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We’ll take your money, but…

I have used three marketing services so far, and I have lost all the $15,000 I’ve invested in those services.

Part of it it was my fault because I did not know what to ask for.

I would say I need help with marketing, and they would say: “sure, we’ll take your money, but there are no guarantees this will work!” And sure enough, it didn’t work.

This offering is such a common practice that we have accepted it as the cost of doing business. 

However, I have discovered this proposition from a marketing agency:

“You will only pay for the ad costs and 10% from each sale you make from our leads. If you don’t make any sales in the first 30 days, we will refund you all the ad spent.”

Crazy right?! Who would refuse such an offer? There is zero risk to you, and you can only make money from this investment.

So why do most agencies shy away from making such a bold offer? The answer is simple: they are not that good. Therefore they will put all the risk on your shoulders. If it works, great! If not, they still get paid. 

I love performance-based compensation. It immediately separates those who know what they are doing from the pretenders. It aligns all the incentives: all the parties win, not just the agency. 

If you read this and think “it can’t be done”, it might serve you better to change your thoughts to “I don’t know how to do this.” At least this new attitude opens the way to learning new skills. And if your crack this nut, you’ve hit the jackpot! 

Size does matter! (for AI)

There was a contest where a man used a scythe to cut the grass from a parcel faster than a person using a lawnmower. Here is the video.

I was watching that, and something felt wrong about the whole setup. And then it hit me! No, it was not the fact that there is nothing scientific about the video :). 

The problem is that the parcel had a carefully selected size so that the man with the scythe does not get tired. What if the test parcel was ten times larger? 

Even if a machine is one hundred times slower than you, it will beat your performance on a long enough time horizon.

Why? Because it does not get bored, it does not get tired, and it does not sleep. In three words:

It doesn’t stop!

This idea applies best to Artificial Intelligence. You can argue that AI is still not smart enough or fast enough to make connections, but the progress never stops!

There was a time when you could say:

“I have read all the books on this planet!” or

“I have watched all the movies ever produced!”

Not anymore.

No human mind can ever go through all the data we have produced (and continue to produce). But for a computer algorithm, it is not a problem! 

Imagine the connections you could make or the insights you would have if you could read all the books that exist today.

An AI can already consume way more that than we can imagine. And the ability to also comprehend the data is increasing with time at an accelerated pace. 

In a few short years, I believe that AI will be objectively “smarter” than us in measurable ways. 

Will it also be sentient? That’s is a story for another time.

Are you missing a leg?

As I have started my online business, I have made a lot of hidden assumptions that kept me stuck. 

The most important of them was acting like a highly skilled employee. I was excellent at my job. But the problem was, nobody was giving me a job anymore…

For a long time, I kind of walked in the dark, trying to stumble into meaningful work. Looking back, I realize I was pretty lucky. But luck is not a strategy. 

What I eventually learned was that my business had only one leg, and I was hopping around. 

That one leg was fulfillment. I was good at fulfilling the promise I had made to my clients. I had the skills; I knew my craft!

Shortly after, I had to add another leg. And that was operations. Having to pay taxes made sure I found this leg very fast. 

I did a balancing act on two legs for almost a decade, not understanding why I am not growing. 

My skills got better and better. My relationships with bills and taxes improved. But I was still stuck. 

Eventually, I found that I was missing a leg. And that leg is called “customer acquisition.” 

I know it is obvious now that I can see it, but I was not consciously developing my ability to bring in customers for a long time.

Yes, I would be busy, but I would be busy doing the wrong things. 

Sometimes we get stuck fixing the wrong problem: adding more skill when the issue was a lack of clients, not talent.

Are you also missing a leg :)? 

If only more people knew about my product…

In a community of young entrepreneurs showcasing their ideas, I see this belief a lot:

“If only more people knew about my product, more people would buy and everything it would alright with the world.”

That was also my belief for a long time. 

I knew from the get-go the saying: “The more value you provide for people, the more successful you will be.” However, my brain interpreted this to mean: “Well, my product is valuable (’cause I think so), so the more people buy my product, the more value I provide. So only if more people would know about product…”

Being stuck for 10+ years can be traced back to this faulty interpretation. 

And I look back at my younger self, thinking what could I have told him to understand better what creating value means? And what comes to mind is telling him:

“Nobody cares about you or your amazing product!”

This statement feels like a kick in the mouth, but it summarizes the reality that eventually sank in! It feels harsh, but it can potentially save you 10+ years of being stuck. 

