It's not a popularity contest.
I repeat, it's not a popularity contest.
This is a point with social media (and marketing) I can't emphasize enough.
In my last newsletter I said, "Numbers -- like total likes and followers don't really matter."
Here's why: What good is having 80,000 followers if no one is buying your product or service?
This is something I learned the hard way and talk a lot about in my free video series for Exit Strategy School. (Note: I've closed the course, but you can still get the free videos here. If you're thinking about starting your own business, I highly recommend you check the videos out... but back to marketing!)
I was a superstar at growing my fan base. I had a steady stream of followers on Twitter, blog readers, newsletter subscribers, and Facebook likes... my numbers were impressive and (knock on wood) growing. BUT (and this is a big but) I wasn't making any money.
For the longest time my focus was on growing my fan base... getting the word out. Getting more fans and more likes and more followers WAS my marketing strategy...
I was treating it like a popularity contest (even if I didn't recognize that at the time). And while it felt good to have more followers, my situation remained unchanged.
Eventually I said to myself, "Why am I spending all this time trying to get more followers? What will 100,000 do for me that 10,000 did not?"
I'd doubled...tripled...quadrupled my fan base but I still wasn't making money!
I was frustrated.
Eventually I realized my problem was in my marketing strategy. I'd left off the very important part... the business part... that marketing was a wasted effort if it wasn't going to bring me business (a.k.a. make me money).
According to Wikipedia, "Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling that product or service."
Clearly I'd bonked on that last part.
This concept was really brought to life for me when I met my friend Sarah.* (I'm changing her name for privacy).
I was introduced to Sarah through a mutual friend who knew I was struggling with my business (or well, struggling to make money) and he thought Sarah could be a good mentor or sounding board since she'd been running her own successful online business for a few years.
Before meeting Sarah, I scoped her out on the Internet. (Okay, fine, I sized her up). Sarah didn't have a lot of Facebook fans or Twitter followers. A few hundred on Facebook, a few thousand on Twitter. Not nothing, I admit, but I had tens of thousands more than her. I wondered how Sarah could "help" me.
Still, I said I'd meet her and when I did, I promptly put my foot in my mouth. Sarah was making $20,000 a month with her business. I was barely making $500 a month. Social love be damned!
I've since gone on to meet several other business owners who make a lot of money but don't have a lot of fans or followers. Some don't have Facebook or Twitter at all.
A marketing blog I read sometimes has the tagline "Page views don't pay you, people do." Truth!
Point is, it really can't be a numbers game... unless those numbers represent dollars.
Social media can absolutely help grow your business, but sometimes it doesn't matter. It all depends on your business and (this is important) your customer.
I think fan counts can be a helpful tool in determining whether you're doing something right (or wrong). But take it from me: having 5,000 fans doesn't make you more successful (or more profitable) than someone with 500 fans. Similarly, growing from 500 fans to 5,000 fans doesn't mean your profit will increase 10 fold too.
You can't make social media or your blog a popularity contest. Being popular doesn't always go hand in hand with prosperity.
Your marketing strategy has to be about sales. End of story.
One lesson I hope to teach you with Minimalist Marketing is in that first word "minimalist." Doing less and getting more. A big part of that is figuring out what you're NOT going to do.
(Here's a sneak peek into another upcoming lesson: It's better to do one thing, and do it well, then to do a poor job, or a half job, all over the place).
So what's something you're NOT going to do? Treat social media like a popularity contest :)
I'll say it again: What good is having 80,000 followers if no one is buying your product or service?
and please please please don't buy followers. It only hurts you. For more on why this is a horrible practice, see my blog post "Three things picking up dog poop taught me about success" (I know the title doesn't sound like it would be about marketing and paying for likes but I promise that's what it's about).
'Til next time!
I've been on Twitter for 5 years, 11 months, 1 day, 2 hours and 12 minutes.
(I didn't actually remember WHEN I signed up for Twitter, so I used howlonghavei.com)
I've learned a lot.
The two biggest tokens of wisdom are:
Don't start your tweet with an @.
For example, don't tweet "@happyherbivore pancakes for breakfast!"
If you do that, only people who follow you and that person (in this case me, @happyherbivore) will see your tweet. That means most of your followers won't see your tweet.
Add some language before the @ in: "I had @happyherbivore pancakes for breakfast"
OR just add a period
".@happyherbivore pancakes for breakfast!"
(I'm sorry if I'm making everyone hungry for pancakes now)
On the flip side, starting a tweet with @ comes in handy if you need to reply to someone. Then you're entire audience is muted from the conversation.
I get a lot of questions via twitter (it's micro email for me)... can you imagine how fast I'd lose followers if every person who followed me could see every tweet? It would be like a front row seat to my inbox (booooring!).
#2 don't obsess over followers (and unfollows).
Recently I unfollowed someone and they emailed me asking for an explanation.
I felt so violated... and put of the spot. I think it was worse because they emailedme. Maybe if they'd sent a tweet it wouldn't have felt so intrusive...
Anyway, I didn't know this person. We'd never met, or been in any kind of regular contact. We didn't tweet at each other. We'd emailed once but it was professional and not social or chatty, and so forth. Basically, we had no relationship where such a question might have been cool. (For example, I wouldn't have minded the question so much if it came from a long-time twitter friend I had been very close with).
Worse still, in addition to asking WHY I unfollowed, they also made accusations -- assumptions about why I'd unfollowed (hint they weren't nice).
This all served as a reminder to me why you can't read too much into social media (especially people's actions on social media) and that assumptions really do "make an ass out of you and me."
I closed my reply email with this advice:
I don't pay attention to who follows me or unfollows me... that's not really the point of social media or twitter. It's not a popularity contest, it's about sharing information.
(and if you share good information, popularity will follow)
A few hours later, Gary V. (a Twitter heavyweight) tweeted the following:
A little in-your-face perhaps (that's his style) but YES!
