenstives, bootcamps, and webinars. How do you decide which one is best for you?
Here are six tips:
Decide on your MOST important business goals first. Only choose classes which will help you achieve your business goals for this year. If you learn materials that you can’t implement immediately, you’ll forget most of what you learn by the time you really need the information.
Decide how you like to learn — and how you learn best. Some people prefer intensive, immersion experiences; others like to learn a little at a time. Some people like to have time in class to practice what they’re learning; others like to take the exercises as homework and work on it at their own pace. Some people like small group classes where they can get one-on-one help from the instructor; others thrive on large conferences. Some people like a lot of interactive discussion with the other students; others want to have a ton of information given to them and find classroom discussions to be an interruption.
Decide what you need to learn and at which level. For instance, say you need to learn about internet marketing techniques. Do you want an overview class, or do you want to learn a specific internet marketing technique? If you want to learn a specific topic, do you already know something about the topic (and therefore are looking for an “advanced” class) or do you want to learn from the very beginning, where an introductory class would be right for you? If you choose a class that’s too easy, or too hard, you’ll find your learning diminished.
Decide how much time you have to devote to the learning experience. Can you take two days away from your business to attend a weekend bootcamp, or do you only have one hour a week available to attend a webinar series? For those training events that aren’t local to you, factor in travel time and costs.
Decide on your financial budget. Most business classes should make you money, once you implement what you’re learning. But spending huge amounts of money on a training class when you can’t predict Return On Investment (ROI) can feel uncertain. Ask yourself, “How soon will this training repay me in increased revenue for what it cost to attend the training?” Do the math: how many new sales or increased sales will you have to make to recoup the cost of your training? How many hours will you save by implementing what you’ve learned?
Choose the teacher with care. What is the instructor’s reputation, both as a topic expert and as a trainer? Have you ever sat through a class where the teacher droned on and on? No matter how exciting the topic, a boring, poorly prepared teacher will put you to sleep instead of offering a training experience that helps you to cement your learning in your mind and in your daily life. And a self-serving teacher who only wants to upsell you to the next level will dimish your learning (and your attitude towards them). Be sure to ask your friends and colleagues about their experience with different instructors.
Lifelong learning is an extraordinary backbone to a successful business. Just be sure you choose the best class, and the best instructor, for you and your business. Then, sit back and enjoy the training experience!
When it comes to marketing to multiple niches, I have two words of advice:
1. Go ahead! There’s nothing wrong with targeting multiple niches. BUT…
2. Pick one and become a leader in it, then move on to the second one.
If you try to go after too many niches (target audiences) at the same time, you will wear yourself out. It’s exhausting and doesn’t use the “best of you.”
When you go after too many niches simultaneously, your marketing time and money is scattered too broadly. Say for example that you want to go after “salespeople in the pharmaceutical industry” and also want to go after “salespeople in the auto industry.”
Their appears to be a common denominator (salespeople), but the two industries and the two selling styles are dissimilar. You would have to connect with both industries simultaneously, which means you can’t really focus all your time, energy and marketing money on just one target. Scattered focus equals scattered results.
In my article, The Problem With Niches, I said that the whole purpose of choosing a niche is so you can find a central place that potential clients congregate. Find ALL the places where auto industry sales people congregate: meetings, magazines, conferences, classes…especially those that are specifically focused on the niche you’re going after. Center your marketing attention on those areas first. Once you become known and recognized in that niche, then move on to other industries or other niches.
Read the complete Why Marketing Fails blog series here:
There are some people in the world who love the challenge of “cold calling” — that is to say, you enjoy calling people who you have never met, have never had any contact via email or phone, and asking them whether they need your product or service.
But what about those people who contact you and ask about your products and services? They’re interested in your services, your classes, your mastermind groups. Do you follow-up with those warm leads?
Most small business owners will make at least one follow-up phone call or email to a prospective customer. But if they don’t get a response back, they often drop the whole thing. You don’t want to feel like you’re being a pest.
But you have to remember two important things:
The prospect called you. They want to hear from you.
There are many reasons why a prospect might not call you back.
Let’s look at both reasons
In the first place, the prospect contacted you. They are interested or they wouldn’t have gone to the effort of leaving a voicemail or sending an email. People who take action, even these seemly simple actions, are motivated and interested.
In the second place, just because they don’t return your phone call or email doesn’t mean they’re not interested anymore. Think about your own life for a minute: I bet you’re a very busy person and there’s always something going on that needs your attention. Items on your to-do list slip off, including returning phone calls and emails. Well, your prospects are just like you! They’re busy, they’re time-constrained, and they’ve got to put out fires first, before they can take on another task.
