If you’re anything like me, when you first thought about selling your work, your worry was: “I have this work that I want to get out into the world… but how will I catch anyone’s attention long enough for them to buy it?!”. After Googling, attending free workshops and completing more worksheets than you care to think about the internet had an answer for you: tell people how your work saves them time or money.
And it works! Kind of. (Just like any other tactic kind of works for all businesses.)
But I think you’re reading this because you want to do better and get better results. You respect your audience, and you don’t want to tell the same “Save time! Save money!” story that makes other business owners sound vaguely like an infomercial.
In marketing speak, the better / faster / stronger kind of value is called functional value. And we talk about it because it’s a relatively easy place for writers to start, and it’s easy for customers to understand. It’s hard not the feel good about reducing expenses, earning more or finding some extra time, right?
But honestly, most products and services have more to offer than this. I’m pretty sure yours do!
I’m willing to bet that saving money or time isn’t the only reason why your best customers decide to buy.
Meaningful products or services usually do a lot more for us than save time or money:
- They create stress-free weekends full of family time because that nagging issue in our life is finally solved.
- They’re an object that sparks an invitation to have friends over, to share stories and spend time.
- They give customers a simple path to follow so they can meet their financial goals or wake up feeling energized and aligned with their goals every day.
So why don’t more sales campaigns talk about other benefits like providing hope, reducing anxiety or creating sustainability?
I think that limiting our work to most obvious benefits means we’re speaking down to our audience and, in the process, self-sabotaging our results. This post shares the three most common ways that this sales self-sabotage shows up for entrepreneurs, and how to avoid it.
The three most common forms of sales self-sabotage, and how to avoid them:
1. Skipping value that customers care about
Selling can be intimidating, and doing it well means you need to share the results it delivers for people. But results that aren’t so obvious to us as creators are often the ones that resonate most with customers.
When you exclusively focus on skills mastered, money earned, and time saved you can miss the big picture impact of those results on your customer’s emotions or identity.
If the result of your work generates hope, creates peace of mind or helps others feel mastery over their hobbies or business, skipping those is a lost opportunity.
If you aren’t sure you can confidently promise these things it’s tempting to skip them and, and only describe the value that you can easily prove. But you can go deeper with a little confidence boost.
How to stop sabotaging sales by sharing deeper value:
Unless you’re selling a new product or service, your work has generated real results for real people. Your testimonials should reflect back just how they’ve achieved more, reduced anxiety, or improved their life or business as a result of your work. You just need to tap into that when you’re in marketing mode.
- Go back to the testimonials you’ve received and draw from them. You’ll be amazed by the real value you’ve provided. Pay attention to the words your customers used. “I feel” “I am” and “Now I can” statements are what you should be on the lookout for.
- Have an established offer, but you don’t have testimonials? Then start requesting them from customers, and even consider sending over prompts for them to fill out. (Bonus points if those include “I feel”, “I am” and “Now I can” statements!)
- If you’re offering a new product or service, consider offering a beta version for a reduced price or free in exchange for feedback. You get a chance to make your work more useful, and if the feedback is positive you can turn praise into testimonials.
You CAN talk about higher value. Grab that positive feedback and use it to move the conversation past the superficial and into the real, sustainable value you provide.
2. Letting lack of time eat the better story
In my dream world, my life is perfectly planned, and every action I take is intentionally optimized for maximum results. The reality (especially now that I have a new baby!) is often more of a hot mess. There’s simply no time for perfection. Good enough is all any of us have to work with.
When you’re launching, writing a campaign or just living your daily life, there’s never enough time. And being a business owner, side hustler or freelancer means you will always have un-done items on your to do list.
So when you (inevitably) run short on time, it’s tempting to tell a simpler story with your marketing messaging. After all, telling the story of saving time or money is fairly straightforward.
It’s tangible, understandable, and has immediate appeal.
But it also puts you at risk of being forgettable or sounding like an infomercial. You can do better by making the time to go deeper!
How to stop sabotaging sales and take more time for your marketing:
The obvious solution is to calendar more time in for marketing, but for most of us, the problem isn’t scheduling. It’s sticking to our best-laid plans when real life hits. To go deeper with your marketing, we’ll focus on making you more efficient and giving you more chances to recover when real life interferes with your plan.
- Add more whitespace into your calendar. When you have more to do than there are hours in the day, part of the problem is that your expectations don’t jive with reality. You can get around this by limiting the number of tasks on your to-do list in a given day, like letting yourself plan only three work tasks a day. Or you can schedule whitespace – “no activity” time – into your calendar, with recurring calendar events, so you don’t over plan.
- Brainstorm with a partner. If you find yourself lost for words, grab a business buddy to brainstorm with. Many masterminds and podcasts were born this way! Bring a topic to talk through, send over some notes in advance, and get the input of a boss or freelancer you trust on your project. If you want a more formal arrangement, business coaches are perfect for this too.
- Train and automate every month, or after every launch. If you don’t get in the habit of actively taking jobs off your plate, you’re never going to have more space in your workday. Delegating is a muscle, so use it. Start by automating tasks to services using tools like Zapier or IFTTT, and then get yourself a virtual assistant and keep up the momentum. Document the training through screencasts or writing somewhere central – even just a google doc – and you’ll never have to re-train the people around you because you’re slowly building a business asset.
A deeper conversation takes more thought and effort. Your audience will need to think about anxiety, remember the sleepless nights, and moments of confusion they’ve experienced to put the benefits of newfound peace of mind into context. They’ll need to know you understand their frustration at always re-inventing the wheel to catch a vision for the value of sustainability. It’s your job to give them this context.
