Jennifer Lee on Growing Your Audience with Integrity

Jennifer Lee, author of Right-Brain Business Plan, on Profit Power Pursuit with Tara Gentile 

[smart_track_player url=”″ title=”Jennifer Lee on Growing Your Audience with Integrity” social=”true” social_twitter=”true” social_facebook=”true” social_pinterest=”true” ]

Tara:  Hey everyone, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit.  I’m Tara Gentile, your host, and together with CreativeLive, we explore the unique strategies that creative entrepreneurs use to take control of their lives, profit from their passions, and pursue what’s truly important to them.

On today’s episode, I’ll talk to Jennifer Lee, author of The Right-Brain Business Plan and Building Your Business the Right-Brain Way.  She helps creative people who cringe at the thought of writing a business plan find creative ways to turn their dreams into a moola-making enterprise.  Before starting her own business, Jennifer was a consultant for Fortune 500 companies like GAP, Inc., Accenture, and HP.  Jennifer and I talked about her current right-brain business plan, and how it’s helping her to evolve her business, why she decided to retire her successful Right-Brainers in Business video summit, and how she manages her time as a creative business owner.

Jennifer Lee, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit.  Thank you so much for joining me.

Jennifer:  Oh, I’m so excited to be here.  Thanks for having me.

Tara:  Absolutely.  So the story of how you created The Right-Brain Business Plan is pretty well-documented at this point, so I’d love to start off by finding out what your right-brain business plan looks like right now.

Jennifer:  Ooh, the latest one.  Let me get it off my shelf.  It’s right over here by the computer.

Tara:  Okay, great.

Jennifer:  This is, I think, my fourth one that I’ve done.  No, wait, one, two, three, four, it’s the fifth one.

Tara:  Whoa.

Jennifer:  Since 2007, so this one I actually did in 2014, I believe.  I think so.  It’s changed in flavor, actually.  The last one I did, no, that was in 2013.  The last one I did was very much like big energy, getting myself out there in a big way.  Had like microphone and the stage and all this kind of cool stuff, and since then, I’ve been looking at more sustainability and, you know, focusing on ease and having sustainable growth over time, so this new plan, this is actually from 2015, the first panel is reset your health, beginner’s mind, kick back and relax, resolve to make life easier, and it’s a woman who’s meditating.  And then when I … the next set of panels is about I really was craving having like my own space to do creative work, because I had been so focused on really growing the business and kind of lost sight of my own creative process, so I had created this collage about wanting my own space, and within the next month, I got keys to a studio.

Tara:  Wow.

Jennifer:  So that was pretty amazing.  And then the last few panels are about team and infrastructure and having things be more streamlined and easy.  There’s a picture of this woman dancing with two dogs and there’s money everywhere, and it’s love running your business, so this idea of bringing fun back into the business and having things run smoothly operationally so that I can then focus more on, you know, doing the stuff that I really love, because when the business grows, as you know, Tara, it’s like then things get more complex, and there’s all sorts of other considerations to be thinking of, and so really getting a handle on that so I could focus back on my own creative process, and really serving people in the way that I love to serve, and there’s this other quote here that says, “Do small things with great love,” and that’s really helping me, you know, to be thinking about what is it that I’m offering and how can I do it with love.

Tara:  I love that.  Thank you for sharing that.  Do you … do you redo your plan about every two years it sounds like?

Jennifer:  Yeah, it actually, I don’t, like, have it on my calendar that okay, it’s, you know, the second year and I need to redo one, it just organically has been like that, so my first one was in 2007, and then it was 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, so I do them based on, like when I look at the plan, does it still feel like I’m working on it, or like if I look at it and go, yeah, I actually feel complete with that, or maybe some things have transformed into new desires or new visions, different than what I had initially planned, or sometimes those things have manifested in different ways, and like, oh, well, yeah, that counts, you know, and I can check that off.  So it’s really paying attention to how do I feel when I look at it, and is it still ringing true, or you know, does it feel done, is there more?  So yeah, for some reason, it happens about every two years where I feel complete and ready to move on.

Tara:  Love it.  And how … how close to completion on your current plan do you feel like you are?  Are you still working on building it up or are you getting ready to kind of close … not close it down, but kind of wrap it up and move onto the next thing?

Jennifer:  I am still working this baby.

Tara:  Yeah?

Jennifer:  Yeah.  I think there’s, you know, still more to learn about bringing more ease into the work, and then, you know, the studio space last year was really about me having that time for myself, so I didn’t actually host anything there for that whole year.  Didn’t geotag anything.  You know, it was the place for me to go to really connect back with myself, and that was really important for me.  So what’s on this plan right now, though, is stuff around, you know, connection, partners in craft, delightful, neighborhood, open studio, and there’s like a classroom.  So there is a part of like bringing more people into this space, whether that be … I did a retreat with some of my mentorship folks in January, and that was really awesome, and that was kind of the way that I christened the space with actual people, you know, besides me, and I definitely want to see more of that this year, because that part of the plan has not really … that’s not brought to life in its fullest quite yet.

Tara:  Awesome.  So can you give us kind of a rundown of all the different ways that your business is currently generating revenue?

Jennifer:  Sure.  My different multiple moola making methods, as I like to say?

Tara:  Yeah.

Jennifer:  Because I like alliteration.  Let’s see.  There are different ecourses that I provide.  There’s the Right-Brain Business Plan ecourse, which is kind of the initial offering of helping people work through their own right-brain business plan, and we offer that as a facilitated course which is eight weeks, or a home study if people want to take it and we’re not, you know, running it live.  We also have a product development ecourse/home study, so that’s also offered once a year facilitated, or you know, any time via home study, and that’s a six-week program.  We have our mentorship program, which is a ten-month intensive kind of group coaching program, and that has three different levels.  So there’s the cohort circle level that has kind of the group coaching aspect.  There’s coaching calls, teaching calls, online coaching through our private group, all that kind of good stuff.  And then there’s other levels with getting coaching with me and with my associate coaches and masterminds and in-person stuff.  So there’s, you know, the different ways to get support through the mentorship program. 

