Are You Selling Them a Problem?

Did a coaching session the other day, which gave me a stupid-useful insight you might find handy.

I was asked: “Martin, I have the hardest time recruiting people for these franchise opportunities. What do you suggest?”

I had him explain his process to me, and when he was done, I told him:

“Stop trying to sell people a problem”.

Obviously he was confused, because what he’s selling is actually a great opportunity.

But for whom?

Because to start a franchise, even if the cost to entry is $0, means that you’re taking on a huge, enormous, all-consuming ‘problem’.

You know this, since you’re an entrepreneur. Building and growing and running a venture is HARD work and will be so for many years.

To 99.99% of the population, that’s a ‘hell no!’ kind of problem.

It’s only for the daring, the crazy, the true, heart&soul entrepreneurs.

Starting a business, of any kind, takes a very special kind of person.

The kind of person who LOVES big hairy complex enduring problems.

An entrepreneur is someone who doesn’t just accept the ‘problem’ of being in business – people like us, whether consciously or not, we love problems. Getting our hands dirty, extracting every ounce of creative problem-solving we have in us.

So this franchiser, his solution is simple: go present the option to just that kind of person. Skip talking to anyone who is the employee-type, and not the entrepreneur type.

But what about you?

I’ll assume your work is excellent, worth the money, and yet… why are not more people buying your thing?

Could it be that, in the buyer’s perception, buying your stuff somehow represents or causes a problem?

Think about it: what, in your offer and your marketing, could be problematic for the buyer, in some way?

Sure, ‘finding the money’ or ‘am I willing to part with that cash’ is a possible problem, but beyond that:

In what other ways might you, unwittingly, be selling a problem?

If you’ve felt stuck in your business, and if you just can’t figure out how to increase sales, a conversation about that might lead to a breakthrough.

Want to find out?

Let me know.

(And the only ‘problem’ I’m ‘selling’ you here, is for you to show up and spend one or two hours in conversation. Not that big a problem, right?

K, talk soon.

Cheers,

Martin

The ‘New’ Form of Marketing? Oh, and Tractors

PSA: Yesterday I said that I would ‘send 5 to 7 articles daily’, but that was a typo. I meant ‘weekly’, obviously.

PSA #2:

Saw an article that explained the ‘new’ form of email marketing, recommending we all use it.

They called it NaaS: Newsletter as a Service.

Which is a pretty nifty idea, but of course it’s nothing news.

In fact, value-based marketing has been around for ages.

For example, the John Deere tractor company was in bad weather sometime in the last century. I guess someone had figured out a better way to market horses.

Anyway, they did something clever:

They started a magazine for farmers, with actual, proper content. Articles and tips and instructions, on how to work the land and all the things that go with farming.

Obviously, farmers loved receiving the free magazines.

And obviously, John Deere made sure that any reader would see the advertisements of the tractors they made.

Double win: you create marketing that is actually useful, and people don’t mind that there’s also a product or service offer.

Sound familiar? Of course. It’s exactly what these daily articles are about. Hello.

It’s service first (for me, writing these is a public service in itself) and marketing second.

And since you read this, apparently that’s a method that works and delivers value.

This is nothing new – the only new thing, is that marketing and sales degenerated into pushy, sleazy, and often unethical ‘squeeze ’em for all they got’ practices.

That doesn’t make marketing bad – it just ended up being abused by unscrupulous folk.

Marketing done right has value in and of itself for your reader.

Whatever way you want: inform, entertain, inspire, teach, or mix it up… you can easily take the conversations that you normally have with buyers face-to-face, and create content (articles, audio, video, slideshows, photos) that *gives* people something.

And if you do?

Then people give you permission to also market your work.

That what I do, in these emails?

TOTALLY something you can do for yourself.

And, I’ve never seen a client take on email marketing (and stick with it!) and not have it lead to business growth and sales.

Oh sure, you’ll need to be growing your list.

And yes, it takes time before email marketing reaches the tipping point of probability, but personally, I don’t mind that.