3. Selling an idea you’re in love with.
Passion is often touted as the holy grail for entrepreneurs. Passion is important, but just like in relationships, it can blind you.
When you assume there will be buyers lining up around the block, it’s easy to skip steps that could help you course-correct and stay profitable. Instead of finding out too late that there isn’t demand for your work, it’s important to double check that your passion lines up with your customer’s concerns.
How to stop sabotaging sales before you’re carried away by passion:
Don’t let misplaced enthusiasm convince you to skip reality testing your work. This step is all about doing your due-diligence and putting trust in data from your customers over your feelings. If you build up a fact based case for your work, you can move forward with enthusiasm – and certainty.
- Get input from your audience. Your audience, even if they’re small, is capable of telling you who they are and what they need help with. You just have to ask! Set up a poll or autoresponder for new subscribers that asks what is the #1 problem they want to solve. With every answer, you’ll know more about what your audience wants you to help them with.
- Thoroughly research demand. Search Amazon, Etsy, Google, Pinterest and anywhere else you can think of for products that solve similar problems. Don’t find a lot? That doesn’t mean you’ve discovered something new, it means proceed with caution! There’s probably a good reason, and it’s likely that demand is too weak to sustain businesses.
- Stop trying to teach everything you know, start solving customer problems. Building offers based on what you want to teach may feel exciting, but it’s a shortsighted way to come up with profitable business ideas. People spend money to solve problems, every time. If you start brainstorming based on problems that your audience wants to have solved, you’re more likely to be helpful and profitable than passionate and frustrated.
Leave self-sabotage in the dust and sell with stories that matter.
How do you demonstrate higher levels of value with confidence? Tell a transformative story. Show how your work helps your clients move from moments of despair to hope in their abilities, potential, and possibilities. Talk in real ways about the reductions in anxiety that come from applying your solution to complex problems. Share how sustainability is a result of taking the steps you teach, working through the material you provide, and finding community as a part of your tribe.
Storytelling is the real difference between functional value and a deeper, more meaningful conversation. Want to share a story of deep value with your audience? Learn more here.
When you look at the online business world, it’s not hard to get the impression the path to success follows one track. Attract thousands of subscribers, sell them a product for $97, then rinse and repeat until you have a six figure business. Sound familiar? Now, does a big audience hurt? Of course not. But it’s completely untrue that a big audience is required to be successful.
Today’s post is going to show you what other, intentionally small versions of success can look like instead.
I’ll start with the business I know best – my own! My business is made up of one service, one-on-one business strategy consulting. Last year it generated just under six-figures. It allowed my husband to quit his day job and us to start a family and during that time my email list had about 2,000 subscribers.
Here’s what you might not expect: None of my revenue came from selling to my list.
My clients were all referrals from other professionals and past clients, or they were blog readers who inquired through my sales page. No sales pitches on my part required.
This is the magic of being a niche business.
Niche businesses focus on creating deep connections with smaller audiences. The idea is to provide maximum value to a small, engaged community of like-minded people. In exchange, you can charge higher prices because you can solve specialized problems.
The approach is quite a bit different than the usual push to create a huge community or to spend thousands of dollars on advertising. (I see you, coaches addicted to Facebook Ads!) Instead, a niche approach to business focuses on building a small, super engaged community around your brand.
Today, I want to share the stories of two successful niche business owners who are past clients of mine. They’ve both built successful small businesses by providing immense value to a particular community.
Each sells a higher investment service to a select group of clients instead of selling low dollar offers to the masses. I think they’ll inspire you as they’ve inspired me.
Building community around emotional connection
Ale Vidal is a filmmaker who specializes in directing and producing video content. Her work connects brands with their audience in an emotional, visceral way. An expert storyteller, Ale’s work takes her all over the world and ignites an emotional connection in viewers. Her community of potential clients is small, and her work is highly sought after. Here’s her story, in her own words:
What makes the community that surrounds your business unique?
My community is made up of visionaries and artists that create with a specific aesthetic, unique to their own vision and story. They celebrate originality and aren’t afraid to take risks if it means creating a better story.
There’s something about the way we grew up, the way we experienced life, which made us curious and impacted our individual approach to our art, our brand. I help my community unveil this and bring it to life through video so that their clients understand the breadth of their work.
Do you intentionally limit the size of your audience?
I would say the nature of my work limits the size of my audience. My approach is in depth and intimate, involving a lot of 1:1 time uncovering the unique traits of their brand. This level of creative energy and time is necessary to create something distinct and engaging for my clients and their audiences.
How do you keep your audience engaged?
I believe my audience and I share the same values – connection, emotion, and beauty. So, when I share content, whether it’s a behind-the-scenes image or a part of my client’s film, I ensure it aligns with those values. My clients love to think differently, so I’m very intentional about sharing content that resonates with their passion for pushing boundaries.
How do you keep your focus dialed in as your community grows and expands?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned in the past year is about consuming energy and remembering that things take time. I’ve honestly had to learn to just sit in the pauses without anxiety and always check in with my values. When I am in line with my values, then I am better able to stay focused despite how my community changes and evolves.
What are the benefits of a small audience, in your opinion?
By giving my undivided attention to a small group of people, I build loyalty with them. I’ve earned their ear. People will listen and buy from those they trust, as well as stay engaged because they feel they are more than a transaction.
By building relationships and intimacy with a small audience, I’ve become an advocate and a guide for them. Nothing excites me more than sitting down with my client, listening, understanding their vision, and giving them a voice through video to bring that vision to life.
