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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)

Buying Time

There is always a chance for you to make back the money you lost, but lost time is lost forever.

I often talk about our time as a non-renewable resource, and while you cannot buy more time, you can always save time. 

You do this by buying the time that other people have spent learning to do what you want to do today. 

And it compounds: the sooner your start, the faster you will go. The later you start, the harder it is to catch up. 

There are two parts to our life: the part when you have more time than money and the part when you have more money than time. 

I am talking to those in part two because while you are in part one, you trick yourself into thinking there will always be more time.

Invest in Yourself

Use some of the money you have to buy the information that will put you in the fast lane. Hire a consultant, do a strategy call. 

Our egos will trick us into thinking that we know what we are doing and we don’t need someone else drafting a plan for us or reviewing the one we have created. So we end up making mistakes that we could have easily avoided. 

I believe in learning from mistakes, but it’s best to learn from new mistakes instead of rehashing the same territory. 

Ask yourself: has anyone else done this before? What can I learn from them? How can I take that and go farther? 

Use tools like Udemy or Skillshare. Get to know who is word-class in your field and follow their content. Hire them if you can afford it. 

Most people are willing to spend thousands of dollars building a website, but they would not spend $300 to hire a consultant first. What do you do if you realize it is the wrong audience, the wrong tech, or that you are too late at the end of building your website? At that point, you realize how cheap and effective it would have been to get on that strategy call.

What I do today I could have done ten years ago. Instead, I chose to poke around in the dark instead of asking for directions. Yes, I learned what I learned deeply and profoundly, but is it worth ten years of my life? My older self says “no.” I can only imagine where I would be today if I had a ten-year headstart. 

And it is not only about you. The longer it takes you to get your act together, the longer we miss your contribution. 

Buy a map, get a compass, hire a guide, and then go where no one has gone before. 

Using WordPress the wrong way

I have been using WordPress the wrong way, and I have just realized it. 

I often wondered why anyone would want a website built with WebFlow or with SquareSpace when WordPress gives you the power to customize everything you want.

The answer is so simple and evident that it is a little embarrassing that I have not seen it before.

Most people don’t want that power. 

Most people want a website that will help them get closer to their business or personal goals. And if you are not a web developer, those goals do not include customizing every aspect of your site. 

I have watched a video presentation with a project hand-over where the client could only add new items on their site: new beer flavors. I am looking at this, and I am thinking: “wow, that customer is powerless. He is so limited in what he can do with the site. For every little change, he will need to hire the developer again.” 

But I was wrong. The client was not into doing minor changes on the site. He wanted a professional website that he could be proud of, and he only wanted to add more beer flavors. Being so limited in what he could do also meant there was no way he could make a mistake or break the site. He could relax into doing what was important to him. 

When delivering a website built in WordPress, it may not be a good idea to hand over the admin account. The administrator account can feel overwhelming with all the buttons available, and it is also very easy to break the site. 

What you should do instead is to create custom post types, custom fields, and custom capabilities and then set up an account that can only work with those and hand over only that account. This way, the client cannot break the site, and they can only customize and update the items they need to. 

Of course, you have to discuss a maintenance plan for the cases where admin access is needed, but that is a different discussion.

Would you be offended not to have administrative access to your site? Or would you be relieved? 

Fences and Websites

Building a fence and building a website

When you hire a team to build a fence around your property, what are your expectations around the process and the results? 

Do you expect to constantly monitor the work to make sure the lines are straight and that workers are not cutting any corners? Do you expect to provide the tools and replace them or do maintenance for those that get broken? Do you expect to manage each worker and tell them what to do, when they should do it and how? 

And for the end result, do you expect to have to do fixes after the work is finished and do lots of maintenance as time passes? 

On the flip side, do you expect to simply show them the property line and describe what the fence should do: keep out wild animals, large and small, and be sturdy enough to require very little maintenance in the future? 

Here is the thing: there is no correct answer to these questions. Different people have different expectations. Some love to get their hands dirty and get very involved in the process, while others need the results, and they would rather do something else while the fence is being built. The problems appear when these expectations are not discussed upfront and are assumed. 

