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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” ūüôā

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.

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. 

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?