See more of Ale Vidal’s work on Instagram
Building community around intentional simplicity
Ashley Brooks of Brooks Editorial makes blogging and content strategy faster, easier, and more effective for entrepreneurs. Her clients want to be intentional with their business rather than stuck in a life of never-ending hustle. She is a content strategist, writer, podcast co-host, and a work-at-home mama with a small, engaged community that follows her work. Here’s my interview with her:
What makes your community unique?
I attract a lot of mama entrepreneurs and side hustlers because they’re the ones who don’t have time to make their business their entire life. Many people in my community are hesitant that they can make their business work alongside other commitments. A big part of my job is encouraging them that they can have a successful business that fits into their existing life.
Do you intentionally limit the size of your audience?
I don’t have a limit in the sense that I have a maximum number of followers, but I do limit my audience by only speaking to certain people. Pretty much every online entrepreneur has a blog, but I’m not the right person to help all of them. I’m only a good fit for working with those who want to blog intentionally so they can focus more time on living life. If someone enjoys living a go-go-go, hustle-all-the-time life, I’m not the right person for them – and that’s okay!
How do you keep your audience engaged?
I make sure every single email newsletter I send (even the ones in automated sequences) includes a personal invitation for people to reach out to me, even if it’s just to say hi! I get emails every week from new followers who want to connect or long-time readers updating me on their journey. Because my audience is smaller than average, it’s easy for me to respond and genuinely get to know my people.
How do you keep your focus dialed in as your community grows and expands?
I keep my messaging trained on intentionality and simplicity rather than jumping on the bandwagon of the newest, trendiest thing in blogging and business. Honestly, it’s tempting to shift my core message at times, but I know it wouldn’t be worth it. I often have to put blinders on, so I can tune in to what will best serve my audience.
What are the benefits of a small audience, in your opinion?
I actually know a good portion of my audience on a personal level! This lets me bring so much more value to them through my content and paid services. I’m an introvert, so this makes me more comfortable putting myself out there and being totally transparent with my people. I share monthly behind-the-scenes workings of my business with my email subscribers, and that’s not something I could do if I felt like I was emailing a crowd full of strangers.
Learn more about Brooks Editorial here
What stands out to me in both of these stories is the deep connections both Ale and Ashley create with their communities. This, in my opinion, is the key to success with any audience – but it’s especially true with small ones.
When you stop trying to be everything to everyone, it’s possible for you, as the business owner and “head of the tribe,” to connect with each person individually. You can take an interest in their situation, listen to their story, and serve them in a deeper and more meaningful way.
A business focused on deep connection makes it easier to thrive with less.
Suddenly less traffic or a smaller audience doesn’t mean less revenue and freedom. Instead, you work with fewer individual clients, make a greater impact and command premium prices.
Is this the right community and promotional model for you? Maybe – especially if you love the idea of diving deeply into topics, connecting personally with your people, and having an impact on the individuals you serve.
Want to create a small, engaged community around your business and brand? You need a Simple Sales System to guide you so that you can connect efficiently and authentically with your ideal clients. Learn more by clicking here.
One of the main concerns that I hear from clients when we work on the email marketing aspect of their launch campaign strategy is that they don’t like launching because they’re worried about annoying their list.
No matter how big your list is, it’s a great instinct to keep your customer’s feelings in mind. Your list is made up of real people who had a YES! moment when they arrived at your website. Something resonated with them, or they found a freebie that met their needs, so they signed up to hear more from you.f
If you want to move beyond their first “yes” to a deeper relationship that lasts, you need to connect with visitors and your subscribers in a deeper way. And that means going beyond publishing quick informational blog posts that will do well on Pinterest. It means telling a story.
Annoying launches are just reminders to buy. Thoughtful launches build hype, drive sales and create long-term customers.
Since you’ve already worked to get the attention of your subscribers, today’s post shares how to choose email topics for a launch campaign that tell a story and create real, juicy conversation around your work.
1. Challenge your customer’s assumptions
We all make assumptions based on our experience, perspective, and situation. The people on your list are no different, and some of their assumptions are probably holding them back. As an expert, you can challenge their assumptions, change their perspective, and improve their results.
To get started, ask yourself a few questions like:
- What are the common myths and misunderstandings in my industry?
- Where do I see common mistakes most often with new clients? What assumptions lead to these mistakes?
- What fears hold my clients back and keep them from taking action?
Then make a list of possible assumptions that people in your audience make, pick the most powerful one and write an email to set them straight!
Present your opinion, share evidence, and call out the things you see keeping your people stuck. Inspire your audience to grow by pushing them to move past their assumptions. They’ll remember you as their gateway to new insight and better results.
2. Fill knowledge gaps to create ideal customers
As an expert in your area, you gained valuable insight after experimentation, failure, and adjustment. Your audience is drawn to you (at least in part) because your insight can help them succeed. You know how to solve the problems that have them stumped, and they know it. To build loyalty and relationship with your readers, share what you wish all your customers knew or did before they came to you.
To get started, ask yourself:
- If I was speaking to my ideal customer, what would they already know before our conversation?
- What does my ideal customer discover through my work? What are their ah-ha moments?
- To get the most value out of our work together, what actions would my ideal customer have already taken before we worked together?
- What are my ideal customer’s concerns and questions about this product or service? What information are they missing?
Your answers to these questions are vital parts of your launch campaign story that provides value to your ideal customers.
This strategically planned educational content acts as an on-ramp that turns normal audience members into your ideal customer.
It also creates a foundation of content that you can use in a sales funnel to build trust with future customers.
3. Show how your ideas apply in the wild
To make your ideas stick with your audience, which makes those idea more likely to help them, show that your ideas are real world tested. You can do this with anecdotes and case studies – show how others have applied your insights to their own unique business or life. Or connect a key takeaway from your work to an unusual context.