I also have a licensing program for the Right-Brain Business Plan.  So for folks who love teaching workshops, who are coaches, who like the Right-Brain Business Plan, they can become a licensed facilitator and lead in-person workshops in their area.  So we have, I can’t remember the latest count, maybe about 40 or 50 facilitators worldwide who lead workshops using the Right-Brain Business Plan.  And then I also have a licensing program from my products that are focused on life vision using kind of creative approaches.  So that’s Unfolding Your Life Vision, and I also have a kit called the Dream Box Kit, and both of those kind of take you through a creative process of planning your vision for your life, your goals, looking at different aspects of what creates a fulfilling life, and so folks can become licensed facilitators for those programs and lead in-person workshops using that fun, visual technique for doing life visioning.

Tara:  Love it.  You were one of the first people that I saw that had a licensing model, and I was very inspired by that licensing model, so that is awesome.  And did you mention your books?

Jennifer:  So yes, I have two books.  The Right-Brain Business Plan, which came out in 2011, and Building Your Business The Right-Brain Way, which came out in 2014, and the second book is a lot of what we cover in the mentorship program, so it’s like The Right-Brain Business Plan book, there’s The Right-Brain Business Plan course that kind of helps you dive into it more deeply and get actual support through it, and then Building Your Business the Right-Brain Way is this idea of, okay, now you know what your business is and you’re wanting to grow it, what are the other things that you need to do, to have in place, you know, how do you really package your offers, and you know, sell in a way that’s authentic and build your team and kind of all that stuff that helps you expand your enterprise.

Tara:  Got you.  So this is … this is really interesting to me, because I know I get a lot of questions from clients about the relationship between free work and paid work, or in this case, you know, a very low, low ticket offer, which is a book, versus a much higher ticket offer, which is a course or a program.

Jennifer:  Right.

Tara:  Can you talk about how you wrap your head around, you know, giving, technically, I guess, giving it away for free or for very little versus asking people to pay a whole lot more.  How do you wrap your head around that?  How do you approach that in terms of the content that you create and the experience that you’re creating?

Jennifer:  Right.  And I think it’s kind of funny how you had to remind my books, because your question was about the money making thing, so that’s probably why I didn’t include those.  Just like you’re saying.  So in terms of wrapping my head around it, yeah, I mean, certainly, a book that’s $20 is, you know, a lot more affordable than, you know, a $200 course or, you know, a program that somebody’s going to invest thousands of dollars in. 

So for me, the way I look at it is the free part is really helping people to, you know, get information they need to just get started, get their feet wet, start to realize that, oh, you know, I can do this.  Like I love hearing from people, you know, if they tag me on a picture on Instagram, like, “I’m working on my Right-Brain Business Plan,” like, “I didn’t realize this could be fun.”  And just opening up that doorway to a whole new way of looking at work, and then, you know, some people, like I’ve heard from them via email that they’ve just read the book, and then they wrote a business plan and actually, you know, got funding for their non-profit, or you know, got grants, all that kind of stuff.  So it’s like people can do it on their own, and that’s awesome.  Like I love hearing that. 

And then there’s some folks who just really want to have like the hand-holding or to be in community with other people so they don’t feel so isolated, and that way, they can move more quickly through their goals, or you know, get more progress, get feedback, and that’s where having the opportunities to invest more in yourself and in your business through these programs can really help accelerate your progress, and so I think it’s great for, you know, people who are wanting to build an audience to have ways to connect on a free level.  I mean, one of the things that I didn’t mention in terms of money-making methods for myself was I, for five years, ran a video summit that was free for people watching live and to have replays and then I sold passes to it to get recordings, and even just doing the free parts, like I made so many connections that I have even to this day, you know, from five years ago of people who really were impacted by that experience and were so grateful to, you know, have it not have to pay for it, but still get tremendous value, and you know, they’re still really great fans of my work and have, you know, maybe went onto my books or be part of my courses, so it’s kind of that longer term view as well, in terms of building relationships and adding value.

Tara:  Yeah, that’s a great point.  And so it sounds like, you know, the core value proposition for these things, you know, the book versus the course might be exactly the same, but there’s additional value in the experience that you’ve created, and that opens you up to a different type of market as well.  Do you find that more of your customers for your courses have purchased the book and are looking for more?  Or do you find that more of them come to you kind of without that previous experience in your work?

Jennifer:  It’s a mix of both.

Tara:  Okay.

Jennifer:  It really is.  Yeah.  Some people who, you know, have the book and just, you know, want to have a place to work on it with other people, and then some folks are like, you know, I just heard of this, and then they have … for the Right-Brain Business Plan course, they do need the book to go through it, so you know, they get the book through us or through Amazon.  I think, you know, a lot of times, they’ll hear about it from a friend or something like that, and like oh, I think, you know, this is something you should try.

Tara:  Yeah.  That’s been my experience as well is that it’s a … it’s a mixed bag, but having that … having the book available or having that freebie available or whatever it might be definitely greases the wheels for a large segment of people and it’s super helpful.  So you mentioned the video summit, and I want to talk to you more about this, because it’s something that, you know, now, so many people are doing.  I think when you first started it, it was pretty innovative, really, and you mentioned that you had … you did it for five years.  Are you not doing it anymore?

Jennifer:  Yeah, I stopped doing it this year.  Like I didn’t do one this year.

Tara:  Wow.

Jennifer:  Yeah, and so that was a big move for me, and that really, you know, was part of that new business plan that I put together in terms of, you know, what … what is going to work for me going forward.  I love doing it.  It was, yeah, it was at the time like really innovative in terms of having this real-time way to interact with people, and we had so much engagement.  Like it was really incredible, and it’s a whole lot of work, you know?

Tara:  Yeah.