The Takeaway: Focus on putting out good content, sharing information, interacting, treating those who already love you well, and being awesome.
Focus on QUALITY not quantity.
Don't make it a numbers game.
(Numbers -- like total likes and followers don't really matter -- more on that soon). Unfollows and unsubscribes, while painful, are often a good thing (more on that soon, too) and remember that the first word in "social media" is SOCIAL. (Yes, more on this soon, too! x3!)
Well, I think I've sufficiently opened that can of worms -- they're crawling away in all directions, but I'll hit all these topics (and more) in upcoming posts!
Here's a conversation I had back in November with my friend, Amy. (If you're in Exit Strategy School, you know her well -- she is the smart gal behind Let's Freckle, one of my favorite examples).
(Amy's previous tweet went something like "If you're saying your product or software is a "game changer" it's probably not).
It looks like we're snarking, and maybe we are just a tad -- but that doesn't make our point any less true.
Rule #2: Saying something doesn't make it true.
Rule #3: (and if it's not true, or at least, doesn't look true, you're going to lose the sale).
You don't want to lose credibility or trust with your customer.
Have you ever rolled your eyes at the seemingly ridiculous claims in an infomercial? Or laughed a little when you came upon a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the middle of the desert with a sign "World's Best Fish Sandwiches"?
(C'mon, you know you have!)
THAT is what Amy and I are talking about.
Another example: A few years ago I was still working as a social media/marketing consultant. One of my clients was marketing herself all wrong, but doing what most marketing books will tell you to do: "network." In other words, my client was walking around, shoving her business cards into people's hands, and talking non-stop about how fabulous she was. She didn't miss a networking event -- or an opportunity to plug herself or her business. She hustled but it was wasn't working. She wasn't getting new clients and then she started to lose the clients she had (having made the common business mistake of not focusing on client retention --- but that's another topic for another newsletter).
Finally, I sat my client down and said, "When you're awesome. You're just awesome. You don't need to walk around and tell people, "Hey! guess what! I'm awesome!"
My friend Stephanie brought this to life in one of her recent Facebook updates:
We all feel this way on the inside sometimes. We may not all say it out loud like Amy, Stephanie, or I did -- but you can bet this is how customers (consumers) feel.
It's fine to be proud and puff up your chest -- and marketing IS about getting that sale: convincing the consumer to buy, but this where rule #1 comes in:
Rule #1: SHOW don't tell.
SHOW them why your product is awesome (with a tutorial video, a free trial, or a sample).
and if you can't show that way, show with testimonials!
BE awesome. Don't say "awesome."
If nothing else, don't use words or phrases like "revolutionary" or "game changer" or "world's best" or even "best seller" (even I'm trying to get away from that last one) because it'll hurt you more than help you most of the time.
THE UPCOMING EXIT STRATEGY BUSINESS & MARKETING COURSE WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE.
(I couldn't resist. lol.)
'Til next time!
"This page has books?"
At least once a week I'll see this comment to one of my updates.
For the longest time this confused me.
I mean, what did they think those things were in the banner at the top of my page?
Eventually, I figured it out. Someone can stumble upon and "like" your page without ever seeing the page. They can even read, like, and share your content, without ever seeing or going to your actual page (and thus, never seeing my banner).
With more and more people using mobile Facebook apps (and abandoning their computers and laptops) this will become the norm.
Take a minute to think about your own use of Facebook: How often do you go to pages? Other than your own and the competitions, I mean. Almost never right?
Point is, people aren't seeing your banner, or your hours of operation, or those buttons to your store, events, pinterest, newsletter, and so forth that live under the banner:
You'll need to share this information (or link) in a status update regularly.
There are fun, creative ways of doing this, and it'll help bring in more sales (in addition to making your consumer aware).
For example, the restaurant above could very easily post that delicious picture of food and say "who wants our polenta stack for dinner? We're open tonight, and every night, until 9pm"
To advertise your store, post a picture of your merchandise (preferably a picture submitted by a customer) and say something like "Check out our new T-shirts! Grab this one and check out other options in our store (link)" -- a coupon code, free shipping, or a discount really gets them clicking!
Finally with newsletters, tease with upcoming content they can expect.
For example, I remember when Engine 2's new book was coming out, they posted a picture of a dish from that book and said "recipe in this week's newsletter, signup here!"
That not only makes their readers aware they have a newsletter, but also gets a lot of people on their newsletter. It's great marketing all around!
Point is, you can't be too obvious. Never make an assumption about what your customer knows.
Have a great week!
I've been going to the same nail salon for the last year or so.
It's not the closest salon to my house, but the service is consistently good, the prices are reasonable, and there's ample parking (a big issue in Los Angeles).
I don't treat myself to a manicure or pedicure all that often, but after a year of sporadic visits, some of the nail technicians now recognize me and say hello. (Facial recognition of repeat customers is great for business! It's great customer service!)
Because the service there has always been good, I take whoever is available when I walk in.
But that all changed on my last visit!
The technician, we'll call her Mindy, said, "You come here pretty often, right?" I smiled and nodded. Then she said, "What's your name?" I told her "Lindsay" and she said, "I'm Mindy. It's nice to meet you."
and that was it. That was all it took.
When my manicure was over I asked Mindy if I could request her specifically in the future.
The total effects of this change are much deeper than they seem on the surface.
I'm not only requesting a specific person, I am now calling ahead to book an appointment. I'm not just walking in off the street on a whim like I used to. I'm totally changing my pattern, and making it less convenient for me, just so I can have Mindy.
So what's the big deal? Why did this manicure change everything? And what the heck does it have to do with marketing?
Today's marketing is all about a personal connection. Customers want to feel personally connected to you or your product.
I've chitchatted with all the nail technicians at the salon, but it was Mindy who asked me my name and told me hers. She created a personal connection.
Customers also want to feel appreciated (i.e. facial recognition) and that you are interested in them and not just their pocket book.
