It’s the most fundamental question in any business, and yet: it’s one of the questions easiest to skip over (scary how often people have no answer to it!):
Why should people do business with you?
In other words, why you? What’s unique about you? Why are you the best choice for specific people, or differently: what’s your Unique Selling Proposition?
Until you know the answer to that, you’ll find it real hard to land clients.
And no, “Because my training rocks”, “Because I have credentials”, or “Because I’m awesome” are not correct answers.
The only correct answer to ‘why you?’ is the one that answers the question your buyers ask: “What’s in it for me?”
The second question to ask yourself:
If people are not doing business with me now, why should they?
See, unless you have answers to these questions, you’re essentially a solution looking for a problem to solve, and I explained a while back how that’s a tough battle to fight.
But once you know your USP, and how to communicate it clearly, you’ll find that the wrong kind of clients stay away, and the right kind of clients are much more open to learning more about what you do.
Heard that on a podcast this morning, not sure who first said it. But it’s true, in business.
Now before any artists reading this get upset: I’m not slating anything about art or artists. In fact, art is an important and valuable part of history and society and culture – and thank you all for making it.
That said, when you create marketing materials – emails, videos, presentations, social updates – and you don’t end with a call to action, what you’ve done is a public service…
… without serving your business – like art, it’s good for people and society.
It’s useful, good, gratefully received, builds goodwill and trust and rapport – but it doesn’t serve your business.
Because a business needs customers, and – oddly – you’ll get more of them when you ask.
That doesn’t mean you need to go all ‘buy now’ in everything you put out there, mind you.
You can invite your audience to take any kind of action – so long as you ask them for some kind of action you suggest they take.
“Check out the course…”
“Buy it if it’s right for you”
“Share this with a friend?”
“Tell me, what’s your view?”
“You’ve learned the exercise, now I highly recommend you take some time for it.”
“Now that you know the cost of sloppy thinking, is it time to start thinking better and making better decisions?”
“Think about it…”
You see, there’s a million actions your reader or viewer can take.
The best one for business is one that leads to a sale, of course.
But on days when you’re not driving for a sale, or your intention is to serve or inform or train or entertain, you’re missing out if you don’t also invite the person to take some sort of action.
You’ve just done something intended to change or better their life.
What better thing to do, than to ask them to action it?
Think about it… see how you can work CTA’s into your own materials.
Or, you can talk to me if you’re ready to level up your marketing and sales in a big way.
Either way: I highly recommend you always use a CTA.
P.s. Here’s an example of another fun CTA you can use:
If you’ve considered contacting me about my work but haven’t yet… what’s the thing you want the most for your business… the thing you want so much, that you’ll click this link and schedule a short conversation, so I can learn what you want and you can learn if I’m the right one to help you get it…?
Saw a rock climber on youtube the other day. Nicely strapped in to his harness, helmet on, safely in his ropes.
And then he noticed a guy coming up the wall below him – a free solo climber.
No gear, no ropes – just shoes, shorts, and a bag of magnesium on his hip.
As he passed the first climber, you could see the intensity of his state. Never even seemed to notice the first guy. Completely in the zone. (And you’d better be of course, if you’re hanging off a cliff face with nothing to protect you_.
My point with this?
Most people who get their business to some sort of stability think they’re like climber #1. Things in place, infrastructure, advertising that works, money coming in & being invested…
“Got my helmet, my harness, my ropes… if I play it right, things will continue good”.
Except that’s a mistake. A business owner is as much as risk as a solo climber, in that anything can happen at any moment, that voids your safety or security. I.e. a rock can fall or a rope can break.
Or in business terms: A privacy law like GDPR can decimate your list, or a platform can ban or demonetise you, or a competitor can suddenly show up and start eating up the market you’re in, or a disaster in your personal life can wipe out your finances…
Like a helicopter, a business is inherently volatile – including the big ones (even Jeff Bezos said that Amazon won’t be around at some point).
Now, back to our climbers: the reason the soloist doesn’t fall, is that he relies 100% on his own skills and focus.
And while it’s good to have gear and protection and buffers and infrastructure in your business, never forget that it’s by virtue of your skills and focus that you built, and can sustain & grow, your business.
We all need to build our business assets in order to protect us, but you can’t rest on your laurels, can’t afford to think the rope will catch you if you fall.
Use your skill and focus in business to prevent the fall in the first place.
See yourself as a free solo business climber, and show up with the focus and application of skills required…
“We didn’t like that estate agent”, she says. He kept showing us properties that were above our budget – and like, 200K over budget. It was weird”.
Friendly dinner conversation, at Burn’s night with friends this weekend. (Yes, there was haggis, and no: it’s not as bad as people say).
“It bit him in the ass though, because in the end we bought a property through a different agent, and it turned out that Mr. Greedy Agent also had it in his portfolio – but because he never showed it to us, we bought it through someone else”.
And so it is with selling: if you try too hard, if there’s neediness, if there’s greed, it’ll backfire.