Jennifer:  A lot goes into it.  You know, it was a ten-day thing, and I actually started having, like, health issues.  Not because of the summit, but just, you know, in general having health issues, and it was kind of hard for me to be like on for ten days, because I could have, you know, some kind of flare up, which I did that final year, and I had said this is probably my last year doing it, and the whole theme was what’s next, because that was where I was at.  It’s like well, I don’t think this is working for me anymore.  What’s next?  And you know, I’m grateful that I put it to bed consciously and said, you know, it’s run its course, and what’s next?  What do we … by saying no to something, then it’s going to open the door for something else, and that’s, you know, also when I got the keys to my studio.  So it’s funny how that works.

Tara:  Yeah.  So I want to talk more about how you’re figuring out what’s next, but first, can we talk about how you came up with the idea for the summit in the first place.

Jennifer:  Oh, sure.

Tara:  Because I think a lot of people out there are looking for ways to grow their audience very, very quickly, and summits are one way that’s possible to do that, but there’s lots of different ways that you can do it, and I think just even finding out how those ideas come into being at first can help you get on the right track.  So how did you come up with the idea?

Jennifer:  Yeah, so I came up with it through the help of a mastermind.  So this whole idea of, you know, being around other people who give you feedback, it’s so valuable.  I certainly benefited from it.  I was working with my coach, Andrea J. Lee, as part of one of her mentorship programs and was in this mastermind, and this was back in, I think it was December 2010, and the book, first book was going to come out in February 2011, so I was like, okay, guys, I need to come up with some kind of event to help launch the book, and at that time, you know, telesummits were the big thing.  And so we’re sitting around the table, and I’m like showing them my Right-Brain Business Plans and saying, oh, I think I need to do a summit, and they’re like, hello, Jen, stop.  You’re showing us things.  You need to be on video.  Like, oh, yeah, you’re right.  Of course, I had no idea how to do one or what was involved, and fortunately, one of the people in the masterminds is now one of my very good friends and creative cohorts, Jeremy Miller, and he had the technical knowhow to help me, you know, get that part off the ground, and then I got support from, you know, the folks in the mastermind about, you know, what kind of speakers to be looking for and how to approach them and what might the format be, so this was something that really was brought about through, you know, collaboration and feedback. 

Jennifer Lee, author of The Right-Brain Business Plan, on Profit. Power. Pursuit. with Tara GentileIt wasn’t just me sitting in front of my computer, you know, dreaming this up by myself.  It was definitely hearing from people who had experienced one before, or had, you know, experience helping other people with it, but because it was a video summit and at that time, there weren’t, you know, I don’t even know if I had seen a video summit.  I had seen lots of telesummits.  Really had to kind of make up what the format was, so it had definitely evolved over the five years.  You know, that first year, I’m pretty proud of myself for making it happen, because I had no idea, you know, what it was going to be like when I hit that go live button, and then there was all these people in the chat room, and then getting more comfortable with it, and then having like this culture start to form around this event, and that people would be so excited that it was coming up again, and they would talk about how much it helped them last year, and you know, it was pretty amazing. 

So it’s definitely a great way to build the audience and connect on a deeper level, because there’s that live exchange, and then people are also in community with others, and lots of folks like got to know each other in the chat room.  They’re like, oh, you’re from Portland, too?  Me, too.  And they would go and meet up for coffee and become friends.  Or some people had collaborations.  And then for myself, getting to interview, you know, fantastic speakers, like you, Tara, you know.  Getting to make some great connections that way and learning from, you know, experts in the field as well.  So all around, it was a great experience, and really helped to build my list as well.

Tara:  Well, that’s the … that’s actually the follow-up that I had for you.  Can you talk specifically about how hosting an event like that impacted the size of your audience and even your revenue growth?

Jennifer:  Sure.  Oh, gosh, I wish that I had … I know I have the stats written down somewhere, but I would say the first time that I ran the summit, I think my list doubled, but it wasn’t, you know, super big then.  It was …  Maybe I went from like 2000 to 4000.  I can’t remember, but something like that, so that was around 2011.  2011 was the first year that I hit six figures, and so that was the first year where I really concentrated on, you know, building the list and working on offers and all that kind of stuff.  So I think that really helped to catapult, you know, that kind of moola milestone.  My list now is about 18,000, and in 2014 is when I hit multiple six figures.

Tara:  Nice.

Jennifer:  And actually, the summit itself, it’s, you know, it wasn’t like each time it was like there was, you know, 10s of thousands of people signed up for it.  It actually, you know, was like couple thousand or maybe 3000 each time, and probably a lot of them were repeat people, because there’s so many people who kept coming back.  My approach to doing this summit is actually different to a lot of summits that I see or am, you know, tapped on the shoulder for.  People email me and say hey, I want you to be on my summit, and they have this whole thing about like you must do a solo email between this and this week and this many tweets on these days and sign, you know, you must sign this and say you’re going to do it.  I didn’t take that approach, and I don’t necessarily like being the recipient of those kind of really, you know, specific requests, especially if I don’t know the person.

Tara:  Mmhmm.

Jennifer:  Like that just kind of floors me sometimes.  Most of the people I had as speakers were people I already knew, or had an introduction to.  So for me, it was, you know, a lot about relationships, and you know, creating value for the people who are participating and the people watching, and not about making it as how many people can I get to be on my list because you’re going to promote it for me.  So I think … I think that helped to create more, like, relationships with the speakers as well.  You know, they … a lot of times, they’re like, oh, I so appreciate that you’re just, you know, having it be whatever we feel comfortable doing.  A lot of people don’t take that approach, like I said, but that was something I felt pretty strongly about that for me it was more about the quality, not the quantity.

Tara:  I am so glad you brought that up, because when it comes to summits, when there is a requirement of promotion, that gets an automatic no from us.  My assistants don’t even … they don’t pass them on.  It’s an automatic no.  And I feel very strongly about that for exactly the reason that you just said, which it’s about quality, not quantity, and I can make more money on my list that is smaller.  I mean, it’s not a small list, it’s a big list.