You do not create a product that you then try to sell. Instead, you connect to an audience and create something for them that solves their problem. The “marketing” is built in the product. You already have a cohort of customers waiting to throw money at you and cheering you on! Not because they care about your charming personality, but because you are generous enough to solve their problem!

How come I was stuck for 10+ years, and what got me unstuck? 

One word: Mentors!

Not having a mentor allowed me to believe my thoughts, mistaken as they were. A mentor can look at your situation and give you one piece of advice that changes your life simply because they removed the constraint that was holding you back: “your limiting or confused beliefs.” 

Do the hard and scary work first and start with an audience, which means being OK with beginning with an audience of ZERO. 

the power of multitasking - ilie pandia

The power of multi-tasking (to distract you)

The best way to be productive is to multitask. Write your emails as you listen to a podcast. Talk on the phone as you are planning your day. Run two or more projects simultaneously, so none of them has “downtime” waiting for your attention. Create meetings with at least seven items on the agenda; this will force you to be on point and effective. And always stay on top of your phone notifications with near-instant response times. That is how productive people rule the world!

If the above sounds bonkers to you, you are correct. However, this is how I used to run my life, and I was a big believer in multitasking. As a software engineer, the way computers multitask is fascinating to me. And it was only “normal” to adopt the concept in my attempt to be more productive.

“There is no Spoon.”

Or better said, in this context, there is no multitasking. What happens inside a computer is that the CPU switches between programs so fast that for the human perception, it looks like it does a million things at once. In reality, the computer does one thing, then changes the context and does the next thing, and so on.

And our brain does the same. It can focus on only one thing at a time.

When you work and “at the same time” answer your Telegram, here is what happens:

  1. Your brain interrupts the work.
  2. Remembers what the Telegram conversation is about so it can understand the message.
  3. Then it creates a response.
  4. And then it goes back to work mode, trying to remember where you left off so you can continue.

Unlike a computer, changing the context of what to focus on is not as fast or easy for us humans. Context switching has a high cost! It may appear you are doing more, but the quality and depth of what you are doing drop dramatically.

I will not quote any studies around this. Instead, let’s look at some examples that are easy to understand:

If you work on a novel, or your next article, or your piece of art, and you get really focused on it, you can get into what is called “the zone.” You are inspired. The words flow, the vision is clear. Then the phone rings! How easy do you think it is to get back into that flow? Yes, you remember where you were, but the words are not flowing; the vision is now blurry. You are still spending time with your craft, but instead of bringing it forth, you stare at it uninspired.

A different example.

You are in a deep conversation with someone. You feel connected. Feelings and emotions are shared. The phone beeps again! It’s a fun emoji from your knitting group. You choose not to respond at this time and return to your conversation. What you will notice is that the quality of it has changed. There is no more depth. You need to connect again and dive deep again. Something was lost the instant your attention changed.

Multitasking gives us the illusion that we are connected with multiple things at the same time, but in reality, we just touch them briefly while we thirst for connection and meaning.

But let’s bring this back to business and being productive.

The two examples above illustrate an ability that we humans have, and computers don’t. And that is to go deeper into things and to access a place of intuition and inspired action.

That is the place where you have the insight that changes your life. That is the place where a product comes from that solves a problem in a unique way. That is the place where you can write something for your audience that shows a deep understanding and care for them.

You cannot get to that place if you are constantly switching between the things that you do.

And here is the crazy part.

Setting aside uninterrupted blocks of time for each project is better, but it is still context switching. Instead of doing it each 5 minutes, you do it each hour or two, depending on how long the block is.

Maybe this feels natural to us because of how school is set up. It fragments our attention, and you constantly need to change the context, so you begin to think this is “normal.”

But have you ever lost yourself in reading a book? Or in creating a painting? Or in dancing? When hours go by, and you don’t notice? Maybe that is the natural way and more effective way.

I notice in myself that when I focus on one thing, for days or weeks, my mind creates connections that do not happen otherwise. Because the context is always the same as the day unfolds, I experience and observe the same things from many different angles. Everything around me is suddenly connected and related to what my mind focuses on in a very real way.

If you’re focused on marketing and better communication, even when you drink your water, you find yourself thinking: why did I buy this cup? How was that choice informed? Was it the colors? The comfort of purchase? Why do I still use it? How can I communicate all this to my audience?

I am now in the process of decluttering my life. Even though I am curious and I love learning, I am choosing to say “NO” to most things so I can give myself the chance of going deep on the things that I say “YES” to.

There is no multitasking. Choose one thing, do it well, do it until you feel complete. Then choose the next one.

Why do people buy spiritual products?

The essence of making a purchase is the belief that “what you are getting is more valuable to you than the money you spend.”