For example, one of my core principles is that “marketing is a learned skill.” To illustrate that I could share stories about my client’s experiences experimenting with marketing tactics and show how they learned and developed over time. I can also apply the idea of learning through experimentation to something completely separate – like parenting, or a hobby, or something comparable – and then create a link back to marketing in some way. (This is where post headlines like “10 things that learning to draw taught me about marketing” come from.)
Showing new ways to applying of your ideas makes them more memorable and can spark your audience’s creativity. They start seeing themselves in the story and identify ways they can further apply what you share – and that helps both of you.
4. Address the elephant in the room
He’s here, you know. We all see him in the corner dropping peanut husks on the floor. We can certainly smell him too – and when he stamps his foot or trumpets, it’s pretty tough to ignore. But we don’t talk about him, do we? Not in polite conversation and definitely not in the middle of a campaign.
There are some unpleasant truths that, as someone who’s selling something, you might be tempted to gloss over in your launch campaign.
Unpleasant truths like:
- Some offers aren’t actually for everyone. (It’s a sales nightmare! Oh, the humanity! )
- Solutions aren’t instant, and actually take a lot of work.
- Sometimes the investment is big. Customers need to devote considerable time, money, you name it, to see results.
Let’s be real: the people in your audience already know it’s true. So, just talk about it already. It’s easier to trust an ethical marketer than it is to trust a telemarketer. The people you drive away are more likely to be looking for more than any product or service can provide (a.k.a. they’ll be high support & are more likely to want a refund) and being direct makes you stand out to your best customers.
Creating a conversation about your work is part of your Simple Sales System. Not sure what story to tell for your next sales campaign? Check out the new 3-day workshop that’s coming soon.
Recently I had a conversation with a stranger.
As we sat next to one another while we traveled, we had ample opportunity to chat and quickly moved through the small talk you’d expect – things like weather, the experience we were sharing, where we were headed, and the like. Then we ran out of common ground, long before we arrived.
We were in different places in life regarding age, family, and heritage. Our skills and professions were different as well. We each carried assumptions with us about our world and what it means to be a woman in 2017. It’s very likely that our political viewpoints were as varied as our views on spirituality and relationships and even the ways we express our innate creativity.
But we didn’t talk about any of that stuff, and it’s a shame.
Why? Because we still don’t know one another.
Sure, she can describe me in terms of how I look, how old I am, and what I do. The superficial demographics we shared as we passed the time are enough for all that. But there’s nothing more. No real connection or friendship or lasting bond. But hey, at least we were polite, right?
The problem is that polite and superficial doesn’t build a relationship, in your personal life or in business.
(I know, how un-Canadian of me!)
If the story you tell about your business to the people on your list is only full of general information and acceptable language, it won’t build much in terms of relationship either.
In our desire to avoid offense we can water down our opinions so much that they don’t actually engage anyone either. But if you want to build relationships with the people in your community, you have to move beyond safe, polite conversation. You have to shake things up and spark real dialogue.
I’m guessing you have some pretty strong opinions. And like most people, some you share in public while others are private. Your strongest held opinions are probably known only to those people who are close to you.
As you’ve gained experience in your niche, I know you’ve gathered some strong opinions along the way. That wisdom and perspective are what we call expertise, and it’s good stuff.
But when was the last time you shared those strong opinions? Do you hesitate to share your wisdom because it isn’t commonplace? It might not be well accepted or similar to what you see online. That’s a good thing because your best ideas are unique – and they shake things up a bit.
Sharing your insight could challenge your audience to think deeply about things like their:
- Conversations about everything from sales to problem-solving to customer service.
- Expectations about business based on “the way things are done around here.”
- Assumptions about the issues they address, problems they solve, and their world view.
Shaking things up feels a little scary, but it’s SO good for your business. Why? Because people remember what they feel deeply, and the people or brands that sparked those feelings. Those are the moments that relationships are built in.
Advertising is all about feeling. That’s why we remember the television commercials that make us laugh. And the ones that put tears in the corners of our eyes. And the ones that gave us a reason to stop and think until suddenly we saw the world a tiny bit differently.
Emotion is the difference between polite, forgettable marketing and making a deep, lasting connection.
In business, many of us try to stay safe. We hide our most controversial – and memorable – opinions in order to attract as many potential clients and customers as possible.
We take the bite out of our wisdom to make it more palatable.
We shy away from bold statements and deep conversations because we believe they are less effective than a good, solid, (and general) message.
But we couldn’t be more wrong.
Deep conversations create meaningful connections between people and brands. It also makes you stand out from the crowd, which makes it easier for your best customers to find you.
So when you go to write your next blog post or email- don’t hold back. Shake things up and connect!
Ready to create a Simple Sales System that shakes things up for your audience and gets you real results? Learn more here.
Planning and creativity really DO go together. Sounds counter-intuitive? But it’s true, at least in the right circumstances and context.
Planning your campaigns (a.k.a. launches) might sound dull as dry toast, but it’s actually a painless process that gives you the freedom and confidence to be really creative in your business.
You already know that planning isn’t an all-knowing crystal ball that guarantees your sales results before you start work on your big new idea. But a little planning can give you much more control and predictability.
Planning removes the guesswork and anxiety – so you can simply execute on your plans in a humane, drama-free way.
Much better, right?
So – creative person – let’s get the planning started!
When do YOU want to launch?