Jennifer:  Yeah.

Tara:  But I can make more money off of that list because those people know me and they like me and they trust me and they trust me not to send them junk mail about everybody’s summits, than someone who’s got, you know, 100,000 people on their list, because of all of these different tactics. 

Jennifer:  Right.

Tara:  So thank you for giving that story, and that example, and I totally agree.

Jennifer:  Yay.  I know I feel like it’s this weird, like, conspiracy or something.  It’s like everybody’s working from the same template.

Tara:  Yeah.

Jennifer:  You know, and I get these requests and it drives me nuts.

Tara:  Yeah.  And you know, the ones … the … both the events and the people who are truly successful in those areas have never asked me to do that before.  You know, we had Natalie MacNeil on earlier, and I participated in a summit with her, and it was the same thing.  It was like let me tell you why this is going to be so valuable, because that, and that’s why I want you here, and then it’s like well, of course I’m going to email my list about this.  Of course I’m going to tell everybody about it.

Jennifer:  Right.

Tara:  And so putting the emphasis on the value, which is something that you did really, really well also, you know, with having themes and really thinking about why should someone sign up for this … for this summit.  I loved that, and so thank you for doing that, thank you for being a shining example, even if you’re retired now.

Jennifer:  Thank you.

Tara:  So speaking of which, let’s talk about what … what are you … is there something specific that you’re developing right now to continue to grow your audience?  To continue to create experiences like this?  Or are you moving on to something completely different?

Jennifer:  I’m in that place of exploration, to be quite honest.  It’s like that muddy middle, you know.

Tara:  Yeah.

Jennifer:  So I don’t have a clear-cut answer for you.  In terms of ways to connect with people, something that I tried recently was broadcasting live on Facebook when I was doing my fifth anniversary book celebration recently, and that was really fun.  What I liked about it was it had a similar vibe to when I do my summits, but it was much more informal and casual, so I might just be experimenting more with that.  I don’t have like strategy for it or what I think, you know, is going to happen when I do it, but I just think it’s something I’m going to continue playing with, and then in terms of like what’s next for me programwise or contentwise, I’m also, you know, in that place of exploration.  Something that I’m really interested in, and when I did that retreat at my studio is something mixing, you know, the work that I do with Right-Brain Business Plan so the business side of things, but also this work I’ve been doing with intuitive painting and expressive art.  So that’s something I’ve been trained in.  I think I got certified in that like in 2009 or 10, something like that, so it’s been something that’s been part of my practice, but now that I have the space, I’ve been doing it more, and there’s something really cool that happens when you allow yourself to paint whatever is showing up, you know, intuitively, and seeing this visual mirror of your own internal process, you know, on the page, on the wall. 

I paint really big, so there’s like these wall-size crazy paintings, and it’s been a process that has helped me move through writing my first book.  You know, all of the challenges and doubts and all of that crap that comes with that kind of process, that painting process really helped me move through it, and it’s been helping me move through kind of this transition phase that I’m in now, and when I had the people over at my studio for this retreat, we did intuitive painting and then we did masterminding and then this whole strategic calendaring, and they all blended together really beautifully.  I mean, I kind of knew they would, but it was like doing it in this way and seeing the profound light bulb moments that would come out was like oh, like when I was standing in front of my painting, faced with this challenge, and really trusting myself to move through it, and express my own authentic self on the page, that translated to, okay, what am I deciding to put on my calendar to offer, you know, and what am I going to charge.  It’s kind of that same way of showing up for yourself, and really trusting that intuitive process that oftentimes when it comes to business we put aside.  You know, there’s so many shoulds, and what it’s supposed to look like, the formula to follow, and I found with the intuitive painting process that it’s so much of trusting yourself and having the courage to have it be ugly, have it be different, have it not make sense, and to keep moving forward.  So I don’t quite know how that’s going to, you know, manifest into the next thing, but that’s what I’m playing with right now.

Tara:  I love that.  I love that.  So I’d love to change gears completely right now.

Jennifer:  Yeah.

Tara:  Because it took me until we started talking today for me to remember, this was not in my notes originally, for me to remember that you are the originator of the selfie, correct?

Jennifer:  Oh, well, the hashtag selfie.

Tara:  Hashtag selfie.

Jennifer:  On Instagram, I know.   It’s so funny, because people think I invented the word, they think I took the very first selfie.  I did not.  I did not create the word.  I did not take the first selfie.  But I am the first Instagram user to have hashtagged a photo with hashtag selfie.

Tara:  Okay.  And you’ve gotten some press for that, right?

Jennifer:  I have.  It’s pretty funny.  I’ve been in, gosh, where was that paper.  Somewhere in South America, and apparently, my photo, my selfie, is in the German Museum of Technology on display.  Yeah.

Tara:  So the reason I thought to bring this up is only because, you know, sometimes we get known for things that are not at all relevant to what we sell or the business that we have or the message that we want to put out into the world, and I was just curious, and maybe there isn’t anything here, but I was just curious whether you’ve had to deal with, you know, people wanting that from you or expecting that from you, and instead, having to kind of pivot and say, “Hey, no, it’s actually this thing over here.” 

Jennifer:  Yeah, basically, it’s been that.

Tara:  Yeah.

Jennifer:  I mean, I got so many of those like tween followers who their whole feed is them and their friends in selfies, you know, like you are not my target audience.  But it’s been great in terms of, you know, getting more exposure some places, you know, where they talk about the selfie have, you know, mentioned that I’m a coach or include my website, so that’s been great.  It’s also been a fascinating kind of look at visibility, right?  Because I find it hilarious that I’m credited with this, you know, first hashtag selfie where I don’t actually take that many selfies, and like they actually make me a bit uncomfortable, you know, so it’s really funny, but what’s been great is one of my past clients, Vivian McMaster, she has this whole, you know, message around be your own beloved, and using selfies for self-compassion, and she actually was a guest of mine when I was on CreativeLive.  I had a spotlight on her.  So I’ve used that as a way to segue to like hey, you know who’s great to talk about this?  My past client, Vivian McMaster.  So she was actually included in the newspaper article in South America, so there you go.