It’s quite the opposite to my friend Dick, who’s one of the top sellers in his agency.
His secret? “I sell people the house they want, and make sure they don’t buy the wrong house”.
That’s ethics in selling, it’s looking out for your buyers, and it’s a perfect way to do well.
Good eggs sell more, and they sleep better. (well, they *can* sell more, if you learn how to)
When you’re an ethical person, with a lot of integrity, never make the mistake of thinking that this makes selling (or enrolling buyers) harder – it doesn’t have to be that way and in fact:
If you know your values and you lead with integrity, it makes selling a hell of a lot easier and a lot more fun too.
Want to talk about how that would work in your business?
Used to be, I’d be making things all day long. Suits when I was still a tailor, walls and plumbing and carpentry in the monastery, copywriting in my copywriter days, the 16-page LEAP marketing premium newsletter, when I still sold that…
And at some point, I started coaching.
Which is a beautiful thing to do, to spend time in sacred space with clients who are keen to change things. From the heart, all the way.
But there’s a problem and it kept getting bigger: coaching is a ‘brain only’ thing. And heart and emotion too, of course, but there’s no making involved. No doing things that are then ready, to be used or shown or shared.
And especially over the last year, I’ve been getting increasingly frustrated that my work didn’t involve making stuff.
Which is why I decided to bring back a service that has me do stuff and make stuff:
Growth-driving marketing consulting.
Because in the marketing system for growing business that I use, there’s a lot of work for me to do.
Sure, it’s not as sexy as coaching. And some would say it’s a step down, but I don’t really care – I want to make things!
And no, it doesn’t rely on my 25 years of learning psychology and it doesn’t involve deeply personal conversations.
But that’s fine, because I get to do things and make things – yay!
So. If coaching isn’t something you’re looking for, but you ARE looking to grow your business and you want me to implement a tested&proven marketing system for you, let me know.
I’ve not made a web page explaining the service yet, but for now I can tell you that a) this marketing system is affordable, and b) comes with a guarantee:
You’ll see at least 20% growth in revenue, otherwise I’ll continue working the system at no cost, until that 20% growth shows up.
Let me know if you’re interested… we’ll set up a call to see if this is right for you, and proceed from there if it is.
At any given time, there’s a million things you could try to fix, change, or improve in your business – a million different problems you could solve.
But which one are most in need of solving?
Those that are easy to solve often don’t make that much of a difference, whereas the hairy ones are often too complex or time-consuming to tackle.
And yet, the hardest, most complex, most complicated problems tend to make the biggest difference once they get solved… except we avoid it, because they’re so complex.
The solution is to look for the problem behind the problem (similar to the 5-why’s exercise).
If ‘no traffic to my site’ is the problem, an obvious solution would be ‘fix SEO’ or ‘start guest posting’ or ‘start a podcast’.
Or you could ask yourself why you have no traffic to your site, and you realise that behind ‘no traffic’ lies ‘no visibility’, and behind that you might find ‘never made visibility a priority’ and behind that ‘insufficient attention to long-term business sustainability’.
Pretty nice discovery on the heart of the matter, I’d say.
And if you then solve that problem, and you make long-term thinking a priority, you might end up with solutions and actions that don’t just bring traffic, but that make your business healthier in general.
“It already has the ice in it”, says the waiter as he puts down the glass of coffee.
It’s my favourite restaurant at the beach, where I like to sit and work in the mornings.
I look: no ice, just coffee. I touch the glass: it’s warm. Very clearly, this coffee is not iced, even though iced coffee is what I asked for.
“Yeah”, he says, “we’re no longer buying the big icecubes, because we had an icemaker installed. These new cubes are so small, they melt away when the coffee pours over it”.
Baffling. I mean, I’m all for reducing costs and optimising operations, but if it is at the expense of customer experience, something isn’t right.
Now, I don’t know if the owner is a penny-pincher, or if he’s simply been bullied into buying the icecube machine by some overzealous hospitality equipment salesperson, but if a customer has to ask for extra ice, it doesn’t bode well for the future of the restaurant.
Which is a real pity, because the place is generally excellent, the food is high quality and the owner is a nice guy who treats his staff well. I want them to stay in business, they deserve it. But this way…? Not a good sign.
Reducing costs is good. Optimising for profit keeps a business healthy.
But a business exists by virtue of customer love, and there’s only so much you can do to reduce costs.
The moment customer experience becomes less important than profit, you’re either on the road to failure, or to becoming one of those unpleasant companies that treat customers like cash-dispensers on legs.
And without customers, a business is nothing.
So keep ‘em happy. Delight the people who give you money. Profit will follow.
It’s nice to be popular, but when the barista rings up your order and you tell him “I’ve got 100.000 followers on Instagram!” he might be impressed, but his reply will still be “2.95, please”.
Likes, followers, social sharing: it’s nice, it can be useful too, but in the end, playground popularity doesn’t pay the bills.