This is the beauty of social media. Businesses can get personal on social media. They can get to know their customers, really know their customers.
My manicure with Mindy is also a reminder how powerful your story is. Customers want to hear your story. They want to know why you do what you do. Why do you sell this product? What's the story behind it? Why did you start offering this service? What motivated you to blog? and so on.
Customers also want to tell you THEIR story (and you need to listen!)
Create a personal connection.
It can be as simple and easy as asking someone their name. Show you're interested!
p.p.s. Hi, my name is Lindsay... what's your name?
I came across this meme last week (below), and couldn't agree more!
1. They create and pursue focused goals.
Yes! Absolutely. This is why I have you complete the "Ideal Day" exercise as soon as you join this newsletter. You have to know what you're working toward. Eye on the prize! (You should also write a mission statement for you personally and your dream biz).
2. They take decisive and immediate action.
Another reason to write a mission statement! It becomes your guiding light. You can easily make decisions based on whether the outcome moves you towards your ideal day, or away from it. Also, stop sitting on your hands! Let's get this show on the road ;) Take immediate action today: Do one thing (even if it's a little thing) that pushes you toward the exit!
3. They focus on being productive, not busy.
True as ever. We can so easily end up doing "busy work" or giving things importance (and our time) when they're really not important. I was guilty of this for years, especially when I worked in an office.
I recently adopted an 80/20 approach. Meaning 80% of my work each day should be directly helping me achieve my goals (which at this time are to increase revenue, but also set up systems so I can eventually work less). There are things I *have* to do (like taxes and payroll) that don't necessarily bring me closer to my goals (like, say marketing or teaching my assistant how to do something), and those get shoved into the smaller 20% block.
Take a look at all the tasks you do in the day -- what matters, what doesn't? What can you delegate? What can you eliminate? Although I enjoyed reading the paper for years, I realized reading the paper didn't get me any closer to where I wanted to go (and getting out of a crappy job was more important than reading the paper). There is always something that can give -- remember be productive not busy!
4. They make logical, informed decisions.
5. They avoid the trap of trying to make things perfect.
I talk alot about this in the EXS course. Bluntly: You've just gotta get it out there. You have to start your business. Think beta, not version 5.0. (Here's a post about starting a business with the least common denominator). You don't need to wait until you have the perfect name, website, business cards, blah blah. Just start. I have redesigned my websites 7x. I have even changed the direction of my business 4x. That's how it works. Thus, there is no point trying to make it "perfect" before you begin. Everytime I write a book, there is always still more I could do (editing never ends, you can keep tweaking) but eventually I have to publish. Good enough is good enough. "Not half bad" is a fine starting point.
6. They work outside of their comfort zone.
Starting an exit strategy is all about leaving your comfort zone. Come on in, the water is warm!
7. They keep things simple.
See #5 ;)
8. The focus on making small, continuous improvements.
9. They measure and track their progress.
We improve what we measure. That's why people who use food journals or apps tend to do better with weight-loss goals than those who do not. Set goals. Define how you will determine whether you are progressing towards it. For example, when I need to write a cookbook, I know I need to write about 200 recipes. I divide recipes by days until my manuscript is due. I figure out I need to do, say 3 recipes a day. I know day-to-day if I'm on par, and I also have a chalk board "128 to go!"
We also track our time and how we spend each day pretty militantly at HH HQ. (Helps us identify what needs to be more efficient while ensuring the 80/20 rule and that priorities are priorities).
Keeping track of how you spend every hour in the day will be telling -- it will help you find your busy vs. productive. A great app is Let's Freckle (created by my pal Amy. Those in the course should be familiar from classroom examples). The first 30 days are free!
10. They maintain a positive attitude and learn from their mistakes.
Some of my greatest successes come out of big fat failures. Are you afraid of failure?
11. They spend time with motivational people.
For me, this isn't about being friends with Tony Robbins, but about surrounding yourself with people who support you, encourage you, and bring out your best self. I have also found a lot of satisfaction in befriending people who are entrepreneurs and have, or want, to start their own business. Most of these people I met online. Since none of my real life friends want to be their own boss or quit the 9-5 and live more freely, I had to seek out others. It's made a huge difference to connect and share our struggles and successes. This is why we have a forum and listserve in the Exit Stategy School course (plus monthly live chats with me). I want to build a network. You need peeps in your corner -- fellow students and alums to bounce ideas off. For those in the course already, start talkin' to each other more! You'll keep each other accountable, too!
12. They maintain balance in their life.
I'm working on this! In fact, realizing I have worked entirely too much since Jan 1st, I forced myself to go on a three week snowboarding trip. Good thing I'm my own boss!
p.s. I'm most def. going to reopen the class this Spring -- probably April. I may or may not do a live session. I'm kinda diggin' the idea of an intensive weekend bootcamp. Sort-of, force y'all through it with no room for procrastination ;) I will also be adding more tutorials and expanded class topics to the course based on feedback from past students :-D
Around Lesson 5, my students taking the Exit Strategy Course start to realize I'm not a fan of starting a business that requires you sell physical things. At least, not as your first (or even second) business. (Remember the business snowball!)
Here's why: it's usually cost prohibitive.
I'll dig deep into this in a minute, but before I do, I wanted to point out two OTHER reasons why I discourage businesses involving manufactured physical items: (1) big start up costs (for raw materials), and (2) time.
With Exit Strategy School, I want you to create a business that gets you OUT of the 9-5 BUT (!!) that also gets out right away. ASAP!
If you need to cough up $1,000, or even $250, to buy the materials to make your product, you'll put it off, or you won't be able to start for months because you're already pinching pennies. (I always tell my students if you need more than $100 to start a business, find another business idea). PLUS you don't want to start a fledgeling business so deep in the red. Minimize your risks (because you already have enough fear in this new journey to contend with).