Contrary to what you might have read online, there’s no right or wrong time to promote your course, package, workshop, or services. At least, there’s no inherent right time that everyone must follow. (You CAN have a successful campaign over the holidays or during the summer or even in early January when everyone else is promoting something too. Yes, really!)
There is also no absolute formula for launch success that works for everyone. The best plan is actually something you create based on the preferences of you and your audience. So, what should you consider?
- Frequency – How often do you want to run a promotional cycle? One huge annual campaign works well for some (I see you Marie Forleo) and smaller, more frequent cycles work better for others.
- Seasonality – Consider when your services are most interesting to your audience. We naturally consider goal setting as we begin a new year, for example, making a service around planning and goal setting naturally popular then. But, we might want a vacation services product in late spring as the summer travel season comes into view.
- Your own rhythm – Think about your own natural energy and focus, as well as the personal events in your life. Maybe the summer is family time for you or perhaps certain events are planned which will limit your ability to focus.
I recommend you create a calendar for the next 12 months and start building your campaign plan based on these factors. Block out personal events, planned vacations, family time, and things like that on the calendar. Make note of the seasonality you’ve identified in your business. Then take your desired frequency and see what it looks like to select tentative campaign dates.
How long does it take to move through your sales cycle?
There’s more to a campaign than opening the cart and making an announcement, right? Even the most basic sales cycle includes a teaser here and there, a bit of blog or email content, or a free event to get people engaged. Then there’s the actual selling part and the follow-up post campaign.
Your sales cycle can be as short as a few days or as long as a few weeks. (Not sure because you create each launch from scratch? You need a simple, repeatable sales system.)
Go back to your calendar and block off the time it takes for each campaign. You may identify a few conflicts or need to adjust a few things. That’s fine. :)
What traffic paths work best for you and your audience?
Over the past few weeks, I’ve written a lot about analysis, metrics, and ways to measure the effectiveness of your traffic paths, or how your customers find you. By now you likely have a pretty good idea of what works best for you and your audience. Great!
These tactics (your best practice tactics) are part of your sales plan. They determine the pre-work you need (creating content, graphics, messaging) and the set-up required (scheduling, organizing, administrative stuff) for each campaign.
Time to make a list of these tactics and add them to your plan – allowing enough time so you can implement them without feeling rushed or pushed.
What average revenue do you generate per campaign?
If you’ve gone through your sales cycle a time or two, you have good revenue data you can use to calculate an average. If this is a new product for you or you haven’t got as much data as you like, go ahead and create a conservative estimate.
What is the required campaign related budget for your goal?
This number is about advertising and promotional costs. How much do you need to invest in terms of ad spend, affiliate commission, freebies, and related labor and materials to generate the average revenue number you calculated above? This is your “campaign budget” and allocating it is part of your sales plan.
Putting all this together for a campaign plan that predicts your results.
The math is actually pretty simple when you think about it. Now that you know when you plan to promote your stuff (time, frequency) and the resources (time, money) you need to allocate in order to generate results (revenue) you can easily predict your results over the next 12 months.
Will your prediction be 100% accurate? Of course not – there are just too many variables. But the more data you gather the more refined your planning and predictions can become. With practice, you’ll be able to confidently predict (and depend on) the results of your sales system.
Ready to create a Simple Sales System that delivers reliable results every time? Come see how easy it can be.
I’ve seen super smart, and savvy women dissolve into tears during a launch. I’ve listened while perfectly sane, rational entrepreneurs rant about the unpredictability of their sales system and worry aloud if their thoughts indicate they’ve lost their edge/perspective/marbles.
So, what’s so emotional about marketing?
There’s something very emotional about working for months with focused intensity, checking zillions of things off a list in the hope that enough people will engage with the message and buy the thing to make all the effort worthwhile.
And can I say, it’s normal to be scared off of working a plan when you aren’t sure of the results!
That uncertainty is why so many smart people:
- Abandon new products or services after a single lackluster campaign.
- Avoid creating their “brilliant new something” because they aren’t sure it will sell.
- Buy the latest formula and implement it straight out of the box.
- Feel insecure about their services and struggle even to get started.
- Cry before the cart opens, while the cart is open, and after the thing closes down.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Analysis takes the emotion out of marketing.
The familiar up and down emotional roller coaster associated with “launching” comes from uncertainty – and the best way to smooth out the ride is to analyze your results so you can predict the future. Then you can take what you learn and use it for planning.
Suddenly, your sales system becomes repeatable and reliable. Nothing terrifying about that.
Analyze potential profitability before determining target revenue.
Many business owners select campaign revenue targets unrealistically. They look at the revenue they need in order to cover their operational costs (or they make up a number that “feels right”) and then they work enthusiastically toward it. But, because the target isn’t based on reality, it’s rarely achievable. (Also, because it’s not based on profitability it’s likely not enough.)
Rather than starting with a needs-based revenue target, I’m encouraging you to analyze the potential profitability of your product before each campaign and then create a revenue target you can realistically achieve.
- Start with the potential gross profit from each sale – calculated by subtracting the customer acquisition cost (CAC) from the sale price of your product or service.
- Determine how many sales you can realistically expect based on your audience size, past results, and promotional efforts. Create a range that includes a comfortably conservative number, a reasonable number, and a stretch goal.
- Multiply your three sales goals by the potential gross profit number you calculated. This is the range of profit you will likely generate from each sales cycle.
- Multiply your three sales goals by the sale price of your product or service. This is your range of revenue targets. Notice that the revenue targets are now based on reality and equate to a predictable profit amount you can plan on as a result of your efforts.
This method takes the emotion out of your campaign by tying your sales goals to real analysis and real numbers. You know exactly what you need to sell in order to generate the money you need to operate your business, pay your team, and add value to your bottom line.