But it is challenging to pinpoint the “thing you are getting” with spiritual products.

It could be access to some teachings, it could be a membership, it could be a personal or a group session where you get some insights, or it can be a form of healing.

In some cases, it can be the feeling of being seen and accepted as you are. It can be a cure for feeling alone or alienated. It can be a way to create meaning and purpose in your life.

It can be a way to increase your self-esteem or to make you feel more worthy. It can be a sense of belonging. A fulfillment of a need for validation.

Most of the above are needs or desires that go deep in our being. And so they are potentially very valuable.

If you are a spiritual seeker you will eventually stumble into the saying that everything you need is already within yourself.

So then the question arises: why pay money for something that you already have?

I believe that it is similar to paying for coaching. A good coach inspires you to discover, nurture and bring forth the talent or skill that is within you. They cannot train for you, but they can give you feedback, they can help you see where you make mistakes, they can cheer you on when you feel discouraged.

Another way to look at this is looking at priorities. When you are giving your money for something you are communicating to yourself and those around you that this “something” is important for you; that is a priority. So spending money on spiritual products can be a way for people to say to themselves that “I am now getting serious about my spiritual development.”

Should spiritual teachings or products be free?

Some say that yes they should. That the information comes from Source, God, Divinity and therefore it should be accessible to everyone. But if that were true, how come not everyone has access to the information already? How come we still have teachers around the world? Why is “Source” only favoring these teachers?

So maybe is not the information that you’re paying for, but instead the guidance, the mentorship, the way showing. The information may be available to everyone, but not everyone is able to easily access that place inside where they know it.

We could argue that those teachers need to eat and that would justify the price, but I disagree. People buy things because they get value out of them, not to feed the teachers. Yes, that is a nice side effect, but not the main reason. It is an energy exchange. The more value the student gets, the more money they are willing to pay. This way the teacher gets more money they can then use to further advance the teachings or to just have a nice comfortable life.

So maybe Spirituality is a business like any other business: where the teacher creates something of value, and the students are willing to pay to consume that value. What do you think?

Honest Marketing

Marketing is the science of tricking people into buying your products. 

The above is the marketing definition that I have used for a very long time. 

I would like to believe that I am an honest person, and I do not trick people into anything, so I stayed away from learning or using marketing. 

My customers, peers, and connections would appreciate and like my products simply because they are so good and relevant. Or so I thought.

Reality Check 

Even though I do excellent work and have good ideas, I have never made the impact that I imagined I could. I wondered why for a long time. For sure, people would appreciate that I am not a sleazy marketer. 

The data does not support my theory at all. 

I looked around at what others were doing, and the only difference I could see was “better marketing.” I did not know what that meant, so I set the intention to “master marketing” and use it in a way that is in line with my values. 

Shortly after stating this intent, I stumbled into people like Chris Do, Blair Enns, Jonathan Stark, and Seth Godin. And the way they talk about marketing blew my mind. 

Here is a different definition of marketing from Seth Godin:

Marketing is a way to create change.

This statement immediately shifts your focus from “getting more money” to what kind of change you want to create and for whom. And what is the best way to make that change?

You begin to think about effective ways to communicate with people and to build an audience. 

You think of ways in which your fans can contribute and support you on the journey to manifesting this change. 

You realize that the way you write copy, present your offer, and the kind of products you create can be a generous act if it results in an experience of transformation for those who choose to come on the journey with you. 

The tactics of marketing stay the same, but the intent and energy behind them are entirely different. 

Here is an example. 

You have created a workshop that allows people to transform and transcend their fears to live their lives with confidence and joy. 

How much should you charge for it? 

Let’s look at two scenarios:

1. You make it available for free, so it is accessible to everyone.

2. You charge $2,500 for each participant.

Which one is better? 

You might say that the free model is better because it has the most impact. After all, it has the highest reach, right? 

However, the data contradicts that. Human psychology is such that we value more things that are more expensive. Yes, more people will “get” the free workshop, but they will not be invested in it, so they will not be likely to do the hard work required to transform your fears. And information hoarded does not create any impact.

In the second scenario, maybe a few will buy, but they will work hard to get their money’s worth. The participants are very invested, and they will make sure they get the transformation they paid for. And in turn, you will get funding to further your creation of change. 

So which one is creating the bigger impact? Do you see how you are also helping the customers, not just yourself, by pricing your products correctly?

From this perspective, we can use marketing tools to create engagement, increase the likelihood of personal transformation, and not just be a ploy to make people part with their money only for your benefit. 