Second, it takes time to make those items. Even if it only takes 20 minutes, it's still a burden. Most of us have to start our exit strategy while still at a job that takes 40-60 hours of our time. You just don't have the time --- the time to make it, the time to pack it up, ship it, and sell it, and time to do all the OTHER business things you have to do.
In the Exit Strategy School course, I teach my students how to create a business that keeps making them money 24/7. Once they make their item, that's it! They're done. They just keep selling it and selling it. They don't have to reinvent (or remake) the wheel! Most of my students can put their idea together into a final product within a weekend.
Going back to my original gripe: Selling physical goods is almost always cost prohibitive.
But don't just take my word for it! Here's a comment one of my students said after the lesson: "I absolutely love to knit. It's therapeutic for me, but I also know that the hours that go into making something small are so cost prohibitive that it wouldn't even be worth my time to try to sell my creations."
Don't worry -- there are ways to get around that (and creative ways you can still make money off those skills, even if you don't knit-for-money -- you'll see next week!).
'Til next time!
I do live call-in's with my students taking the Exit Strategy School course (note: the course is now closed) --- it's sort of like having "office hours". My students can ask me any question they have, and this one bubbled up in our last session:
"I was talking with my significant other about my ideas for my business/exit strategy. He thinks I have great ideas but he doesn't see how I'm going to make money off it because of people can just do screen shots and repost the stuff to Pintrest and such. I know there that would be copyright infringement but how would you enforce that? How do you people from sending your stuff out into free void of the internet? How do we deal with copyright infringement on our work?"
Great question! This is something I used to fear (and remember: fear is paralyzing, it's what keeps you trapped!)
Before I get into my "advice" we all need to take a moment and be brutally honest with ourselves:
We are all pirates. We have all cheated the system at one time or another.
Maybe we downloaded music for free back in the late 90's a la Napster. Maybe we bought a bootleg DVD. Maybe we watched our friend's bootlegged DVD. Maybe we dubbed (duplicated) a friend's CD, software, video game, etc. Or we watched one, listened to one, played one, etc. Maybe we photocopied a recipe out of a book. Maybe we wrote down a recipe from a book and gave it to our friend... If you use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or heck, go on the internet, you've probably looked at bootleg stuff without knowing you're looking at bootlegged stuff because your friend posted, probably without thinking, etc.
I'll admit I downloaded music like it was a fashion statement in the late 90's. I could say I was a dumb kid that didn't know better, but deep down I knew it wasn't cool. I never would have walked into Best Buy, dropped a CD in my purse, and walked out -- no way! -- but downloading in the privacy of my teenage bedroom just didn't feel the same way... it felt so...harmless. I also didn't have the money to pay for the songs even if I wanted to and I'm sure that was my mental justification for my actions.
I was a straight-A student, a good kid. Yet...
Even in law school (law school!) I watched classmates sharing around key codes and bootlegged software like MS Office. Maybe they thought about it, maybe they didn't...
I'm not trying to justify pirating -- it's not cool --- I'm only trying to be realistic about it. It happens. People steel your stuff.
and here's the shocker: it's not always a bad thing.
But before I get to that and explain why, I need to drive this one point home:
There will always be people who cheat the system. There will always be freeriders. Those are not your customers.
Unless their actions are doing serious, irreparable harm, don't waste your time or energy -- or your worry on them.
You have plenty of other things to do and worry about !
Now for the good news: your goodies being pirated can often lead to paying customers.
A lot of people want to scope things out before they buy.
When I first started selling meal plans, it was donation-based. I suggested paying $5, but you could pay any amount, or no amount at all. As you can guess, we had freeloaders, as well as people who were paying less. Eventually I decided to set the price firm. You had to pay $5. Yes I lost some of my customers who were paying less, but most of them ponied up to the full $5. Even more interesting was how many freeriders then started paying.
One of the "freeriders" even emailed me about it. She said when I set the price firm she was initially aggrivated but then realized, she'd been downloading free meal plans for weeks, it was about time she paid. (Her words). It was like my setting a price clicked something on in her head. Another person also admitted they had downloaded for free because they wanted to see what it was about before they actually spent money.
I found this intriguing and ran a report on my sales. Sure enough there were dozens of instances where "freeriders" had subsequently paid for a meal plan. Either they went back and purchased the one they downloaded for free, or they paid for a subsequent one... and this was BEFORE I set the price firm.
And I can't tell you the number of times people intend to email the meal plan they paid for to their friends (who are then getting it for free and without paying) and accidentally email me instead.
I usually write back something like, "Did you intend to send this back to me?" and then they write me back, explaining their friend was broke, or their friend just wanted to see what it was like before paying, and so on and so on. I always say, "No worries, thanks for recommending our product!" and leave it at that.
I know that a good portion of those people getting it for free will eventually pay.
Does it suck? Sure. No one wants their work being sent out for free. No one *wants* to be taken advantage of. No one wants to have money stolen out of their pocket, but it's going to happen...try to look on the brightside.
When the kindle versions of my cookbooks first landed on piracy forums I wanted to die. I already made so little for my books (about $1 per sale) and now I was being cheated out of that??
My husband, who used to work in the tech world, assured me this was good. For 1. it meant my stuff was good enough it was worthy to steal (yay vaildation?) and 2. that serious pirates, if they like something, they will then go and actually pay for it.
My sales showed no sign of suffering after that happened.
Which brings me to another example:
A friend of mine has a great documentary. About a year after it came out, he debated whether or not to put the documentary on Hulu and Netflix. He knew his documentary would reach way more people that way (and that was the ultimate goal of the documentary -- to share information with the masses) and the exposure via those channels would be unparalleled. However, he still hadn't recooped all his costs to make the documentary. He was worried: If people can watch it for free, why would they buy the DVD? He'd never see another sale...
Turns out he couldn't have been more wrong. Sales soared after the documentary was on Netflix and Hulu. Perhaps people just want to take things for a test drive first.
To summarize: Piracy sucks. There's no denying it. Piracy is going to happen. (I just can't sugarcoat that.)