We also need to consider risk and price

When you do get your hands dirty, provide all the tools, and give all the directions, you are taking on all the risk of making sure the result is a good fence. The people you hire just do as they are told and shoulder no risk. So the price they can command is not that great. You pay them less money, but give more of your own time. 

When you buy the results: a fence that meets the specifications, the construction team needs to shoulder all the risk. You don’t care how they do it, how many tools they break in the process, if they need to fire someone along the way, or if they use your fence to train a junior team member. This construction team can command a higher price, and you pay more with money but with much less of your own time. 

Both are valid options, but you need to make a conscious choice and get clarity: is the team who asks for a ton of money willing to take on all the risk? On the flip side, when the price is “too good to be true,” are you ready to pay with your time and with taking on the risk of failure because it turns out the price was way too low to allow for a good job? 

The same applies when building a website. When you want to do it as cheaply as possible, you need to understand that you are taking on the full risk of failure, full maintenance, and a big chunk of the building process. But if you want a hands-off approach where you’re just interested in the business results, expect to pay a premium price for that experience and peace of mind (aka insurance against risk.) 

A cautionary note about the premium price 

Pricing is a signal. And someone reading this may be tempted to think that all I have to do now is raise my prices to a premium level to bring in the clients who want the “hands-off experience.” That is exactly what you should do IF you can deliver! And the price needs to be a lot higher to account for all of your mistakes and all of the things that will go wrong with the project. If you just charge more but don’t deliver, you are running a scam, and you will be found out. 

From the customer side: if someone is offering a premium hands-off experience at a very low price, you need to be cautious. How can they deliver without cutting corners? How can they afford high-quality tools and qualified people? Are they just boasting off to get their foot in the door? 

You need to get crystal clear if you’re shopping for price or value and then make sure the hired team can deliver on their promise.

don't waste time creating new products.

Don’t waste your time creating new products

Here is a mistake that I have made way too many times. 

I have this bright idea for a new product or service. I am so excited about it! But, I want to keep it a secret least someone would steal it from me. 

I work hard to implement it, test it, polish it. I am making sure it looks like how I imagined it. 

After months of effort, I finally launch…

… to crickets. 

There is no one out there who cares about my product or service, let alone steal it. 

The problem is that this is a selfish way to create a product or a service. You are choosing to work in a void in your head, and you are not doing it for an audience, so you never bother to ask for feedback or even ask if they need such a product. 

A better way is to test your assumptions before you spend any time building stuff. Building a useless product costs you time and money that you could have used to make something relevant and remarkable.

Testing can be as simple as saying this: 

“Here is what I am working on next. What do you think? Would you spend $100 for early access and an opportunity to give feedback on how I make it?”

Two things can happen:

  • less than ten people signup for the early access: good! – you thank and refund everyone and let them know there is not enough interest to build the thing. Don’t skip the “thank you” part, as they are your biggest fans! And now you just saved time, money, and effort that you can put into testing the next idea.
  • a lot of people signup – good! – the pressure is now on to build the thing, and you have feedback from people that will help you make it very relevant. You also get testimonials for the official launch date. Again, make sure to reward the early adopters for making this possible.

The Spiritual Software Engineer’s Guide to building your Online Presence

START HERE – Build an audience

Connect with people around you (online or offline) that share some of your values and interests. You need to build a bridge between “i/me/myself” and how it assists “we/us/ourselves.”

Contribute to what they post and share online. Build a conversation with them. First and foremost, try to understand them. You aim to create a community.

PAY ATTENTION

Pay attention and take notes:

– what do they ask?

– where do they need help?

– what inspires them?

– what is the problem they have?

Create content generously answering these questions: meaning for free and with the best quality you can (don’t try to be “perfect” that is just hiding from posting the work. Just do your best)

Save this content in a library (folder with documents in GDrive, Dropbox, local PC). You will thank yourself later!

GET’EM EMAILS

Once you get a feel of your audience, get them to subscribe to a newsletter. Use a free landing pages feature from AWeber, MailChimp, or some such.