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – or why “value” is subjective

The Dalai Lama opens his present box looks inside and says: “Wow… NOTHING! That’s exactly what I wanted!” If anything would have been in that box it would have been less valuable to him.

Or a personal example: when I moved out from Bucharest to live in a village the buyer of my previous home said in disbelief: “You’re moving to a village?! There is nothing to do there!”… and that was exactly what I wanted: peace and quiet :).

And I am sure you have had the following experience: you notice a person receiving a gift and being grumpy and dismissive about it while you keep thinking: “I would have exploded with happiness right now if I were in his shoes!”

Every single time the object or the experience does not change, but the perceived value of it does.

Because of this subjectiveness, selling to your own wallet is dangerous. You may be thinking: “I would never pay $400 for a meditation app!” but that does not mean that other people would think the same. If meditation solves a big problem in their life, the $400 price tag would feel like a bargain!

In my quest to discover how to quantify value in a way that I can understand it from other people’s point of view I came across this formula from Alex Hormozi:

Value = Dream Outcome x Perceived Likely Hood of Success / (Delay to Outcome x Effort-or-Sacrifice)

A product that fulfills a big dream in a way that is guaranteed and does so instantly and with no effort has infinite value. Think “Aladdin’s Lamp” 🙂

A product that fulfills a small dream with a poor rate of success and that it takes a long time and lots of effort has zero value.

And the mind-blowing part is that each term in the formula is affected by how the buyer perceives it and not if it is objectively true or not.

You may know that meditation is extremely helpful in expanding your awareness, but if the perception of your customers is that it only creates 15 minutes of utter frustration that is what is real for them.

And this is both a blessing and a curse. If you think everyone is like you then it is a curse as no one will see the value as you see it. But if you accept that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” you will go the extra mile to communicate your offer in a way that your customers can perceive it as valuable.

If you understand the subjective nature of value, it is easy to understand how you can trade a paper clip for a house but most importantly it unlocks your mind to find ways in which you can provide immense value to your customers at a very low cost to you. And now you can create meditation apps that sell for $400 :).

People pay for certainty

“Certainty” is another explanation of why people buy a solution instead of using the free one. 

In many cases, the paid solution comes with some guarantee. And that guarantee can be as simple as: 

If you can’t figure it out, there is a human being here that will help.

When you can guarantee an outcome, you can (and you should) charge a premium for that. 

There are lots of free meditation techniques you can find online. But anyone who has tried to silently observe their mind will know that it is not easy. 

If you have a methodology or a way to guide people that can guarantee it will make the process easy, you have a valuable service to offer for those who want to meditate. 

Certainty is also the promise of showing up. Of being there when I said I would. It is the power that consistency and persistence harness. 

For example, knowing that each Monday, a basket of fresh, chemically-free vegetables will wait for me at the door by 9 am is highly valuable to me. Knowing it will be there even if it’s raining, or even if it is a “holiday”, it is a kind of certainty that I value. 

How about making sure your project will succeed? 

Have you ever opened a website that is only half done? Have you ever heard of people starting to write a book and never finishing it? Have you ever started a project only to get stuck halfway? 

What if someone can guarantee that you will finish your project? That is why people hire consultants and coaches. They provide a level of certainty. They are the expert you can rely on or the cheerleader that is always in your corner. 

Paying for certainty is a way to lower your risk. And depending on how much risk your prospects can handle, certainty can be a very valuable proposition.

Finding a customer to make a sale vs making a sale to find a customer

The way you think about sales dramatically impacts the growth of your business. 

When you are finding a customer to make a sale, you are thinking short-term, about promotions, about putting your product in front of many people so that someone would buy. And then you rinse and repeat. 

But when you make a sale to find a customer, your thinking shifts. Because once you have found the customer, your number one concern is to nurture that relationship and make sure they are delighted, so they bring referrals. In this case, your customers become your sales force. And your cost of acquisition drops. 

When you make a sale, and the customer is not telling anyone, your product or service is likely not that good. And that is normal when you begin. You need to continue to iterate on it, have conversations with your customers and improve it. Asking for feedback is crucial if you want to create value for your audience and not just for yourself. You might discover that what you thought was high-value, your customers actually don’t care for it. 

Another shift that happens when you focus on your relationship with the customers and not the sale is that you focus on creating value over time for that same customer. Then they might choose to pay for a subscription or purchase different, more expensive items from you. They are now on a journey with you, instead of getting their money and forgetting about them. 

I have only recently discovered this for myself, so I am looking for ways and tools to help me build that relationship with old customers and allow them to help me make my offers better. 

(credit Alex Hormozi)