I’d much rather plant and nurture an orchard, rather than go picking apples.

Wouldn’t you?

Cheers,

Martin

Don’t Play the Butternotes

Once upon a time, Herbie Hancock was on stage, playing with Miles Davis.

And he wasn’t feeling it. Herbie was not a happy bunny. Everything he was playing sounded trite, old, familiar, and uninspired.

He got increasingly frustrated with himself, which Miles picked up on. (Obviously).

Walks over to Herbie, leans in, and rasps in his ear: “Don’t play the butternotes”.

Took a moment, but then Herbie got it: the butternotes, those are the easy, the familiar, the standard and the bits that go down smoothly.

In music, those would be the 3rd, 5th, and 7th of a scale.

Herbie stopped playing those notes, started to play around them, and everything shifted. So much so, in fact, that it changed the course of Herbie’s musical career.

Playing the butternotes… what a brilliant concept!

In business, the parallel to playing butternotes would be things like phoning it in.

Coasting. Pushing the buttons, keeping the show on the road. Business butternotes are the attitudes and activities that are in your comfort zone, that don’t stretch you, that don’t do anything to create growth.

For me, playing butternotes is doing things like staying on top of my inbox. Publishing my daily article. Having chats with entrepreneurs. Good stuff and necessary, but not the kind of thing that drives growth. Which is what I (you too?) ultimately want.

And so, I study lots. I push myself. I get on a stage with barely any experience behind me, to deliver a 3 hour masterclass on marketing.

Sure I play the butternotes, but I do the other stuff as well.

So what about you?

Are you playing butternotes, too much?

And if so, what ‘wildly creative and jazzy solo-notes’ would you like to be playing as well?

When you’re not ‘phoning it in’, what actually is your greatest, most high-leverage activity?

And what if you’d make it a priority in your days or weeks, to work on it?

Cheers,

Martin

Lead vs Lag – Are You Looking at the Right Thing?

I’m reading Cal Newport’s excellent book Deep Work, where he talks about how isolated, almost monastic blocks of highly-concentrated work are something increasingly rare in our society, but utterly essential for growth and innovation.

Which is ironic: here’s an ex-monk who tends to struggle with productivity, and who needs to read a book by a researcher in order to remind him that ye olde monastic practice (being devoted to the work, and taking action, i.e. active devotion) is what’s been missing.

‘Scuse me while I facepalm.

Anyway, he also talks about lead indicators vs lag indicators.

A very important distinction. One I have zero problems with, fortunately – but not everyone is that lucky.
So allow me to offer a view that might help.

Everybody has dreams. Results we want to create. A lifestyle, and an economy, that we work towards.

The result of those efforts, show up in things you can measure, like the amount of free time you have, or the number of dollars coming in.

Between those metrics and the effort needed to create them, there’s delay and lag. Usually in the range of weeks to years, depending on what you’re building.

Now if you pay a lot of attention to the lag indicators (free time, money, number of customers etc etc), it’s very easy to get disheartened.

Growth usually starts slow, a nearly flat line for months or years, until it suddenly sweeps upward.

That happens when you reach the tipping point, and the flattish line suddenly sweeps upward – and you get the hockey-stick graph we would all like to see in our bank accounts.

Until you get to that point, you really want to avoid looking at the results.

Meaning: ignore the lag indicators.

Instead, focus on the lead indicators: the actions that will, eventually, bring you to the tipping point.

Look, measure, plan, schedule – get serious, scientific, monastic and scholarly on that stuff, and become a veritable pro at executing on the activities that will *lead* you to the tipping point as fast as can.

Create those blocks of single-pointed attention, to work on the growth-driving activities, and keep executing. Whether that’s an hour a day, or a 5-day bout in an AirBnB each month depends on what works for you.

But do that important work, and measure how much of it you do. Measure tasks checked off. Reflect on and measure how focussed and productive you were. Journal so as to find ways to optimise your output in those blocks.

Keep chipping away at, and improving, the lead metrics, while basically ignoring the lag metrics.