Tara:  That’s awesome, because she was exactly who I was thinking of when I was thinking, you know, some people offer that.

Jennifer:  Exactly.

Tara:  But you are not one of those people, and so how do you deal with that, and that’s perfect, and that’s wonderful.

Jennifer:  I do the hand off.

Tara:  I love the hand off.  I love the hand off.  And if, for any reason, there is to build a big network, it’s to be able to do the hand off all the time.

Jennifer:  Yeah.

Tara:  I love handing people off.  I mean, I love making my own money, too, obviously, but to be able to hand off a media mention or a client or just even interested people to someone that you know and love and trust, that’s so much fun.

Jennifer:  Yeah.  It’s great.

Tara:  Awesome.  Well, you’ve mentioned, okay, so speaking of networks, you’ve mentioned masterminding, you’ve mentioned handing, you know, doing the hand off.  How do you go about growing your kind of collegial network?  How do you go about reaching out and developing relationships with people?  Is it something you put a lot of focus on or not?

Jennifer:  I probably don’t do it as much as I quote/unquote should.  I think, like I said earlier about, you know, the summit part, having the opportunity to reach out to speakers, I think that was like a built-in way that I was able to do that, so I didn’t necessarily do that much more beyond it except for, you know, if I met people at conferences and really connected, and what I’ve been doing lately is kind of paying attention to the people within my own community and like what kinds of things can we collaborate on.  So that’s a place that I’m going to be experimenting more.  You know, I … I kind of keep to myself.  You know, I’m such an introvert.  Yeah.  So that’s possibly put a little bit more focus, but it’s not like a huge strategy for me right now.

Tara:  Yeah.  Yeah.

Jennifer:  Yeah.

Tara:  Me, too.  Who’s on your team right now?

Jennifer:  I have an assistant who’s basically like my right-hand gal, and she’s been with me since the end of 2012 I believe.

Tara:  Nice.

Jennifer:  We have somebody who helps with shipping and inventory, because I have tangible products.  I have, let’s see, two associate coaches, so they do some of my one-on-one coaches with the shining stars in my mentorship program and also some one-on-one coaching with people who just want, you know, small coaching packages, and then I have two or three like circle coaches that help facilitate our online programs, and then, you know, we hire out for specific things, like I needed help with some video editing or transcripts and that kind of stuff, we kind of outsource project by project, but the people I mentioned are kind of the core.  I did go through a year where I had an online business manager, so that was, you know, that year where I had the Right-Brain Business Plan, it was like boom, like I’m going to go really big, and there’s this tree with a lot of money, and you know, all the crazy, big, like I really want to hit this, you know, next big milestone, and it just did not work for me.  Or maybe it wasn’t the right fit, but it was a huge learning in terms of what it would take to, you know, get to the next level, and is that what I really want?  And so it was a good experience for me to go through and to realize, like, I don’t need to have all that in order to have the success and the fulfillment that I want, but it was, you know, it was an interesting place to have the team in, and to bring in this new person, then to not have it work out.  And so I think that was, yeah, 2014.

Tara:  Yeah.  Thanks for sharing that.

Jennifer:  Mmhmm.

Tara:  One of the … one thing that our audience always is interested in is how you manage your time.  And I would love to know how the person behind the Right-Brain Business Plan manages their time.  If it’s, you know, as right-brain as the business.

Jennifer:  Well, it’s probably a mix.  So I like to work in kind of bigger chunks of time.  Like I’m not really good with like switching gears a lot.  So what I do is I focus on Mondays and Wednesdays being my more external days or like my client days, meetings, all that kind of stuff, and then Tuesday, Thursday are more kind of the internal work, like writing things, doing marketing, working on new projects, and then Friday is my self-care day, so I might still do some work, but I don’t ever really schedule meetings.  Only exceptions were like media interviews for my book or things like that, but mostly, it’s for me to, you know, have time to replenish, because I am so introverted, I need that time to, you know, have quiet time to think, have self-care, do my creative work, go walk the dog, and then oftentimes, like, I’ll get really great ideas from doing that as a side benefit of having the spaciousness, and then, so that’s kind of how I plan or operate my weeks, and then in terms of like strategic planning, you know, I love having my big wall calendar.  So I have a whole wall in my office that has all 12 months, you know, calendared, and that helps me kind of plan out by quarter, what are the big things happening by quarter, and then you know, do revenue planning from that, and figure out kind of also where I can take vacations or put that on the calendar first and then plan around.

Tara:  Has there been one decision that’s had a disproportionate influence on your success?

Jennifer:  I would say, I mean, it’s probably two things.  One is, you know, doing that first book, and what’s really funny about that is I knew I wanted to write a book, and I think this is probably back in 2009, I had on one of my Right-Brain Business Plans, like, here’s the book I want to write.  There’s like this little mini book that’s on the business plan, and I’d written this book about creativity and more about general life planning using creative process, and I was getting ready to go to this expo to shop it around to publishers, and at the very last minute, like I heard my inner wise self or my intuition say, “Make … make a sell sheet for a Right-Brain Business Plan.”  And so I put that together, and that’s the thing that when I would talk to people at this expo, that’s what they were interested in, so the fact that I listened to that intuition and put together something for Right-Brain Business Plan, that’s the one that got published, you know, and that has certainly, you know, helped me make my mark in terms of my own message and my business.  And then I’d say the second thing was investing in a business coach.  And so that was in 2010, 2011, because that really helped me to take my business more seriously and move from like, oh, I’m a coach with a coaching practice to I am, like, a real business owner who wants to grow an enterprise.