Analyze how your story resonates by talking to your audience.
Wondering if you’ve got the right story? Try talking to real people – before, during, and after your campaign. Ask them for feedback about your work and your content – and get as detailed as you can. You’re looking for intel on the challenges they face, the parts of your story they connect with and feel emotionally, and the questions they are considering as they evaluate your offer.
Even if you’re not comfortable asking someone directly, you can still gather really excellent feedback just by observing your audience. Does one of your posts get really high engagement? Chances are the story resonates with your tribe. Look for nuggets there to add to your sales story. Does a recent post fall flat? Probably not one you want to draw on as you craft your sales content.
During the campaign, pay attention to the reaction you get as you interact. Getting the same question over and over? Add a post to your queue that answers the question and then highlight a related benefit from your sales page.
After the campaign, take a look at what worked. Gather feedback from those who purchased to get insight on why they decided to move forward. Comments like “It was like you were talking specifically to me” mean your story is having a positive impact on your audience.
Understanding the way your audience interacts and responds to your story gives you confidence and takes some of the emotion out of each campaign. You won’t have to hold your breath and wait for a response because you’ll know exactly what to expect from your fans.
Analyze why they didn’t buy last time around.
Okay – time to give yourself a little tough love. Time to take an objective look at why your last campaign underperformed and discovered why people just didn’t buy. Here’s what I recommend when you’re ready to get real about your results.
- Ask them. Put together a little email with a short (as in three questions) survey. Make it multiple choice, so it’s simple and offers a reward so they take action. Here are a few questions to consider:
- Why did you wait? (price, product fit, wrong time)
- Did you solve your problem another way? (DIY, competitor’s product, not solved)
- What would help you buy next time? (payment options, DIY version, group component, etc.)
- Brainstorm possible reasons. Yep, you read that right. I’m asking you to grab a journal or notebook or blank screen and create a quick list of everything that comes to mind as a reason why things didn’t go as planned. You’ll quickly discover that you already know in your gut some key issues with your last campaign. Maybe you cut a corner or two or used a piece of content that didn’t feel right. Those things will come to mind and resonate with you – giving you the opportunity to acknowledge them and correct them next time.
Why this focus on what went wrong? Looking backward to identify issues gives you the opportunity to create a plan for the future and take action to improve your results. With the plan in place, you’ll be free from the emotional ups and downs that come with insecurity and indecision. You’ll create the confidence you need to move forward boldly.
Imagine how effective your next sales campaign would be if you had a Simple Sales System you could implement confidently. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Let’s create your plan together.
There’s more to the bottom line than revenue.
Money is necessary, for sure. Loving what we do as entrepreneurs doesn’t mean we work for free. That’s why sales systems are designed to hit revenue targets and generate results. We need to keep money flowing so creativity can flow too, right?
Certainly, professional satisfaction means looking at the bottom line – but there’s more there than just revenue.
Your business can consistently deliver to your bank account and still be a really bad fit for your life and goals.
So let’s avoid that!
Here are four things you should consider about how your business works that have nothing to do with revenue or cash flow:
How do you feel about things?
I call this the Authenticity Quotient. It’s also known as the “yuck factor” or that vague feeling in the pit of your stomach when things just aren’t true to how YOU want to show up in your market.
When evaluating your current sales system, it’s important to take a minute and check in with yourself by asking a few questions like these:
- How do I feel when I think about planning a new campaign? Excited and energized or filled with fear, dread, and feelings of overwhelm? Effective sales systems should give you a sense of positive pre-campaign anticipation, not nerves and anxiety.
- How do I feel in the days and weeks after the cart closes? If you’re exhausted, drained, and considering getting an entry level job in foodservice or retail, there’s something negative going on in your system. Maybe you’re doing too much. Maybe what you’re doing feels confusing or frustrating. Time to pause and check it out.
Intuitively, you know when you’re true to your personality and perspective. You know deep inside when you’re honoring your body’s energy levels and engaging authentically with your tribe. When things are off internally, you know something needs to change.
How is your audience responding to your message?
A healthy sales system creates a natural, positive audience response to each campaign. Rather than feeling surprised, annoyed, or frustrated by the message, people on your list are relieved because they finally have an opportunity to buy your stuff. They’ve been reading your posts, getting to know you, and thinking about how your product or service would make a difference for them. When you open the cart, they eagerly check out the offer and consider it carefully.
Is that what happens when you promote something?
Or does engagement drop off and the unsubscribe rate start climbing? When your sales system is misaligned, your audience can tell. They stop connecting, commenting, and asking questions. They get quiet – ignoring your content and waiting for the campaign to end, so things get back to normal.
What is the state of your business operations?
This question (also known as “what did you neglect so you could promote something?”) is about the balance in your business and the operational costs of your sales system.
Healthy sales systems are a normal function of business and create minimal disruption. Customer issues are still resolved, a product still ships, and administrative work gets done. Sure, your energy might be focused on the current campaign, but not to the exclusion of everything else.
Something is off when business operations grind to a halt during each sales campaign. The team is so busy spending nearly 100% of their available time and energy “launching” that everything else is pushed to the backburner. Task lists get longer and longer as customer issues are neglected, and shipments are backlogged. When the cart closes, everyone heaves a sigh of relief and then looks around and the mess created while their attention was on sales.
So, is your sales system a balanced part of your normal operations? Or do you (like many of us) face an operational nightmare at the end of every sales campaign?
How’s the team doing? Working together or pulling apart?