What I CAN do, is tell you it's not the end of the world. Pick your battles... look on the bright side. Sometimes free equals money later.
'Til next time!
I was visiting my friend Stephanie when I noticed this new fixture in her living room:
I said to her, "Are you making the boys pay every time they want candy? That's brilliant!"
Steph laughs a little and says, "No that's Ted's. He's very entrepreneurial."
(Ted is her 11-year-old son)
Curious, I ask Ted to tell me about his business.
He perks up and says, "I made $15 off two bags of skittles."
Ted had a huge, satisfactory grin. (Keep in mind that $15 is a lot of money to an 11-yr-old).
His friends (and his older brother) were always eating his candy (candy he'd saved his allowance to buy). And while Ted is a sweet boy, polite, and always happy to share, he was still a boy who wanted his candy.
Ted also knew this situation was never going to happen:
Friend: "Hey Ted can I have a piece of your candy bar?"
Ted: "Sure, if you pay me a quarter."
SO Ted got creative and started putting candy in his play machine.
Ted whispers to me, "I had to put a sign up, see, because it will take any coin, but I wanted people to put in quarters, not dimes."
He also tells me how adding the language "only" increased purchases.
(An 11-yr-old with a solid grasp of marketing!)
I say, "well this all sounds great, Ted, I'm very impressed, but now you have to pay for your own candy?"
Ted cracks a wide smile, peers over his shoulder to make sure we're alone, and then lets me in on the big secret:
The machine doesn't even require coins. You can just turn it and candy comes out.
"Don't your friends know this?" I ask. Reminding Ted that his family had this "toy" before he had his business.
"Yeah but I guess they forgot" he tells me. "I don't know. They just do it. It's habit I guess. Everyone is used to paying for candy from a machine like this."
I wanted to hug him but I didn't since that's not "cool."
I starred at the candy machine in amazement.
Ted hit another huge marketing point. There are hundreds of books on the psychology of habits and how powerful it is (as well as how manipulative it is) in the market place.
Consumers go on autopilot
and he just.... knew it. Ted was aware even if he wasn't aware he was aware. Ted was just mimicking the world around him, but in a powerful, very entrepreneurial way.
Later in the evening I asked Ted if he learned anything else from running his business.
"I should have waited until the skittles were on sale. I could have had more money that way, since, you know, you have costs. Like buying more skittles."
Being around Ted reminded me how simple life (and business) really is... it's only our (adult) tendencies to over complicate things.
It really is so simple, like the formula I use: skills-problem-solution.
Break it down to the basics.
Keep it simple.
My favorite phrase is "streamline."
In the Exit Strategy School course, I spend a lot of time breaking things down. My students are blown away by how simple (and easy) it all really is.
Light bulbs turn on as they all realize they are all like Ted. They already have the tools in their tool belt to be successful. They already have all the tools they need to build a business and their exit strategy... they were just confused and overwhelmed by details and concerns that don't really matter... like if they should have a blue wrench or a red one... not realizing neither matters, you just need a wrench!
Scale it back. What would Ted say?
'Til next time!
Discouraged because someone else is already doing what you want to do?
Freaked out by competition?
Worried the market is already "over saturated?"
Competition is a GOOD thing!
(Yes, you heard me right!)
We talk a lot about competition, standing out, and over saturation in the Exit Strategy School course (and here's a sneak peek mini lesson for today!!).
Competition is a GOOD thing! (Yes, I'm repeating myself).
Competition works to validate your idea. This tells you there is a market and a customer ready for you and your juicy offerings.
The trick (shh...) is to be similar, but not *exactly* the same.
This is where USP (unique selling point) comes in. I spend a lot of time on USP/how to stand out in the Course (it's a critical component to marketing) so I don't want to blabber on too long here, but briefly:
One topic that really IS over saturated is publishing. Specifically, books on how to write and publish books.
Yet despite 100s and 100s of titles about publishing, and how to write books, and how to get published, more titles on this very topic come out each year.
If you pop on Amazon and do a quick search for books on "how to get published" (go do this!) you'll see 100s of results come up.
This would probably deter you, right?
WRONG. This should get you excited!
More is actually... more.
Here's the thing: When you start to look a little more closely (and stop hyperventilating because you're freaking out over all the competition) you'll see these books really aren't competitors.
They're similar but they're not *exactly* the same. (Yes I'm repeating myself again)
(This is an actual slides from the course! You'll just have to imagine my lecture that goes along with it ;))
SEE? Similar but not exact! That's the magic of USP!
Do you think I wrote the first travel book? No.
Do you think I wrote the first vegan cookbook? No.
Do you think I was the first person to sell meal plans? No.
Are there lots of other travel books, vegan cookbooks, and meal plan services out there? YES.
That's part of how I knew I had a "good" business idea.
Don't fear competition. COMPETITION IS GOOD!
The trick is to stand out -- find your unique selling point.
(I cover this in depth in the course).
Spend a few minutes thinking about successful businesses that came on the market after so called competitors already existed. Here's an example: all the "energy" drinks. Red Bull, Monster, Rockstar, and many others... and that 3-hour energy bottle...
Happens all the time... once you found your example, see if you can pick out what made them different from the previous "competitors" (don't use the energy drink example, find your own!)
and remember... competition is GOOD.
'Til next time!
I get it... but it's time for some tough love:
Most of your questions and concerns are just distractions.
Don't let them hold you back. Build your business. Build your exit strategy. "Cross that bridge when you get to it" has never been more applicable.
Every week I get questions like... do I need an LLC? What do I do about my taxes? Where do I find a lawyer? How can I get a trademark? and so forth.
I'll give it to you straight:
Many businesses (especially the types of businesses I help you create in the Exit Strategy School course) do not need to be incorporated to start, if ever.
I incorporated Happy Herbivore last year -- SIX YEARS later -- to save money on taxes. (In previous years that tax advantage was not there because my gross income wasn't high enough).