Tara:  Yeah.  That’s awesome to hear you say that, because it’s not like you didn’t have skills.  You were a consultant for huge companies, right?

Jennifer:  Yeah.

Tara:  And so, but still, hiring someone, getting someone else’s feedback, getting, you know, hearing from someone who’s been there, done that was still helpful for you.

Jennifer:  Yeah, hugely helpful.  I mean, that really shifted my business.  I mean, that to your question of like what’s made, you know, the most change, it’s like it’s helped me re-think about how I approach the business and how I put myself out there, how I package things, everything.  It’s so different than, you know, when I was just a coach working on the side when I had my corporate job, you know?

Tara:  Yeah, absolutely.  All right, I have two final questions for you as we start to wrap up here.  First is a question that I like to ask of just about all of our guests, which is how do you balance the roles of creative and executive in your business?

Jennifer:  Hmm.  Making specific time for both I think has been really helpful for me.  Like in terms of making time to go to the studio and just have creative time, and then also, having the white space to think strategically, to do the planning.  So I think it’s, for me, carving out the time to dedicate to both of those things consciously, and then also seeing how they interplay together.  Like I was talking about how the retreat, the intuitive painting and the strategic planning, like they kind of work together, so sometimes, when I’m painting, things will happen, so I’m also open to when the two intersect.

Tara:  Yeah.  It sounds like a big piece of that is just awareness in general.  Like you’re aware that you have a role as a creative, you’re aware that you have a role as an executive.

Jennifer:  Yeah.

Tara:  Which both allows you to schedule that and to take notice of when they overlap.

Jennifer:  Yes.

Tara:  Awesome.  That is a great answer to that question.   That might be my favorite yet. 

Jennifer:  Ooh.

Tara:  Yeah, completely.  Okay, so what’s next for you?  What’s coming down the pike for you?

Jennifer:  Oh, my goodness.  Well, the … my mentorship program is going to be enrolling soon, so focusing on that, and then you know, exploring this whole idea of what’s this next body of work in regards to the painting and business.  I grabbed the domain  I have no …

Tara:  Oh, that is so good.

Jennifer:  And that’s all it is right now.  It’s just a URL, there’s nothing even there.  Yeah, so just exploring what that is.

Tara:  All right.  Well, I will be looking for that for sure, because that sounds awesome.  All right, Jennifer Lee, thank you so much for joining me today.

Jennifer:  Thanks, Tara.

Tara:  Jennifer’s CreativeLive course, The Right-Brain Business Plan, can be found by going to, and you can find her at

Next week, I’ll talk to veteran CreativeLive instructor, Jasmine Star.  Jasmine is an international award winning photographer, and we’ll talk about being in the midst of her transition from wedding photographer to business mentor, how she listens to her audience to discover exactly what they need, and how she bridges the gap between inspiration and products that people are excited to buy.

Are you surrounded by the right people to help your business succeed?  Your support network has a huge impact on your success, your satisfaction, and your ability to achieve your goals.  At the Quiet Power Strategy Lab, we get you and your business, we respect your individuality, and we challenge you.  The lab is our entrepreneurial resource library and support community.  It’s full of smart, experienced, and savvy business owners who want to help you succeed.  Start your free, 10-day, all-access trial by going to

That’s it for this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit.  You can download other episodes of this podcast and subscribe in the iTunes store.  If you enjoy what you heard, we appreciate your reviews and recommendations, because they help us reach as many emerging entrepreneurs as possible.  Our theme song was written by Daniel Peterson who also edited this episode.  Our audio engineer was Jaime Blake. This episode was produced by Elizabeth Madariaga.  You can catch up on older episodes in the iTunes store, where new episodes are added every week, and you can learn more by going to

Why You Should Think Twice About Hosting a Telesummit or Accepting an Invitation to Speak

This is a post about telesummits. But really, it’s a post about bad marketing and what you need to consider to avoid bad marketing either damaging your reputation as a business owner or wasting your time.

In case you’re not familiar with the telesummit concept, the outward appearance is similar to an in-person summit or conference: 15-30 expert speakers share their story and expertise on a particular topic with the audience.

You’ve likely signed up for one of these virtual events in the past.

What you might not realize is what often happens with these events in the organizational phase. Nearly every day, my assistant or I receive a pitch to speak at one of these events. The email often looks something like this (an actual email I recently received but with all identifying details changed):


Dear Tara,

I am pleased to invite you to serve as a guest speaker in our next online summit: “Live Your Best Life and Build a Super Successful Business.”

This online summit will feature over 25 Bold Life Experts, who will be sharing their inspirational guidance in pre-recorded video interviews. We invite you to share your story in one of these eye-opening 30 minute pieces.

Our incredible host Joy Coachperson is a sought-after Leadership Coach who teaches clients how to thrive in their personal and professional lives, regardless of their current circumstances. As a mother of four young children, a wife, an entrepreneur, and a coach, Joy knows firsthand how to support women and couples as they maneuver through life’s many challenges. Through her knowledge and experience, Joy has provided hundreds of individuals with the tools to become stronger, happier and more successful than ever! Joy’s mission is to get people out of the destructive habit of “just getting by”, and to teach them actionable ways to manifest prosperous home and business lives with ease.

The intention and focus of this summit is to guide individuals in discovering the foundation of their Bold Life, in the face of life’s many internal and external challenges. We are looking for practical and actionable advice that guides viewers in establishing their daily success rhythm by following proven formulas, and retaining the tools needed to stay on track when problems arise.

Topics to be Discussed:

● Personal Leadership
● Thriving as a Choice
● Support Systems
● Habits and Scheduling
● Success Strategies
● Staying Committed
● Creating A Legacy

Is this Online Summit a good fit for you? We’re looking for:
● Passionate speakers who currently serve or would like to expand their audience of small business owners, authors, entrepreneurs, and individuals looking to pursue their passion and desired legacy
● Presenters who have a mailing list audience above 5k.
● Individuals committed to publicizing this life-changing event with at least one solo email and one newsletter blurb

Ready to help us change lives? If this Online Summit sounds like something you’d enjoy being part of, please respond to me at your earliest convenience, as spaces fill up quickly!

