Interviews, Show Notes
Srini Rao is a master connector and community builder. I wish I could put my finger on his special brand of relationship-building but I think it’s just who he is. He’s a dreamer, an explorer, and an action-taker and that makes him very attractive to influencers and aspiring creatives alike.
Over 500 interviews ago, Srini created BlogCastFM, a podcast that hosted top bloggers and digital entrepreneurs to explore their stories, process, and strategies for success. He’s since rebranded the podcast to The Unmistakeable Creative and is exploring the world of creative movers and shakers through multimedia.
I’m fascinated by Srini’s story and his community because they demonstrate the extreme value of connection in a corner of the economy that generally prioritizes creators over connectors. And while all of his connection and community building has led him to become a Wall Street Journal bestselling author, a guest on Glenn Beck’s show, and a traditional publishing contract, I believe that the greatest value of his work is the people, ideas, and themes he brings together in unusual combinations.
Srini and I also discussed one of—what I believe is—the most pressing issues of creative entrepreneurship today: the myth of solo entrepreneurship. Srini has been actively growing his team, involving mentors and influencers, and co-creating with him community for years. He recognizes how much more he is able to accomplish because of the brilliant people around him.
Take special heed of this episode if you find yourself a connector in a creator’s world. You have something unique to deliver to your community and Srini Rao’s story should be an inspiration for how to do just that.
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Art of Growth
Last week’s post on why more offers don’t equal more revenue inspired some great conversation on Facebook. My friend Amanda Steinberg, founder of DailyWorth, invited several others to comment with their own experiences in the make-more-stuff trap.
Adda Birnir, the founder of SkillCrush, made the excellent point that it is easier to sell new products to old customers than it is to find new customers to sell old products to. I completely agree. The evidence is overwhelming. In fact, it’s not only easier but it’s cheaper and more efficient as well.
That very idea is the basis of how I work with clients on their Customer Journeys and Business Model Plans in 10ThousandFeet.
However, that fundamental idea of business assumes that you have sold your existing audience on your old products. I posit that there is, in fact, something even easier than selling new products to old customers. There is a much bigger, more lucrative opportunity for you and that is:
Selling old products to old customers.
That is selling existing products to people in your sphere of influence already who haven’t bought before. These are people who read your blog, open your emails, follow your business on social media, but still haven’t bought what you offer. Clearly, it’s not that they’re not interested in the work you do and the value you offer. They’d stop reading, unsubscribe, or unfollow you if that was the case.
The reason they haven’t bought is because you haven’t given them a good reason to buy. True story.
You haven’t tapped into their needs or wants with a clear statement of what your work offers them.
Most business owners I come into contact with don’t stretch their messaging beyond “It’s new!” And because they don’t push themselves to find the real reason people want to buy, they keep creating new products so that there’s always something they can say “It’s new!” about. It’s less a strategic decision than a wish and a prayer.
You see, there is a segment of your customers who like to buy from your business just because you’ve created something new. They’re called Early Adopters. But statistically, they’re an incredibly small part of your potential customer base. The Majority of your customers base waits to find out what other people think about your product, how you improve it, and how the market evolves. They won’t buy because “It’s new!” but they will buy if you offer your product again and tell them how it is a tool to help them solve their specific problem or reach their big goal.
And that is extremely good news!
It means there’s an excellent chance that your Next Big Thing–your next money-maker, your next signature offer, your next game-changer–is a product already in your arsenal. Maybe it was an idea you were super proud of but that didn’t sell well. Maybe it’s something you designed to be evergreen that needs a shot of marketing mojo. Maybe it’s a product that needs a spotlight at a trade show or on stage.
The bottom line is that offering something once, when it’s new, is never enough. But that’s exactly what so many businesses do. (Have you?)
While outreach and list-building should always be a goal, there’s every chance that your existing audience is a gold mine opportunity for your existing products. But they won’t buy just because “It’s new!” They want to know why it’s the right tool for them.
Does this have you thinking about one of your own existing products? Do you have an inkling of excitement about the revenue possibilities of something you’ve already put hard work into?
Leave a comment with the name of your product or offer and how you could reposition it to attract more of your existing audience.
Art of Earning, Customer Perspective Process
People aren’t looking for your service (or your product, or your program). They’re looking for results.