I must also reemphasize I didn't *have* to incorporate. I could have kept on keeping on.
I also didn't formally file for trademarks until last year. (Some of my products and companies are still not formally registered).
Formal registration of copyrights and trademarks is not required to establish rights. Common law protects you.
Taxes: No sweat. Report your income from your business endeavors on your taxes. The IRS has a form for everything and it's very self-explanatory. If you've ever completed and filed your taxes before, you'll find this is no different, just a different form. If you need help, go to H&R Block, hire an accountant, or get a computer program like Turbo Tax.
Don't let fears and unknowns stop you from building your business and creating your exit strategy. Cross that bridge later!
Banking: Are separate bank accounts, credit cards, paypal, helpful? Sure. Required? Probably not. I didn't have business bank accounts, credit cards, etc. until a year ago. Keep records. Keep receipts. Bank statements speak for themselves.
Need a loan or seed money? Find another business idea.
The kinds of businesses I teach in the Exit Strategy School course do not have huge start-up costs. My businesses costs $0-30 to start. If you need a loan, you need to rethink. Think beta not version 8.0. Start a business you can start this weekend!
Remember: the secret to escaping is to start your escape!
Employees: Create a business you can run and manage yourself. (What I teach in the course). If your business blows up and you need lots of employees --- great. Consider hiring part-time independent contractors. BUT it's very unlikely this will happen in the first 6 months or a year. So focus on you and your business.
DON'T PUT THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE.
Just go build your exit strategy business.
Most of the questions or concerns you have are just distractions.
Just go do it. Go build your business. Get it up and running and making money. Cross that bridge when you get to it.
Use the formula (free video #3) to create a business. If you need more hands on help, a step-by-step guide to building a business (and your exit strategy) take the course.
and finally, a little inspiration:
'Til next time!
Disclaimer: This newsletter is for informational purposes only and is not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney, accountant, or other knowledgeable professional to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or specific problem.
Problem is most responses sound like a vacation... not an ideal Tuesday.
Don't get me wrong, plenty of the responses are reasonable and don't include sunbathing on an exotic beach... but something that is almost always noticeably missing is work... how are you going to make use of your skills and talents?
You might not believe me but you want to work.
You want to use your talents.
Several months ago, when I was feeling really burnt out from work, I said to a friend, “I just want to make enough money so I can retire and move to an island and do nothing. NOTHING!”
My friend smiled and said, “That's not true.”
I was expecting the next sentence to be something like, “because you lived on an island in the Caribbean once already. And you didn't like it!” but that's not what he said.
He said, “We all want to be productive.”
My friend happens to be a human behavioral psychologist, so I guess in retrospect his response wasn't all that surprising ;)
Anyway, a few months later I ended up going on a hiatus. I'd declined speaking engagements, radio interviews, hired someone to sort of take over my work for me while I was away. I moved to a small house in the woods near Lake Tahoe with plans to do nothing, absolutely nothing, but bum around and snowboard for several months.
And for several days, weeks even, it was grand. And then the ants crawled back into my pants. By the time I'd left Tahoe, I'd launched another business.
Friends laughed and joked, saying things like, “I think hiatus just isn't your thing.”
That's when I thought back to Doug's words so many months before.
His words rang true: We want to be productive. We want to contribute. We want to make use of our talents. We want a goal to work toward.
“Doing nothing” eventually gets boring which is why so many self-made people continue to work and continue to build businesses. It's why filthy rich celebrities keep working, even though they clearly don't need the money. It's why some retirees develop very specific schedules, like my grandmother who had her hair done religiously every Wednesday.
It's our human nature.
If you've ever gone on a long vacation, you probably started to feel “over it” and you were ready to get home and back to your routine towards the end.
Point is (yes! I have one!) that when I ask people “what is your ideal day?” (as I did in the last email) they tend to overlook their goals and what they'd like to be doing, work-wise.
Working on your tan, surfing, reading – these are all great activities. And they can absolutely fit into your perfect life and your ideal day every day, but they can't be your entire day. Not forever.
This is why I emphasize “live your passions” with Exit Strategy School because our passions extend well beyond ourselves and our own inner desires or needs. Our passions are outward, too. We want to contribute. We want to help others. We want to work, we just want to work at something we enjoy. We don't want to do work we don't like :)
What would make you feel productive?
What would you accomplish?
'Til next time!
I touched briefly on the business snowball concept in the final free training video (video #3). (If you haven't watched it yet, hang tight! If you haven't already signed up for the free video series, you can do so here.)
The concept behind my "business snowball" is piggybacking on the old adage, "don't put all your eggs in one basket."
If you have multiple income streams that are independent of one another, and something happens, it's not the end of your world.
For example, I have several businesses, that when added up together, cover all my expenses.
If something happened to one of them, say my Broke Backpacker ebook was pulled from Amazon without warning (this has happened) or people just suddenly stopped buying it, I would miss that income for sure, but it wouldn't ruin me.
I would still be able to pay my mortgage, put gas in my car, food on the table, pay the electric bill, my ginormous student loans, and so forth. Maybe I wouldn't have as much "spending" money for entertainment, but the show would most definitely go on.
All my other businesses would stay afloat as I investigated what happened and worked to fix that income stream.
It's like having insurance.
I learned this lesson the hard way when I was freelancing. For a long time I had about 15-20 clients at any given time and my income was spread across all of them pretty evenly.
Then I started to hit a stride with one client who kept giving me more and more work. I really liked this client, and they paid well, so I was happy to keep that relationship going.
Taking on more work eventually meant saying "no" to other clients and because I had more work than I could actually do, I also turned down new clients.
Before I knew it, this one client was accounting for 25% of my income. Then 30%. We were heading to 45% and still my client was asking me for more and more work.
A part of me liked the stability and the ease of dealing with fewer clients. I got way too comfortable.
Then suddenly, I was fired. The person I'd been hired by was fired, and the company he worked for decided to also get rid of all the freelancers he'd picked.