Those will show up, but ONLY if you execute on the lead metrics.

And the best way to do that is to ignore everything that comes after lag.

This is what my new accountability&business coaching programme is for:

To keep you focussed on, and executing on, those most high-value, growth-creating activities.

It’s an affordable way to get 1on1 time with me, and there’s more info here:

http://martinstellar.com/business-growth-coaching-when-putting-off-the-important-work-is-no-longer-acceptable/

Cheers,

​Martin

Your Definition of Success… Are You Doing it Wrong?

When you look at your life, and the results you’ve built for yourself…

Do you consider yourself a success?

Regardless of whether you’re an artist or author or you bake cakes for a living…

Are you… successful?

For most people, the answer will be ‘not yet’.

Not fully, not the way I want.

But are you the one who should cast the verdict?

Think about it:

As long as you still have higher goals to reach for, you might never feel that you’ve made it, that you’re successful.

And while that’s useful for keeping you going, there’s also another side to consider:

How people view you.

You might not think you’re there yet, but to others, you’ve achieved things that are still in their future.

Others look at you and see a success story.

They probably don’t even know that you still feel like it’s not complete yet.

And that matters.

Because in becoming more successful, you need others.

To help you, buy from you, share their platform or audience with you…

And as long as you ignore the fact that others do see you as a success, you’re robbing yourself of the power you need to connect with those people.

If the only criterium for success is your own opinion and the opinion of others isn’t included, you’re effectively preventing yourself from reaching out and connecting with the kind of people who will get you to your next level.

So, own it.

Whatever more there is for you to achieve, accept that to others, you’re admirable and remarkable.

Next step?

Build your network, connect with people.

You’ll find that people will be delighted to meet and get to know you.

Yes, even the ‘big names’ that you’d love to connect with, but the thought of it scares you.

In Australia, there’s this thing they call the ‘tall poppy syndrome’.

You know, the tallest one, that gets cut off.

It’s that little voice that says ‘But who am I to xyz?’

I’ll tell you who you are:

You’re a beautiful, accomplished, ambitious and driven individual.

And if your mission is to make a contribution, then the world is waiting for you.

You’ll see.

With that said: action stations, action stations.

Get out there and connect.

With me if you feel like it, or with the people whose level you wish to reach. Which could also be me.

Either way: You’re worthy.

So, go connect with folk.

Cheers,

Martin

A Cold, Hard Business Lesson We All Need to Learn

It’s never about you.

It’s a cold hard lesson because it’s a fact, but at least it’s rooted in care. Behold:

It’s never about you, no matter how good your work is, or how beautiful, or how worth it.

No matter how much you need the money.

No matter how passionate you are about your work and what it does.

If you want a healthy business, it’s always, only and exclusively, about them:

Your buyer, and whether or not their life gets better by buying.

This attitude shows, and creates trust – a requirement for sales.

And if you can also step away from the sale, be 100% ok with it if they don’t buy, you build even more trust.

And you can’t fake that.

The only way you can create that level of trust is if you genuinely, really, have “the right decision for them” as your first and foremost interest.

But doesn’t that contradict the notion that a business must make money, and that you need to look out for #1 first?

No contradiction at all, because the more trust you create in others, the more you’ll end up selling.

That’s why in the enrollment conversations I have with potential clients, I’m not trying to sell anything.

I show up, I serve, I coach.

That either makes someone want to work with me, or not. Whatever’s best for you.

Cheers,

Martin

I’ve Been Underserving You. Sorry About That

Do what I say, not what I do… don’t you just love it?

Me, I don’t.

And yet, I’ve been giving you the wrong example.

Here’s the deal: these emails coaching emails I send each day, they serve a series of purposes.

* It’s a public service – a free virtual coaching experience for those who benefit from it

* It’s therapeutic for me: it forces me to stay on track with my business goals, and it’s a daily return to performing an act of service, which is ultimately what each business is about. To serve a customer (and please, don’t ever say that you ‘service’ your customers. They’re not a car, but I digress)

* It’s a way to show you how email marketing is done

* The list goes on, but I’ll end it today with: it’s a fantastically fun and effective way to create clients

But here’s the rub: The last half year or so, I’ve been doing it wrong.