Director of Marketing & Events


Notice a few things: the summit has no clear or measurable objective, no clear angle or point of view to differentiate this from any other event, and the host has no fact-checkable credentials. I’ll explain why this is all highly problematic no matter what type of marketing you’re doing.

But first, notice a few more things:

1) There is a check to make sure I’m a good fit for the conference—meaning they haven’t properly vetted me as a speaker in the first place. They’re using a spray and pray method of recruiting partners.

2) Speakers are only qualified if their lists are already over 5,000 subscribers meaning that the organizers care more about reach than quality content. Melissa Dinwiddie recently wrote about this.

3) Speakers are required to promote the event to their list in both an exclusive email and a mention (2 emails total) meaning that the event organizer isn’t sure that the event merits promotion without obligating the participants. More on this in a bit.

All of these things are red flags for a marketer. Yet, these invitations persist. So I’m going to break down exactly what is problematic about each of them so that you can either green light your own telesummit or create your own marketing system and avoid the problems.


Always have a clear & measurable objective.

The bar you set for product development should be the same bar you set for marketing—especially content marketing. People should know what they can expect from engaging your content and how it will help them transform something about their life or business.

This cannot be vague. It cannot be hyperbolic. If you want it to be effective (you do), it needs to be incredibly specific and measurable. People need to be able to know when the objective is reached.

A promise to help you live your dream life or “crush it” in business is not a promise that can be kept. It’s not a good value proposition. It cannot be measured. And, it’s not believable because no set of 25 speakers can help you go from “getting by” to thriving.

For any content marketing you create, make a list of specific things that people will be able to do or change because of what you’re creating. Make them as tangible as possible. Be careful with anything that has to do with beliefs or personal identity because people don’t believe those things can be changed overnight and it damages your value proposition.

Always have a clear and differentiated angle.

As I said, I receive nearly identical pitches almost every day. There is no way for me to know why I should do this event instead of countless others promising the same thing.

Before you create any marketing, ask yourself how you will use that piece of marketing to differentiate yourself and connect with the specific people you want to serve. It could be a matter of style or attitude (for instance, I could have an entirely Tina Fey-themed event). Or, it could be a matter of your objective, specific niche, or customer base.

But give us something to sink our teeth into!

Tell us something real about you as the creator.

You can absolutely market your business effectively even if you’re just starting out or don’t have much visibility in the marketplace. All you need to do is tell us something real.

Sure, it’s fairly easy to establish credibility if your business has been featured in Fast Company and Inc. But you can also establish credibility through a well-told personal story, meaty client testimonial, or previous background/experience. You don’t need to exaggerate or mislead, just tell show us a piece of who you really are.

Taking these 3 things into account will improve any kind of marketing you do for your business, whether it’s a telesummit, podcast, blog, or webinar.


Yet, there’s more I want to unpack on this issue.

I decided to write this post after I received the above pitch and posted on Facebook that I was ready to start replying to these pitches with my speaking fee instead of a flat “no.” (Many of these pitches come via my speaking contact form which requests that you share your budget for the event.)

The post caught fire and I heard from people on all sides on the “telesummit debate,” though most of my circle shared my frustration and encouraged me to follow-through with requesting a speaking fee.

You see, I have never—to the best of my knowledge—received a paying customer from one of these events. Never once has someone said to me, “I found you through so-and-so’s virtual summit!”

However, 2 of my top client sources have quite a bit in common with telesummits.

My top client source is speaking at conferences. It’s one of the reasons I’m on the road so much (I’m writing this from an airplane–I’ll be on another tomorrow). While I used to speak free of charge, with few exceptions, I no longer do. I charge a significant fee that aligns with the value I provide to the event experience, the promotion that’s expected of me (although that’s usually not much), and the time it will take in my schedule.

I get paid and I get clients. That’s good for business.

Another top client source for me is podcast interviews. I’m generally happy to give anyone an interview as long as time permits. I don’t care much about audience size, angle, or experience. I like the conversations and it’s easy.

I’m also happy to share these interviews with my audience because they don’t have to do anything more than click a button to listen. Though promotion is rarely encouraged.

I have had clients come directly from podcast interviews because they allow me to speak directly to a particular audience and share a different side of my message.


As Elizabeth Potts Weinstein put it on my original Facebook post, the energy differential between these 3 things is incredibly different despite them essentially offering the same thing: access to experts, their stories, and their information.

Conferences require a few days of travel and time off work. But I’m front and center on stage and I’m compensated fairly well. Plus, my company gets clients.

Podcasts require nothing more than about an hour of my time. I get a nice asset to share directly with my audience and all they have to do is click to hear it.

But with a telesummit, the event organizers often want 30 minutes of my time to pitch the event to me on the phone, an hour of my time to record the interview, guaranteed social media promotion, and emails to my community. They often want me to write my own interview questions or prepare a talk.


The energetic differential is not the only thing that separates these different methods for delivering a similar product. There is also an opportunity differential.

For me, a speaking gig at an in-person conference almost always results in a top-level client (without selling from the stage—which I never do). That means my speaking fee can easily be matched or 10x-ed in terms of return on investment. All I have to do is literally show up, deliver my talk, and meet with people for whom it resonated. Plus, I often get a credibility boost from the conference itself (I’m speaking at Digital Commerce Summit—from the folks behind Copyblogger—this Fall and I know I’m going to see a bump from that).

That’s a lot of opportunity. It’s great marketing.

With podcasts, it’s completely hit or miss. Sometimes a podcaster has a super engaged audience that is just perfect for my work. Other times, they don’t. The opportunity doesn’t always pan out, but I haven’t squandered any opportunity either. I’d say I come out on top most of the time and I’ve never regretted doing a podcast interview. Plus, podcast interviews are where I hone new messaging and work on my talking points. They’ve been a huge boost to my personal skill set.