It was nothing personal, they told me, they just wanted to start fresh.
But there went almost half of my paycheck and without warning.
It takes time to find new clients and new assignments -- there was no way I was going to recoup what I just lost. and I didn't. My rent was late that month.
I vowed to never again put all my eggs in one basket and for the most part, I haven't.
The other reason I like having multiple businesses (aside from the financial security) is it is much easier to create a small, profitable business. It's a lot easier to create, own, and manage little income streams.
More money = more problems indeed.
I have big businesses and small businesses and while I love them all, (and am grateful for their successes---knock on wood!) it's the littlest ones that are the most reliable, consistent and... fuss-free.
AND they add up.
More importantly, they were the easiest to start. Little to no startup costs. Little to no work involved. Little to no maintenance!
Small is big!
My point is, you don't have to create a single, wildly successful business that supports your lifestyle. You don't even really want that. What you want are lots of little income streams that are independent of each other. $300.mo here $500.mo there...
(If you need help coming up with an income stream or business idea, check out the free training series. I share my fool-proof formula in the final video).
You want a business snowball.
Don't put all your eggs in one basket ;)
'Til next time!
(If you caught my minimalist Monday blog post on priorities a few weeks ago, you knew this one was comin'!)
Houston we have a.... Mission!
Admittedly, I used to laugh at mission statements or even the thought of them. Years later as a business owner, I realize how vital they are.
From the moment you begin your business, you have to know where you’re going. Where will your business or brand be in the years to come? Obviously things can change, but you have to have a clear vision.
This is also true of your exit strategy. It's why I have you go through the "ideal day" exercise immediately after signing up for the 3-free video training series.
I want you to have a clear vision of what you're working toward.
This is something I wish I had done with both my business AND my exit strategy.
When I started Happy Herbivore in 2007 I didn’t have a plan or a vision. As a result, I often struggled with making decisions: Should I take this opportunity or pass? Should I do this or change that?
I was all over the place for years. I felt like a rogue rock tumbling down the mountainside. And my business WAS a rogue rock tumbling down the mountain side.
First Happy Herbivore was a food journal, then a recipe blog, then a community/info source, and finally: an umbrella business for all the different things I do...
It took half a decade but I eventually fell into a vision and a mission statement. I figured out what I was doing and what I hoped to achieve.
Settling into that mission made all the difference in the world. It was about as epic as when I got my mind right and started seeing myself as a business woman and an entrepreneur (see free training video #1).
Anytime you struggle to make a decision (and you will struggle) go back to your mission statement. Does the proposed activity, opportunity or product fit within your mission?
Same is true for your exit strategy and ideal day. If you're business isn't moving you in that direction, it's time to change your business. It's very easy for a business to turn into a job (I speak from experience) so keep a clear vision, making changes where necessary.
Once I developed a succinct mission for Happy Herbivore (and myself) navigating became easy. I say “yes” or “no thank you” with ease. Each step I take is to further my mission. To bring me closer to my ideal day. I’m not bouncing all over the place anymore.
Your mission statement should be clear and direct.
Here’s mine: Happy Herbivore Inc. is dedicated to helping people live better and eat healthy, plant-based foods.
I know most of you (esp my VIP bootcampers!) have no idea what your business will be yet -- that's okay! That's what EXS is for...
but business or not, you CAN set your personal mission.
You have to know where you're going when you exit!
'Til next time!
It sounds ridiculous when you say it that way.
But of course, it is ridiculous. It's (quite possibly) the reason you're stalling.
On the other hand, there's no doubt that, "If you don't start, you will fail."
Not starting and failing lead to precisely the same outcome, with different names." - Seth Godin
I'm going to be bold: I think failure is sometimes the best thing that can happen to a person.
Yet we live in a society where mistakes and failures are treated as just the opposite: they are marked as the worst things that can happen to a person.
I don't know why failure is so embarrassing.
Even I admit I grapple with my own fears of failure and embarrassment of past failings. It's not like I wave them around proudly. You might even be wondering, "She's had flops?" YES! Yes I have. I just draw your attention to all my successes ;) After all, they're more sparkly and pretty.
But really it's the ugly, mismatched failures, not the shiny successes, that have impacted me the most and led to my ultimate success. Yes, success feeds success, but pivotal moments, brilliant ideas, and proverbial "breakthroughs" came from my failures.
For example, when I was working on one of the lessons for the Exit Strategy Course, I realized the entire lesson -- what I had learned and will be teaching you -- came out of a big fat past failure.
To give you a quick little tease: I kept thinking, in order to be successful, I had to come up with the next big idea. I had to do something totally new -- never been done before.
I couldn't have been more WRONG.
I ultimately found my success -- my sweet spot, when I stopped trying to reinvent the wheel. The secret sauce isn't in making the wheel obsolete. The secret sauce is in improving upon the wheel. (I dig deep into this during the course).
Let me tell ya, I used to fear competition. "Oh there is someone already out there doing what I want to do" cue: sweaty palms. I'd gag on my fear reflux, go home feeling defeated, and try to think up another "new" idea.
Eventually, after I failed time and time again at trying to be "revolutionary" I realized "competition" was, in fact, a good thing. (I talk a lot about this in the upcoming course). That (and here's a hint to my formula!!) you can (and should!) create a profitable business from the skills and talents you already have. If competition already exists, that means you have a good idea. The trick is in distinguishing yourself. THAT is how you're revolutionary! (and yes, I teach you how to "stick out" and sparkle in the course, too!)
Point is, while you can fail in all the wrong ways, you can fail in all the right ways, too. You can fail your way to success.
And you will fail. (I just can't sugarcoat that). In Exit Strategy School we test your business ideas to make sure they're "golden eggs." We'll generate a lot of ideas and I'll be honest: some will turn out to be stinkers upon investigation. That's okay though! They'll lead you to the yellow brick road. The promise land of freedom!