Meaning, I’ve been showing you how not to do it.

Why? Because I’ve stopped including a daily call to action (CTA) which is ultimately what will get you the buyers.

Oh I use CTA’s frequently, for example when I ask you to reply, to read a certain book, to implement something in your life and so on.

But, that happens to benefit my business because of a certain set of circumstances, unique to me and my business and my audience.

And, it’s showing you a wrong example.

So yeah. Sorry.

This became clear to me yesterday, when I saw a client send one of her own daily emails, where her CTA was ‘Click the link to share this email’.

Which isn’t bad as a CTA, but clearly you are more likely to get a share than a buyer.

After all, when you ask someone to do thing A, they’re probably going to do that thing, and not thing B.

But when you want to sell something, shouldn’t you be asking for the sale? Shouldn’t you be inviting people to consider buying from you?

Would you like another rhetorical question?

So if I want you to grow your business and leading by example is the name of the game, it’s only normal to show you how it’s done.

Now that doesn’t mean that you need to turn every email into a hard sales pitch. In fact, don’t do that. It would decimate your list.

But there’s nothing wrong with being in business, and if you want to sell, there’s nothing wrong with *looking* open for business.

And no, talking about your art or your book or your massage therapy isn’t enough.

Showing it isn’t the thing.

I mean, are you a museum or a gallery? Are you a library or a book store?

If  you want to sell it, say so.

Not in a pushy or aggressive way, that’s not necessary. Don’t be a used car salesman or telemarketer, except in writing.

Be a trusted advisor, whose interest is for the buyer to make the right decision for themselves, even if that decision is to not buy (today).

How that’s done?

Like so, for example:

A coach is someone who makes it safe for you to look in the mirror.

Someone who guides you through a process where you do the things that need to be done, in order to get you the results you want.

It’s fun but it requires commitment.

It’s effective, but only if you’re willing to do the work, so it will only work for a specific type of individual.

Is that you?

Then hit reply, and let’s talk.

Now, that didn’t hurt, did it?

95% content – designed to serve, engage, inspire, educate or a mix of these – and 5% pitch.

You can do it too, and you’ll see sales go up if you do.

Cheers,

Martin

Turning Pro & Things That Ain’t Fun?

By now you’ll know that I’m big on fun.

Having fun, sharing fun, making things fun.

In business and in life in general.

But that doesn’t mean that life can be an ongoing hedonistic indulgence.

I mean, where’s the fun in getting your car serviced, or changing diapers, or filing taxes, or taking out the trash?

It would be highly puerile and immature to not do any of the things that just ain’t fun and can’t be made into fun. It would also mean problems: car won’t start, baby stinks to the highest heavens, IRS wipes you out, and the trash would pile up to epic heights, much like what happened to Sara Sylvia Cynthia Stout in the Dr. Hook song (brilliant lyrics, look it up if you’re in the mood for a chuckle).

In other words: there’s non-fun stuff that you just can’t get around. Has to happen, or else.

And this matters a lot in business.

Especially when it comes to acting like a professional whilst being a creative or an artist.

Because let’s face it: we’d rather be in the studio, right?

Except that’s the attitude of an amateur.

The pro is different. He or she acknowledges that there’s stuff that has to happen, or else.

And the pro then proceeds to make those things happen.

A true professional is someone who is able to suck it up, and get the not-fun things done ASAP, so as to get back to the studio ASAP.

And the one thing that’s the hardest, for most people?

Marketing. Showing up. Being – and looking – open for business.

Getting your name and your work out there.

Finding, and communicating with, your potential buyers.

Because even if you’re a full-time creative and manage to live off your work, you’re not an actual pro unless you also make showing up and all that goes with it, part of your work. (I know: harsh. But it’s important that you get the pro attitude&behaviour into your life. Also: I didn’t make this up, but got it from Steven Pressfield’s brilliant book War of Art which I HIGHLY recommend. And I’ve just bought the followup ‘Turning Pro’. He’s that good).