Your customers want to change the way they feel. They want to adjust the way they act. They have goals, they have desires, they have dreams.
All too often, businesses position their offers around the “what” of what they’re offering instead of the “why” people would actually go looking for it in the first place. Further compounding this problem, is that business models are built around “whats” instead of “whys.”
Instead of considering the best ways to achieve the desired end result for you and your customer, many business owners build models that are based on how a particular service or product has always been delivered. There’s a status quo web design model, a status quo life coach model, a status quo jewelry model.
When was the last time status quo got you the results you wanted?
You can build a business model that is focused on results, different from the rest of the marketplace, and more effective for your customers. But to do that, you need to start by making sure your core product or service is positioned function-first.
Here are 3 easy ways to reposition your offers around why your customers are actually looking to buy in the first place.
1) Lead with value, not the name of your product or service.
Your product isn’t the selling point, so why make it your headline?
If your service helps people feel better about their bodies, lead with that. If your product helps make a brand more memorable, put that front & center. If your program, helps people feel more confident about the business decisions they make and, consequently make more money, make that the star.
2) Make good use of “before & after.”
Just because you’re not Extreme Makeover doesn’t mean your product can’t benefit from some before & after swagger.
It might be as simple as listing a feature that implies the “before,” as this Bang Buster headband from Lululemon does. Or it might involve turning your customers’ before into a bullet point list that exudes empathy and an equally empathetic list of bullets that describe the “after” your customers have in mind.
3) Use visuals that allow your customers to see themselves getting the results they want.
Great visual merchandising helps customers see themselves actually owning, using, and loving a product. That’s why you prefer flipping through an Ikea catalog to browsing Amazon. While this might be standard practice for physical products, it’s also extremely useful for services and programs.
Maybe you use beautiful photos of happy mamas. Or images of curvy bodies successfully practicing yoga.
Instead of just focusing on you, let your customers see themselves achieving the results they want.
Side note: Stocksy has become my go-to source of non-stocky stock images.
I mostly pointed to sales page examples in this post (click the links above to see the examples) but positioning must be woven through all parts of your business–from the Most Valued Customer you seek to engage to your brand identity to your regular email communication. Dive deeper into the businesses I highlighted here and you’ll see a results-centered culture at the heart of everything they do.
Remember, your product is important to you but it’s results your customers are after. Click to tweet. Make how life will be different–whether in big ways or small–the focus of how your engage your customers and you’re sure to get bigger, better results for yourself.
You’re ready to lead your business instead of follow the jet stream. You’re ready for more confidence, more revenue, and a greater impact in the world. It’s time for 10ThousandFeet.
Work with me over the next 4 months to create a business model that serves you & your customers, a conversation that nourishes your goals, and a plan to leverage your skills, strengths, and passions. Registration is now open.
“The clarity I now have around the business I want to build, not just this year but over the next five, is a bigger, fancier diamond than I even imagined uncovering.”
— Laura Whitman, co-founder, Red Balloon Relations
Business Brainstorm, New Economy
Has “monetization” made you nervous about pushing your business ideas to the next level?
The word “monetization” has a shadowy past in the world of business online. Bloggers have tried to monetize their audiences. Developers have tried to monetize free products. Old school media has tried to monetize their content.
Some people have made money through monetization. Some haven’t.
My problem with the idea of monetization isn’t that it doesn’t work but that it’s a destructive, extractive way to view your business. It lacks the innovation, disruption, and creativity that a value(s)-driven business model has.
Isn’t this all semantics?
Perhaps. But I put a lot of credence in the language people use. And when people use the word “monetization,” it blocks their creative juices and dampens their abundance receptors. Click to tweet it!
Monetization is rent-seeking.
In economics, “rent-seeking” is basically trying to get a bigger piece of the pie. It assumes that there is a finite set of dollars or customers and that you need to through your weight around to get some of it.
The business owners I work with & that read this [site, blog, email] don’t think that way about their business growth. They want to serve. They want to contribute. They want to create things of great value. But they are often following strategies that were devised for monetization & rent-seeking.
And they see a false causality between monetization strategies & success.
For instance, blogs were never designed to be businesses. Blogging grew out of the human desire to record & reflect on life. They became communities out of the human desire to connect and cultivate intimacy.