A huge part of building your exit strategy is to make sure it will actually work! So, failure happens, just in the cushy safety of a classroom.
BUT first you have to get over your fear of failure (even if you can't do it completely). I'm not sure it's ideal to be totally fearless, anyway. Fear has it's place as an emotion. It makes sure we reevaluate regularly... but I digress.
Today's assignment: I want you to think about some big, fat failures in your life. Choose a wide range. You failed a test. You were dumped by someone you really liked. You lost a competition. You weren't picked for a promotion. You got yourself 10k in credit card debt. You tried to launch a business and it failed. Your blog post didn't get any likes. You tried to sell chocolate bars for Band camp and no one would buy them. (These are all my personal examples, by the way).
Think about them and what you got out of these failures. There is always a learning experience: I needed to change the way I studied (I did and went on to being a Straight-A student). I learned I had to be myself. I shouldn't want to be with someone who doesn't want me. I lost because I didn't prepare adequately. I learned I wasn't entitled to a promotion; I had to earn it, and so on.
Afterwards, think about how these "life lessons" helped in far reaching ways. Find your own example of how you failed your way to success.
Then write it down. It'll be a reminder in the weeks to come.
'Til next time
Thank you, Quaid and Lily Bean!
First of all THANK YOU!
You might be thinking “Wait, what did I do?!”
You sent me 400+ awesome emails in response to my “How Can I Help You?” newsletter! (Thanks a bunch! I really appreciated your feedback!!)
I want to make EXS for YOU. So YOU can escape the 9-5 and live YOUR passion. It's incredibly helpful for me to know what you want, need and struggle with so I can fine tune my course to help you specifically and precisely.
BTW -- I try to reply to everyone personally, but Gmail's threaded/collated conversations feature confuses me sometimes ;)
As I read through your emails, I noticed the same 5 fears, concerns, and questions kept popping up. I beat the snot (ok, bad example!) out of #1, #2 and #5 in free training video series so I won't go into too much detail in this mega-already-too-long-post, but briefly:
Money/Financial (this was a biggie!)
“How to be prepared to financially take the leap. The financial unknown of this type of endeavor is terrifying and I am scared of putting my family in financial jeopardy”
This is why I call it Exit STRATEGY School and not “jump-out-of-the-airplane-without-a-parachute” school ;)
I'll show you how to build a strategy – a plan – to exit, step-by-step, complete with built in safety nets in EXS.
What you can do right now: Figure out how much you need to live on. Get specific! Down to the penny if you can. And don't let a big figure scare you off. I had over $150,000 in student debt and $10,000+ in credit card debt when I exit'd and started my first business. Those bills were over $2k a month (before rent, utilities, gas, car payment, and food!). To say that motivated me is an understatement! I was broke! broke! broke!
Where to Start?
“How to decide what I want to do to leave the 9-5 behind.”
“What I hope to learn is how to find out the right business for me”
“The biggest thing I need help with is coming up with a good idea.”
Yep x3! I'll answer that for ya in EXS! I have a very specific formula (see free video #3) for generating business ideas and it doesn't involving thinking up an idea or “figuring out what you want to do.” (Both of those will lead you astray!). My approach much simpler (and fool-proof). I've used it to launch 5 (five!) successful businesses!
“I want to learn marketing”
“I need to learn social media to grow my fan base”
There is a super delicious marketing overview in EXS course, but if you already have a business and are just looking to take it to the next level a.k.a. "elevate your game", EXS is probably not the right fit. You might want to check out my other upcoming program, My Minimalist Marketing that'll start up next year.
EXS is for those who are ready to quit their day job but are total beginners (a.k.a. don't already have a successful business or job/lifestyle they LOVE). (Calling all the confused, clueless and overwhelmed!!) My students build a business or become freelancers and consultants. We start from 0. (I just want to be honest about what EXS is and what it's not).
“I want to be rich. I want to make a lot of money.”
EXS isn't a get-rich-quick scheme. With EXS I'll show you how to build a successful business so you can live the life you want. So you can have a company that works for you, instead of you working for a company. I'll teach you how break free of the 9-5, live your passion, and be your own boss... (BYOB!) and you can absolutely have a comfortable living doing this, but I'm not a millionaire. That was never my goal. My goal was to leave a job I hated, have a comfortable living doing something I was good at and passionate about, and have the lifestyle I wanted (work less, enjoy life more, travel often, freedom to make my own schedule...). That's what I accomplished and that's what I teach.
Fear/Courage/Confidence (second biggest concern!)
"How to get over the fear and take the initial hurdle. Also how to have the level of confidence and courage needed to exit"
You're reading this blog post so I know you have guts. You have what it takes. You just need a kick-in-the-pants, or a hug (we all respond differently) but whatever you need, I'm here to give it.
Having a plan in place – a step-by-step blueprint for how to exit (and exit smart and safely) helps wipe away a lot of these concerns. There is no guesswork with the EXS course. No unknowns. I'm also going to hold your hand a lot!! In the EXS course, we'll also do a lot of practice and testing, and we research your ideas to make sure they are good (or as I call them "golden eggs.") This all builds up your confidence! Practice doesn't just make perfect... it makes cool, confident and courageous.
btw- I totally get the fear and lack of courage/confidence. I've been there myself. My success came out of a very scary and very dark place (I was depressed). I had lost all hope and all faith in everything. I thought I was doomed - sentenced to misery - but eventually I put my faith back into myself, accepted some hard truths, got my mind right, and became rich in everything.
and that's what I talk about in the free free training video (so sign up for the free trainings if you haven't already!)
I don't want to give away too much but I'll say this: It's awesome ;) I go into my own story, and share a lot of my failures and screw-ups (I made the mistakes so you don't have to!). This training is just a tiny baby first step, but an important one! Time to GET YOUR MIND RIGHT.
and if you want to learn more about the awesome step-by-step exit strategy school course, click here.
'Til next time