Psychologists study stress all the time. They tell us that people under pressure either pull together to become a strong, cohesive unit or they come apart as issues divide them and anxiety becomes overwhelming. The difference is often due to training and leadership.
One thing is consistent, though. Stressful sales systems affect your team dynamics.
Think for a moment about your organizational team dynamics after your last sales campaign. What comes to mind in terms of interpersonal relationships, stress levels, and anxiety? Consider especially what your core team members were telling you in terms of their job satisfaction, energy levels, and dedication. Did they pull together or pull apart?
Now turn your attention to your experience as a leader. The campaign itself may have felt smooth, orderly, and positive. Or, it may have felt like you were gathering 1000 stray cats and attempting to train them to line dance.
Healthy sales systems give the team the tools they need to pull together. There are plans in place for overcoming challenges, and everyone is fully trained and able to handle their responsibilities. As the leader, you set the vision for each campaign and monitor the results – inspiring the team and supporting their efforts. No stray cats in sight.
The secret to repeatable results is a healthy sales system.
Sales don’t have to be chaotic and disruptive. Your sales system can be simple, straightforward, and authentic; perfectly aligned with the needs of your market, and carefully balanced with your normal business operations.
You can confidently and consistently attract customers who are ready to buy – in a way that’s simple and authentic – by making sure you maximize every aspect of your bottom line.
How’s your bottom line? You CAN create a simple sales system that’s perfectly aligned with your business. Let me show you how.
Want a repeatable sales process? You’ve got to track metrics.
But not just any old metrics. Track the numbers that matter – the ones that help you really evaluate how you’re doing and give you insight so you can make better decisions.
You don’t need to go overboard and track everything – unless that gets you excited, in which case you have my permission. (And let’s hang out.)
But there are 5 key metrics you don’t want to forget:
Moola – revenue and profitability
Ah, revenue. We love you. We get excited about “six-figure launches” and sustainable, high producing sales processes. Revenue is easy to track (just look at your bank account) and it’s fun to watch and report. The more revenue you bring in the better you’re doing, right?
Not necessarily. Revenue alone is only part of the equation.
Along with the grand total revenue number, there’s a little thing called profitability. It’s easy to ignore in all the excitement of a sales campaign, but it’s really the more important of the two metrics. It’s the amount of revenue you actually get to keep and spend (ahem – reinvest) in the future.
If you want a repeatable sales process, track sales expenses right alongside revenue:
- What did all those Facebook ads cost?
- How many labor hours did you add to the budget to support this campaign?
- Did you buy new software or pay for graphics?
- What about payment processing fees and hidden expenses?
Add up the expenses and subtract them from the revenue. That’s your profit – and it’s a super important metric for decision making. That six-figure launch of your dreams might not be as profitable (after the advertising spend required to get that revenue) as a simple promotional campaign to your existing list or a joint venture with a strategic partner.
List Growth – who they are and how they found you
Promotion (done right) does more than sell your products and services. It expands your reach and grows your audience. In fact, list growth can be the most important result of a sales campaign in terms of creating a repeatable, reliable sales process for your business.
So make sure you track the numbers, okay? But don’t stop there.
I suggest you take the time to dive a little deeper and get to know the new people on your list. Some may fit your ideal client profile for this campaign while others may be looking for another of your products or services. Still others joined because they were intrigued with your mission or message but they aren’t ready to do much about it yet.
When you discover who they are (and how they found you) you can begin to build a closer relationship with them – and create reliability in your sales process.
Traffic – it’s not all created equal
Traffic is a good thing, right? More eyes on your website, more people engaging with your promotional materials, content, and webinars. You can find lots of advice from sales gurus and experienced marketers encouraging you to drive more and more traffic to your stuff so you can get better results.
Sorry, I’ve gotta do a little myth busting here.
You want more sales and more brand engagement, not necessarily more traffic. Volume doesn’t matter as much as quality – and quality is all about engagement.
There are a lot of tools to help you track the sources of your online traffic – which I call traffic paths. Google Analytics is one of my favorites. With just a little practice you can dig into the details – and get insight into how people engage with your stuff once they land on it. Once you’re armed with that information, you can make decisions about which traffic paths to expand which to move away from or minimize. After all – the more you know about which of your traffic paths is the healthiest, the more reliable your results will be.
Conversion rates – break down the results strategically
Okay, let’s get serious about marketing metrics and take those traffic numbers we’ve just talked about and put them to work. (Caution: Math Trigger Warning) Time to figure out the conversion percentage for each main marketing channel you usually use.
Hang with me, this is good stuff. I promise.
Let’s talk hypothetically about a typical promotional sales campaign with traffic paths that include Facebook advertising, email marketing, a free webinar, and a series of blog posts. All this stuff can feel like a ton of work – especially when you only have a small team to implement all of it.
Many people I speak to (post campaign) use words like “simplify” and “avoid burnout” when sharing goals for future sales cycles. They want to scale back the effort without scaling back the results. But, it’s pretty tough to do that without an analysis of conversion rates by tactic.
Here’s how you do it:
- Determine your traffic numbers by tactic (i.e. how many people came to your site from Facebook ads).
- Determine how much of that traffic converted into a sale (i.e. how many of the Facebook ad people bought your stuff).
- Divide the conversion number by the traffic number for that tactic to get the conversion rate (the math part).
Yes – it takes a little planning (so you can gather the information you need) and a little math but the results are rich. Once you know that your email marketing campaign converts at 11% but Facebook ads only convert at 2% (for example) you can make decisions on how to invest your resources – and spend money building and nurturing your list in between promotions rather than buying ads during the campaign. Powerful stuff, isn’t it?