It’s often good marketing. It’s never bad marketing.

With a telesummit, as I said, I’ve never connected with anyone in such a way that I’ve earned a new client. If it happens with podcasts and not with telesummits, that tells me something about the very nature of those events (as opposed to something going on with me).


The reason for this, as I see it, is that the required email promotion creates a cycle of low-quality audience churn. In other words, the very nature of the required email promotion means that once you’re on one telesummit list as a subscriber, you get notified of more and more telesummits. That means those subscribers are being bombarded with 20-30 hours of free or low-cost content, probably on a monthly or bimonthly basis.

People who realize that’s not valuable to them unsubscribe. Those who do don’t have the time or capacity to purchase a program or product. They feel ashamed of themselves for not living up to the hyperbolic promises of event organizers and they wait to actually invest in quality help until they’ve “implemented” what they think they’ve learned.

This is not a good prospect.

Those prospects are getting recycled around the telesummit circuit and sold a bill of goods.

The email lists of organizers (and I’m sure some guests) get inflated with leads that will probably never convert. A smaller, high-quality set of leads will earn more revenue than an inflated email list full of low-quality prospects any day (ask my bookkeepers).

Every time a business owner emails her list about a telesummit, that’s an opportunity where she could have shared a valuable offer to people who already know, like, and trust her. More than that, it’s potentially squandering a hard-won reputation and replacing it with fluff.


Required email promotion also fails to take into account the real magic of influence marketing. In fact, it highlights the very difference between true marketing and just promotion. Influence marketing is earned. To have an influencer champion you, you need to earn it.

Sometimes that happens without you knowing it because they’re reading and loving your blog or listening intently to your podcast. Other times it happens because you’ve offered them something of great value, probably multiple times. When someone champions you, your message, or your company it comes with deep respect and trust. It doesn’t happen overnight and it certainly doesn’t happen because of a clause in a speaking agreement.

Requiring someone to promote your event is hollow. I receive requests for telesummits with required promotion from people I do not know or have never heard of. They might be amazing—but how would I know? One quick information phone call isn’t going to give me the peace of mind that I need to trust them with my list. Even a good interview isn’t enough for me to know that the rest of what they have to offer is high-quality.

As business owners, we all need people to champion us. We need a network of folks who are willing to share our work with people who trust them. But you have to work hard to earn it.


Now, I don’t mean to throw every telesummit or virtual event under the bus. I’ve participated in some truly excellent ones where this is absolutely not the case. One such event was Natalie MacNeil’s Conquer Summit. Social Media Examiner puts on an excellent event. One of my clients, Shawn Tuttle, put on a quality event at the end of last year, as did Monique Head.

The businesses generating massive amounts of revenue from virtual events are not following the blueprint that’s being sold to thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs. And the ones that are are the ones selling that blueprint (quite literally).

Businesses that host high-quality events and profit from them create good marketing and follow the points I listed above. They choose speakers specifically for the message they’ll bring and the way they’ll improve the experience of the event. They treat those speakers like valued members of the team—not a commodity to be traded. They consider their participants and how they can make the event as useful and easy to engage as possible.

Creating massive events that generate low-quality leads for the purpose of growing your list by thousands is bad marketing. It’s not good for the event organizer (you could get a higher ROI on something else). It’s not good for the guests (they lose out on energy and opportunity). It’s not good for the participants (they’re sold a vague promise and unpredictable quality).


Now, I would like to finish this screed with a bit of reflection on why I see telesummits (and much bad marketing) as so seductive.

Telesummits are seductive because they promise an easy path to the veneer of success. Look at me with these fancy guests. Look how I can afford to give this all to you for free. Look at my giant email list. No one actually says this (thank goodness) but it’s implied by the very nature of the event whether the organizer realizes it or not.

There is a massive disconnect between what makes many business owners feel good about themselves (famous speakers, loads of subscribers) and what actually makes a business work (paying customers or clients who get results). Telesummits prioritize vanity metrics over true metrics and that never ever pays off.

Yes, knowing internet famous people, being generous with content, and having a big list is all great.


Only if it leads to real results. And by real results, I do mean money in the bank. I also mean lives transformed.

I believe that most people embark on these events because they think that a network, generosity, and tons of emails lead directly to that true business success. They don’t. There are loads of systems that need to be in place (from sales to product development, to customer support, to business model, to project management) to make that happen.

If you really want to avoid bad marketing (and you should, you need to know what metrics actually lead to results for you. If it’s list size, make sure you’re tracking earnings per lead too so that you know if the quality of your leads goes down. If it’s your network, make sure you know the people you count as being part of it would actually answer the phone if you called. If it’s generosity, make sure that people are actually using what you give them and getting results from it.

You can’t be seduced by vanity metrics for too long if you keep your eye on your real metrics. You’ll know your actions (whether it’s speaking at a telesummit, spending tons of time on Facebook to get more likes, or refreshing your page views) are paying off or not.

Finally, telesummits are seductive because they have the specter of community and collaboration. Much of what is attractive to business for so many is building what they do not have: a group of people who care about the same thing as them and working together to bring more of that into the world.

Telesummits are successful with that on some level. However, in most cases, it’s fleeting, shallow, and unproductive. Except when great care is given (and when people throw away the blueprint), the audience isn’t a community, it’s a bunch of email addresses in a CSV file. The speakers aren’t a collaborative network, they’re a disjointed smattering of pseudo-experts who were chosen for promotional purposes.

By all means, find ways to create community and collaboration in your business but make sure it’s deep, real, and truly valuable. Be generous and specific with what you have to offer. Court influencers and earn their respect. Treat your audience as you would want to be treated. Tie all of that to real metrics.

If what you decide to create is a telesummit, that’ll be good marketing.