I’ve written about it before, but David Newman in his book ‘Do it! Speaking’ put a fine point on it (I’m reading the book because this year I want to get serious about public speaking).
Says he: “An audience values an experience. A market values expertise”
And: “An audience wants your autograph. A market wants to give you their signature”.
(Interestingly, very recently I experienced the difference firsthand: I went to a lecture on a topic I’m interested in, but the speaker didn’t really do it for me, and the content of the lecture was too superficial for my taste. So, I’d never buy the speaker’s book, or hire them for a talk… in that room, I was part of the audience, not part of the market).
And sure, of course your market lives inside, is part of, your audience.
But if you focus your business and marketing activities on growing your audience instead of finding the right market and the right way to appeal to them, you’ll be spinning your wheels.
So if you look at your business operations, and the projects you’re working on, and your plans for the year:
Are you looking to build your audience, or your market…?
Thinking gets a bad rap – and in many cases, justly so. This when we get stuck up in our heads and start overthinking things.
But if you want to do or build something, it’s good to spend time thinking it through.
After all, as my former abbot likes to say: “Humans are profoundly irrational creatures”.
For example, there’s a tricky hairpin turn in my street, and right between the two directions, there’s a 1-foot high little brick wall. A few times a year, a driver takes the turn too narrowly and drives over the wall, leaving broken bricks and rubble. A few days later a worker shows up to dutifully repair the damage, until before too long, history repeats itself.
All it would take is a little thinking: “Huh… apparently people don’t SEE where the little bit of wall is. What if we’d build that wall a few feet higher? Or, what if we put a simple pole on the end of it – that means people can’t avoid seeing it, and it would guarantee people won’t take the turn too narrowly!”
But apparently, town hall has a budget for rebuilding damage, but not for actual practical thinking.
What about you? How often do you leap into a project, only to find out later that had you given it some thought, you’d have done it differently, or later, or not at all?
Helpful questions, when you’re about to do something and you want to make sure you’re getting it right:
What’s the opportunity cost of this?
Have I proven before that I can do this, or is my passion only based on optimism and confidence? (Also known as ‘uninformed optimism’ – the realm of rabbit holes and red herrings).
Should I talk to someone and get a reality-check?
What, actually, would my plan look like from the outside?
If I were employed and I’d present this to my manager or CEO, would they OK my plan?
What attitude is required of me, in order to make this work?
Which skills will I need, that I don’t have yet? Can I learn them as I go, or would it slow everything down?
Do I have enough time, patience, and grit, to see this through to completion? (unfinished projects are super costly).
If this goes wrong or doesn’t work, what would be the first, second, and third culprit?
If it’s me who screws this up, in which ways would I do that?
Which assumptions am I making about the work involved and the results I’m projecting… should I challenge these assumptions? (Hint: if anything is being assumed, the answer is always: Yes, challenge the assumption).
If I execute on this plan, will I get demotivated because of elements I’ll try to avoid at any cost – in fact I’m even avoiding thinking about those things right now?
Note that I’m not recommending you start overthinking: what I’m getting at is spending some time – and 10 minutes is often enough – to properly, coldly, logically, think through something.
And then, once you’ve challenged assumptions and thought about worst-case scenerios, and adjusted your plan to make sense… that’s when you launch into execution with all the passion you’ve got.
When you work, do it from the heart.
When you plan, it’s best done from the mind.
Holler if you’ve got a plan or project, and you want to talk to figure out if you’ve got it built properly.
A quiet Sunday, and I’m having coffee at the beach with friends.
“I don’t get it”, she says. “I keep telling myself that this weekend, I’ll get stuck in and do this or that big job I have. And I always end up procrastinating on it and doing something else. But I resolved to do it, with all the intent I have – so why don’t I do it?”
There’s a university full of psychologists who could make a fortune answering that question, but in the end, the why isn’t relevant.
More relevant and more useful is asking ‘in what way do I need to show up, execute, or perform, so that the job can get done?’
If you say “I’ll get it done this weekend” means you saddle yourself with an amount of work, time-spend and exertion, that you can’t completely measure or schedule for. Too many moving parts, no telling how much energy you’ll have or how much you’ll actually need…
So the moment you show up to do the job, your subconscious gets overwhelmed and poof goes your motivation, and hello Netflix.
If you want to get a job done, don’t impose a ‘done’ on yourself.
Instead, decide to spend time working on it, with the specific attitude and type of focus required to do that job.
Process instead of outcome – and the attitude you’ll need to bring in order to perform the process best as can.
This weekend, I wanted to knock my projects & tasks back into shape. And so I didn’t say “I’ll sort Todoist out”, but instead my intent was:
“I’m going to spend time like a strategist, and give my most top-level mindwork to planning out my weeks and months, and making sure all my projects are sorted properly” – and yep, that worked.
‘Complete a project’ isn’t a very good goal. It’s an outcome that results from a goal that describes your way of operating… so when you want to get stuff done, choose not the goals, but the version of you (and the behaviour that version brings) that can make the goals real.