Customer Acquisition Cost – not for the faint of heart
The big kahuna of sales campaign metrics is this one – How much did you pay to acquire each new customer? It takes a little more math to get this number, but it’s worth the effort because once you know this you can create a reliable, repeatable sales process for your business.
One you know how much money you need to invest in Facebook (or email marketing, blog content creation, promotional webinars, etc.) to get a single new customer you can totally scale your sales system.
- If every $5 you spend on Facebook ads yields one direct sale of $50 is a pretty good deal. You may want to invest more heavily in Facebook ads. (CAC = $5)
- If it takes $500 in Facebook ads to fill a webinar (with 100 people) that yields 10 sales of $50 each (CAC of $50) you might need to think a little longer about using a webinar in the future.
It’s not the size of the customer acquisition cost (CAC) that is most important. It’s the size relative to the revenue generated per sale. A CAC of $5 that represents 10% of revenue generated per sale is just fine. It’s okay to have a CAC of $50 that represents 10% of revenue generated per sale too. But when your CAC is 100% of the revenue generated per sale, you’ve got a problem.
Head spinning with numbers and not sure where to start? That’s ok! Let me help you create a Simple Sales System to get repeatable results (without too much math). Learn more here.
You’re walking down the street, and you see a new shop has opened up. In a few short seconds you take in the storefront, the window display, the signage and you decide if you want to go in. This is how customers approach your website.
When a new visitor to your site arrives, they’re making quick judgments: who are you? What do you do? Are you a good fit? Can they trust you? And your website is giving them answers.
While some websites need a complete refresh, there are a lot of things you can do to make your site more user-friendly in just a couple of hours.
Start by coming up with 1-2 main goals you want your website to accomplish. Do you want people to buy something? Sign up for your email list? Get lost in your blog archives? Pick a goal, then make your website serve that goal.
Delete half the items from your main menu.
Okay, okay. Maybe you don’t have to remove half of them, but I see lots of websites – especially e-commerce sites – with 6-10 items in their main menu (also called navigation). Humans can only process about seven pieces of information at a time, so if you’re sitting in that 6-10 range, your visitors are probably tuning things out. Instead, aim for no more than 4-5.
But what if all 6-10 pages are absolutely necessary?
- Bump some items down to a footer menu. People are used to scrolling down to find contact, about, FAQ, etc. if it’s not at the top.
- Make use of hierarchical navigation, e.g. click on “jewelry” then click on “rings” instead of having rings, necklaces, bracelets, and tiaras all listed separately in the main menu.
Show your newest stuff first.
The top of your homepage is prime real estate, so use it to show your latest and best stuff. But don’t then clutter it out of importance by showing off every single thing you have on offer. Keep your homepage focused on the primary goal(s) of your website.
Tell people where to go next.
So they clicked on a blog post or an item in your shop. Now what? Show customers other things that they will like: related blog posts, your “hire me” page, or similar products. Build a path for them to follow through your site, so they see as much as possible.
Think of your website like IKEA. If IKEA were just a wide open warehouse, it would be even more overwhelming, and you wouldn’t see half the stuff. But they tell you exactly how to get through it, and you always end up leaving with more than you intended.
Say the magic word.
“Get a free ebook!”
“Get 10% off your first order!”
We looooove getting. If you’re trying to encourage people to take the next step, like joining your newsletter or taking advantage of your super awesome special offer, focus what they are going to get. I don’t love filling out my contact information, but I do love getting 10% off.
Make it easy to read.
Increase your font sizes. Don’t make your customers squint to read the product details on the blouse that just caught their eye.
Don’t use more than two fonts. Period. (And don’t use more than three colors without the help of a professional.)
Proofread before you publish. Grammar and spelling mistakes will make you look unprofessional and erode trust. If writing isn’t your strong point, use an app like Grammarly or Hemingway. They’re like a nerdy friend who is always available to help.
Use short paragraphs. Long paragraphs seem daunting and are more likely to be skipped over. You didn’t stay up late writing the perfect blog post so that people could skip over it.
Make use of headers and subheaders! These help break up your writing into smaller pieces so readers can find the information they want.
Show happy customers.
Whether you sell products or services, potential customers want to know that someone else has bought from you before and been happy with the result. Build trust by displaying testimonials, accreditations, product reviews, or a “featured in” section.
Don’t date yourself.
If it looks like your website hasn’t been updated in six months or a year, people will wonder if you are still in business or if it’s actually safe to input their credit card information.
Timestamped content can appear in blog posts, the copyright information in the footer, and even some sentence in your bio that is referencing “last year in 2011.” There’s no hard and fast rule about what looks out of date, but the copyright should be within the last year or two and if you’re not updating your blog at least every six months, remove the date.
Declutter your blog’s sidebar.
Get rid of the tag cloud and the month-by-month archives. And before you get smug for clearing that out years ago, get social media buttons out of there too! I had mine in the sidebar until recently (when I really decluttered and got rid of my sidebar entirely). The purpose of the sidebar is to show people what other awesome stuff they can do/read on your site – not send them away from it!
Produce quality content.
Of course, none of this stuff matters if your photography is bad and your blog posts don’t help your customers. But on the flip side, you don’t want your amazing content to be sabotaged by a confusing website layout. Getting people to visit your website is hard enough, so you might as well make the most of it when they’re there!
About the author
Elise Epp is a graphic designer for creative entrepreneurs who make and sell clothing and home goods.
Functional and refined, her made-to-measure visual branding and websites capture who her clients are now and where they’re going next. She has been pursuing an ethical wardrobe since 2015 and loves cats, feminism, and ice cream. (She also designed the new KylaRoma.com, which we adore!)