Anyway: as long as you’re still shirking the kind of work that literally every pro does, you’re operating on the level of an amateur.

The pro gets to build a thriving business, by virtue of acting like a pro, while the amateur will continue to struggle and fret and worry, until such time that they accept reality, and start acting like a pro.

So what side are you on? Pro or amateur?

If you’re the former, and you know you could do better but you’re not sure how to get better results, maybe we should talk.

I’ve built a career and a business out of helping people like you create your own pro business.

So let’s talk. It’ll be fun.

Cheers,

​Martin

The Simplest Model Ever for Growing Your Business

Building a prosperous business around your creative work can be utterly simple.

Not necessarily easy (it very likely won’t be) but that doesn’t mean it has to be complicated.

So when people ask me what they ought to do in order to grow their business, I like to start out with two questions:

Are you building your list?

And secondly: Are you talking to your subscribers?

Because in the end, these two elements (growing your list of potential buyers, and regularly communicating with them) are essential.

If one of these is missing, you’ll always find yourself struggling to grow your venture.

But if you base your business decisions and growth on them, you have a simple framework that you can use, test, and optimise.

So if you ever find yourself stuck, or unable to grow, ask yourself those two questions.

If the answer is ‘no’ to either of them, you know what to do: grow your list, and talk to your people.

Real simple, and more importantly: real nice. Because what I experience (as does everyone who decides to follow my recommendation and starts talking to their list) is that a consistent email habit with your list doesn’t just lead to sales and business growth.

No, if you do email marketing right, you’ll also be building a fanbase, and a platform, and strong relationships with people, not to mention conversations. And as always: sales happen in the context of a conversation, always.

So if you want to grow? Then grow your list, and talk to folk.

And if you have questions on how to do one or the other, or both?

Then you talk to me, and we pull from my decade of business psychology and marketing experience, to create a method that a) works for you (i.e. aligns with your values and priorities) and that b) actually engages people to convert them into fans and buyers.

Should be fun. Let me know when you’d like to talk.

Cheers,

Martin

The Insidiously Destructive Power of Blame

Ever blamed someone or something outside you for how things turned out for you?

Tell me: how did that go?

Blame is a terrible thing, and not only because it casts guilt onto someone who is likely innocent.

No, the real problem with blame is that it disempowers you.

The moment you blame someone else for something, you’ve given up part of your autonomy. You effectively remove power from yourself, and place it elsewhere, and I think you’ll agree that this does you no good.

But blame gets even worse: when you blame yourself.

Because you’re accusing your past self of doing something that, for that past self and at that particular moment, was the best thing to do. No matter how erroneous, that you back then either saw no other choice, or had no other option, or simply acted on a misinterpretation of facts.

In other words: back when you made that mistake or error, you did the best you could. Even if it was going against your own better judgment or your values: at that moment, it was all you could do.

In other words: your former self wasn’t wrong, but your current self is making them wrong. Bad self! Boo!

Clearly, this doesn’t help at all.

But wait: if blaming others isn’t useful, isn’t blaming the self the only option left?

Well, maybe your former self used to think that way, but your present self is reading this, learning that it’s not the only option, so that your future self will never have to pass blame (on self or others) again.

Not blaming others doesn’t mean you get to blame yourself. Not blaming others means that you get to take responsibility.

Responsibility to say ‘what did I learn from that?’ or ‘Why did that other person act that way, and what can I do to elicit a different reaction?’ or ‘Action X got me results I don’t like. Let’s resolve to not do Action X any more’.

When you blame nobody, not even yourself, you are suddenly free to deeply learn from your experiences, and to take full ownership of what you’ll do next.

Which I’m sure you know has nothing to do with what happened before. The stuff you’d blame for, that’s in the past. It’s behaviour you don’t need.

Much better to take responsibility of what will happen next.

Cheers,

​Martin

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