By now, you should have a list of topics of interest that you can write about:

– full newsletters – best

– a weekly or monthly update where you send the best posts from Social Media – OK

– curated content – where you recommend other people’s work that relates to your audience – lazy, but it can save you in an emergency when you don’t have something scheduled.

WAIT FOR THE QUESTIONS

At some point, you should be getting inquiries about private consultations or help with a specific problem. The way to respond is to send them to the appropriate post or article that talks about possible solutions and, at the end, let them know that you are available for a one-on-one session for this price.

People will likely choose the free alternative initially, but eventually, some will pay for the “one-on-one.” Regardless, take important notes of these questions as they are ideas for valuable content or a potential product.

KEEP TALKING – KEEP CREATING

Continue the discussion with your audience.

When you have collected some 4-5 excellent questions to address, announce a free Zoom call where you will talk about those. Invite your audience to participate. At the end of the call, be sure to mention your one-on-one offering for those who need to get specific details. As a reward for giving you their attention so far, you can discount that price just for the live participants.

Be OK with the fact that this first call will not be so great. Things will not work; you will forget to mention something important. All that matters now is to practice. You cannot get to “mastery” by skipping over “beginner.”

LOOK FOR FRIENDS

Continue the conversation with your audience.

Look for collaboration opportunities.

The WRONG way to do this: “Hey, can you feature me on your blog/podcast/FB page?

The RIGHT way to do this: “Hey, your work is awesome! Do you mind if I feature you on my blog/FB page/newsletter?

Continue the conversation with your audience.

CAN YOU CREATE A PRODUCT/SERVICE

Based on your work so far and the community’s interaction, get an idea for a product or a premium service. Before you start working on it, ask your community what do they think? Are they interested? Would they pay for it? Bounce some numbers off of them. If you get a YES, then it’s great! If you get a NO, then also great! Ask what would need to change for the product to be more useful? (and it may not be the price!)

ONLY NOW YOU ARE READY TO BUILD A WEBSITE

– you have a much better idea of the name of the site – in some cases, it makes sense to use your own name, in some cases the name of the solution, in some cases the name of the problem.

– you have a massive content library

– you know what your audience wants, so you know how the home page should look like

– you know if you will sell a physical product, or if you will teach or if you will do coaching

If you will sell a physical product, check out Etsy or Shopify. (there is a difference between the two, but that’s a story for later)

If you sell teaching or coaching, have a look at Teachable.

If you don’t plan on selling anything, but you want to level up your blogging game: get a WordPress website (you can even start with free hosting at WordPress.com). This will build your brand and authority in your field, but you still need to have some offers to sustain the project.

BECOMING KNOWN

Continue the conversation with your audience.

You are much better at this now. Collaborations happen more often. You may be invited to podcasts, or live YouTube shows, or even get speaking engagements, if that’s your thing. Always be prepared to say in one line what do you do and who do you help.

YOU NOW HAVE A BUSINESS

At this point, you have some history with your audience:

– you know what works and how well

– you know how many people become customers

– you have a rough idea of a monthly income

You now have a business, and it is at this point when I would suggest you hire a business coach or participate in some business workshops to help you move forward efficiently.

GET READY FOR LEVEL 2!

Publishing a Newsletter – an opportunity to be generous

We all get too much email, and much of it we have learned to ignore. 

But there are certain emails that we wait for, and we miss them when they don’t arrive on time. 

Those are generous messages where the author freely shares her insights about a topic that we are deeply interested in. And we would feel a void should they stop writing. 

You know it is a good idea to build and grow your mailing list. It makes sense from a business perspective: you get a direct line to your prospects that you own. (Unlike social media, where you need to pay to reach your followers).

You install the sign-up form, set up the welcome message, and begin to think about the content. 

Most people and companies create “news” and “updates” content with an occasional promotional message. That is OK, but not delightful

Yes, I want to know when my coding software needs an update, but I don’t need a newsletter for it; the program itself will let me know as I use it. 

What I’d love to read is a story that I can relate to. I would be delighted to have learned something new or be challenged to shift my view after reading the content.

That is why sending a newsletter to your list is much more than a marketing opportunity: it’s also a chance for you to be generous, to build trust, to make things better

Would your audience miss you if you were gone? 