At some point, people realized there was commercial opportunity in blogging. And I don’t blame them at all! Those early professional bloggers were creating something truly valuable, generating fresh wealth on a daily basis, creating connective threads through communities. As others wanted to get on the growing market, they wanted to learn how to duplicate the success those early bloggers had.
What started as genuine value creation became “monetization strategy.” Here, it was not only the business model that got copied but the content, communities, and outreach. Look around the blogosphere and you’ll see layer upon layer of sameness. Again, what was genuine value is now fluff designed to make money, generate traffic, and simulate credibility.
So when I see people tell you to create lots of free content, build an email list, reach some magic number, and then launch your first digital product, I want to throw up a little. It’s backwards because it’s a strategy that was reverse-engineered from a misunderstanding.
What will you do to generate new, stick-to-your-ribs value? Don’t worry if what you have in mind can’t be “free.” Who cares? Creating value creates buzz. Even when it’s for sale. Especially if it’s for sale. You can build a community or movement from a product that people pay for. Below are three examples of vibrant, profitable communities built on paid products.
Remember Tara Mohr from yesterday’s post? She was amazed at how her audience grew when she launched the very first session of Playing Big. Beyond reaching her sales goal, she added hundreds of new fans. People took notice because she was generating fresh value.
Danielle LaPorte didn’t grow a massive blog and then launch products & services to serve her readers. She sensed she had wealth to offer the world, packaged it as a Fire Starter Session and offered it to anyone who could use it. I believe that the massive value she delivered through those sessions was much more the catalyst of her growth than the awesomeness of her blog. To this day, she continues to create fresh value first instead of extract monetary reward from her audience.
MailChimp created a great email service that companies paid for before they started giving free accounts away to microbusinesses by the drove. They had a profitable business long before they started growing through the freemium model. When they went freemium (you can have a robust email marketing account with them for FREE), they actually noticed a sweet uptick in larger, paying customers as well. That’s not because MailChimp started offering free accounts, it’s because they were delivering a great product.
Why on earth could going freemium bring in these larger and larger paying customers?
Because we did everything totally bass-ackwards.
— MailChimp blog
MailChimp regularly adds 2,000 new accounts per day, most of which are free, but that initial community grew because of the greatness of the product not because it was free.
A small percentage of a very large number is indeed a large number, but can your startup stay solvent while you wait for the conversion to kick in? Freemium only offers the hope that non-paying users will fall in love with your product and start paying for it.
— Rags Srinivasan, Gigaom
You’re looking for impact and growth. You’re hungry to make a difference in as many people’s lives as possible. But free first isn’t the only way.
Your greatest asset to growth might be the product or service you’ve been waiting so long to create.
Click to tweet it!
Your fear of “monetization” is justified. It’s your fear of having something to sell that’s not. If only you had a framework for knowing whether you were truly creating a remarkable product with stick-to-your-ribs value or launching yet another rent-seeking monetization strategy, you could fix it, change it, launch the damn thing already.
If you find yourself questioning the products or services you’re considering launching, it’s probably because you see so much rent-seeking around you.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine whether your idea falls under true value creation or whether it’s just a monetization strategy:
- What is the impact of this product on my customer’s life right now?
- What is the impact of this product on my customer’s life over the next 1-5 years?
- How does this product address a genuine frustration or desire that my customer has?
- Would my customer seek out alternatives if my product didn’t exist?
- Who do I want my customer to become as a result of using my product?
- Will my customer want to tell his/her friends about my product?
Create something that people are willing to pay for first.
And let them pay for it! Let them tell their friends.
Don’t rest your success on your ability to convert the masses. Use your early adopters to recruit & court your next wave of customers.
Don’t rely on monetization strategies that seek to collect rent from a community you’re sharing with others in your niche. Generate fresh value that solves a problem or fulfills a need for the customers you want to serve.
There’s plenty of room in the kitchen to build a bigger pie. There are plenty of ways you can serve, needs you can fill.
You’ll create a more robust movement of customers who are engaged, motivated, and results-driven. You’ll get feedback you can actually use. You’ll see opportunities as they present themselves.
It might take longer to grow. But your growth will be more sustainable, longer-lasting, and less dependent on you.
And you can take that to the bank.