I’ve done an unscientific test over the past six months. I’ve continued to call and email people who have expressed an interest in me and my business, just to see what happens. Amazing! In nearly every single case, the prospect was grateful that I took the time to continue to follow-up, even though they hadn’t replied to me.
So why hadn’t they replied to you?
In short, life got in the way:
A family member died and they had to go out of town to take care of funeral and house-selling tasks for a month.
A child was preparing for a big college-entrance exam and needed a lot of extra time and attention.
They were working on a big proposal for a prospect and put everything else on hold until the proposal got out the door.
They had never gotten my reply email (a spam filter had captured it).
…And any number of other reasons. All legitimate.
How often should you follow-up?
Here are the rules of thumb I work with when I get a prospect call or email:
First contact: we follow-up within one business day
Second contact: we re-try three days later, always via phone (darn those email filters!)
Third contact: 10-14 days later, both by phone and by email
In marketing and sales, being shy or lacking confidence is a killer for your business. If people express interest in you, now is the time to connect with them, repeatedly if necessary, and not avoid it.
Read the complete Why Marketing Fails blog series here:
At this time of the year, we’re encouraged to set our business goals for the next 12 months and beyond. But when I speak with small business owners, you consistently tell me that you can’t figure out what the future of your business looks like. You can’t imagine a year from now, and you certainly can’t imagine three or five years from now.
I think you’ve put the cart before the horse. Instead, first figure out what you value, then design your next year to create a meaningful life and career.
Here’s an eye-opener exercise that’s sure to help:
Take a piece of paper and divide it into thirds. (Here’s a More/Less Worksheet PDF you can use.) In the first column, write down all the things and feelings you’d like more of. In the middle column, write down what you’d like less of.
Don’t try to do this exercise in one sitting. Instead, do a quick, initial brain dump of your wants and needs, then walk away and let it rest for a few hours. Come back later to review your worksheet, and continue to add items as they bubble up to the surface.
At this stage, just list ideas for any and all projects that could help you achieve what you want. If you begin to edit your thoughts, you might remove a project before you know whether it would be viable.
Slowly, your future unfurls before your eyes. By imagining what you want more of and less of, you begin to imagine a future that’s exactly right for you.
When planning for 2019, remember that there are 8 ways to increase your income:
Sell more quantity of your existing offers. If you typically have 25 people in a workshop, aim for getting 30 or 40 in your next workshop. If you work one-on-one with clients, add more private clients to your roster.
Increase the price of your existing offers – Without changing your offer, increase your fees. If you’re still charging the same fees as you did five years ago, it’s time to look at your pricing model.
Increase the price and increase the value. Change your offer to be more complete and compelling, and increase your fees. Make sure that you haven’t increased the value by adding more of your personal resources, otherwise, the offer isn’t scalable. For instance, if you previously offered a six-session consulting package, and now you’re making it an eight-session package, you’ve just used up two extra hours of your time. Even if you charge more for it, are you actually making more income from it? Instead, consider adding something valuable to your clients that doesn’t require you to spend massively more money, time or resources to deliver. Do the math to be sure that the cost doesn’t outweigh the income.
Decrease the size/quantity of your existing offers without reducing the price. You see this all the time in the supermarket – a 12-ounce box of cookies now becomes a 10-ounce box of cookies, but the price stays the same. Where can you cut back and still deliver value? Which parts of your offer are not used by your clients?
Create new offers that leverage your time and resources. If you’ve maxed out of offering private, one-on-one consulting with clients, can you offer a mastermind group or workshop that maximizes your time by working with groups of clients rather than individuals? Can you create an online self-study program?
Upsell existing customers to the next level of your offering. Your clients love you and they want to work more closely with you, or they’re asking for a specific resource that you can provide. When my existing consulting clients wanted a systematic way to manage their projects, tasks, and time, I wrote a book and created a class to help them. How can you serve your existing customers better and provide what they’re asking for?
Go to the master level – teach others how to do your work. For instance, after 20 years as a small business consultant, I now teach people how to become small business consultants.
Hire others to do some of the work for you. If you typically bill out at $200/hour, can you hire others at $150/hour do the client work, and you keep the extra $50/hour as your commission for bringing in the clients? This is especially helpful when you have limited time and too many clients to handle personally, or if you want to create an agency model for your business.