Udemy for instructors is fantastic, but not for making money

If you spend any time online looking at Udemy reviews, it becomes obvious that many instructors bash the platform for its practices:

  1. they take 50% of your sales revenue
  2. or 75% if they used a promotion to generate the sale
  3. you compete with all the other instructions on the site, and there is no way for you to stand out
  4.  you don’t control your course’s sale price – and most sales happen at around $10, out of which you get $5 – even if your listing price is the maximum allowed of $199.

If you are an instructor, then all the above are terrible news for you! 

So why do I think Udemy is fantastic?

Let’s start with who is Udemy for

Udemy is for students looking for quality courses at affordable prices. That means that Udemy is focused on the students, and not you, the instructor. They don’t care how much money you make; they care about how many students they serve as their customers.

And if you want to build your business around selling your knowledge, you too need to start caring about the students and putting them first. 

When you shift your viewpoint like that, you begin to see how Udemy is fantastic for you to grow as an instructor, especially if you are just starting out

Udemy offers you free training on how to create a course. 

They have data from 35m students using their platform: they know what works and what doesn’t. Don’t ignore this. 

They offer articles on how to choose a microphone and camera to record your material. 

They offer a free expert review of sample material when you signup as an instructor. You may think your video and audio is excellent, but having an expert giving you direct feedback is a massive learning opportunity. 

Your course needs to be reviewed to assure some quality standards before being approved on the platform. I read many people take issue with this, and they are frustrated, but I believe they are missing the point. This review is again a free expert critique that you would do well to listen to. 

They offer your marketing insights like what students are searching for, what the competition looks like around a specific topic and some estimated sales numbers. 

How to make Udemy work for you?

The short answer is to embrace for what it is, and not fight against it. The really bad way to use Udemy is to have “a great idea for a course,” do some quick recordings with your phone, upload it to the site and wait for the money to flow. Frustration and disappointment are at the end of that road. 

Do not even think of what you could teach before you do your marketing research. And here, Udemy can help a lot. 

If there is zero interest in your topic, it does not matter how high quality your course is, what a charismatic instructor you are; you will have just wasted your time. 

Use the marketing data on Udemy (that you get for free), and learn about your potential students first! (Remember when I said above that you need to focus on the students?). Once you have found some interests that you can teach about that also have students waiting, you can begin planning your course. 

Next, do not record your entire course and send it to Udemy for review. What if you made a mistake that will prevent you from going through the approval process? You again just wasted your time, and you will have to re-record everything. Instead, do a sample, ask for feedback from experts and listen to what they have to say. Look at the preview of popular courses from your competitors and understand what they are doing right. You don’t have to copy them exactly, but there is a lot to learn from someone who is obviously way ahead of you. 

The following step is to publish the course, set the maximum price for it, but allow Udemy to discount it. This strategy will likely drop the price to $10. Don’t despair. You are here for the learning experience, not for the money. Once you get some sales, ask for feedback from your students to improve your course. Learn from them and improve. I would also ask them for their email and permission to add them to my newsletter :). 

Here is a summary of what happened so far:

  1.  you have some research around students that may want to learn something from you 
  2.  you have much more confidence in your ability to create video content – because your creations have been reviewed and approved by the experts at Udemy
  3.  you have a rough idea of how your course competes against others in the same topic – if it generates no sales, then maybe you need to create something else
  4.  if you do generate sales – you have some students you can communicate with and get feedback from on Udemy – they can become your future audience for various products

Try to do this on your own, and see how far or fast you will go. 

In conclusion

If you are new, if you don’t have your own audience, if you need to train your video creation skills, if you don’t have a budget to spend on setting up a website, and you need to find a niche of students that you can teach, you can do all of that on Udemy for free. 

Once you get that training, have a product that works, an audience larger than zero, and you know how to do marketing, it may be time to create your website on Teachable. 

Is this the best way to accomplish our goals?

Have you ever tried to coach a team towards an end goal but failed? Either because you can’t get your point of view across or because the discussion gets sidetracked continuously into things that are not that important? 

I have tried to send documentation to be studied that points at the right solution. That did not work. 

I have tried to use my experience and authority to give them the best solution and move on to the implementation phase. That did not work either. 

I have tried allowing them to learn on their own and to figure it out eventually. That also did not work because of time constraints. 

And guess what the common denominator is to all the failed attempts? Me! 🙂

My thinking says: if they only had the right information, they would see things like I do. Unfortunately, that is not true. As I am discovering, each one of us sees the world through a different lens. Our views may be similar, but they will never be the same

Today I was studying Seth’s book “Stop Stealing Dreams.” And I was fascinated with how many ideas he can share, without giving any advice on what to do! And not only that, but almost every paragraph had me stop and ponder what was said. I could feel the cogs in my brain getting a good workout!

I had to digest the entire book to figure it out finally. And the answer is now simple and obvious. Seth asks a lot of questions, inviting the reader to think for herself!

And the most potent question was:

Is this the best way to accomplish (…insert goal here…)?

This question serves double duty:

1. It makes sure that we know and agree on what the goal is. If we don’t, we need to go way back in our discussion and check and decide on our goals again. 

2. Once we agree on the goal, asking “is this the best way” opens everybody’s mind to contribute in a focused way towards the goal. 

The key difference for me is that I no longer dish out my solutions but instead invite everyone to contribute. The best way that the group finds may be way better than what I had initially thought the correct answer was. We all learn, and we move forward together.

I will definitely give implement this one in my communication.

“I need help! I have a problem!” Syndrome

“I need help! I have a problem!”: I see a lot of emails with those titles almost every day. And in some cases, these emails are sent to public figures who may have large audiences. 

What goes through my head is this: 

“Does this person seriously think that their email will be picked out of the thousands and get a reply?”

And the answer is that probably yes, or they would not have sent the message in the first place.

For me, that is selfish thinking and selfish expectations. Especially for someone who has a broader audience, the email situation is asymmetric. There is way more incoming email than one person could possibly read, let alone send a response. 

And this also applies to social media communications.

I am writing this post here because I have seen a similar trend in the business world where people send messages asking for a job or offering their services to anyone who has a contact form on their website. 

These messages boil down to: “Hey, I am intrigued by what you do, can you hire me?” or “Hey, some nice content here, do you need SEO on the website?”

How would you feel if a stranger came up to you on the street and said that to you? Would they seem trustworthy? Would you think that they genuinely have your best interest at heart? Would you be eager to work with them? 

I understand that sometimes crises happen. I know there are situations where you desperately need to put food on the table and keep the lights on. But the problem is that everyone else also has their own issues to think about; they have their own story running in their head. The fact that you have a big problem, does not give you permission to but in and ask to be hired or offer a service that is not needed. It just creates friction and noise and lowers your chance to be seen as trustworthy

This shotgun approach has a math justification. It is free to interrupt many people in the information age and demand that they focus on my problem. So, the logic says, I just have to interrupt a lot of them, and eventually, I will get a hit! 

If you are doing this, how is it working for you? I bet that it’s not working very well.

The Alternative is to be generous and respectful.

Imagine that you are indeed about to approach a stranger in real life, not online, and you will see how face-to-face interaction changes the dynamic. 

None of the short meaningless pick-up lines would work. You would need to show genuine empathy and generosity. 

Being generous does not have to be about money. You can be generous with your time, attention, and emotional labor. Before you contact a potential lead, do read their about page, their social media activity. Get out of your head and your problems, and do your best to comprehend their story and problems. Once you feel you have seen the world through their eyes, only then you can go to them and say:

“Hey, I’ve been following your activity for a while, and I know a big launch is coming. Do you need any help with that? I am especially effective at creating and distributing flyers!”

If you were honest with your investigation and were paying attention, your lead was thinking or worrying about this issue. By mentioning it directly and specifically, you show that you care and that you’ve spent the time and the effort of getting familiar with their business and their problem. 

Do you see how this would set you miles apart from some just bombing with generic “I don’t care about you, please hire me” messages? 

The key to solving your problems is to help other people solve their problems first. 

Keep that in mind, when you send your next email or post your next message on LinkedIn. Are you selfish? Or generous?