The Bottom

When you’re in a downward spiral, as hard as it sounds, you need to hit the bottom. You can’t get the momentum you need to change direction without bouncing off something. Hitting the bottom at full speed gives you the momentum to bounce upward and start moving towards the life you want.

But if you’re fighting the downward trend, if you’re too scared to hit the bottom, how will you ever gain the momentum you need to pull yourself out?

It’s scary to be in free fall. How will you have to fall? How will you know when you’ve truly reached the bottom and not simply bouncing off the sides? Maybe you’ve hit the bottom before and it was so unpleasant, so traumatic, there’s a part of you that refuses to go there again. Or perhaps you thought you had already reached the bottom only to discover there was still further to fall.

When we’re fighting what is, when we generalize our past experience, our past traumas to our current reality, we end up in a loop, repeating the same patterns, never letting go enough to reach the bottom. And so we never experience the real shifts we need to make change happen. The wake up calls never reach us.

But when we let go, when we allow what is to be fully realized, the bottom isn’t far away at all. And in fact, when we start exploring the bottom, we discover a path out.

Reach or engagement?

What’s better? 60 people signing up for your event and only 20 actually showing up, or 25 people signing up for your event and 15 showing up.?

In the first scenario, you’ve reached more people, you’ve engaged more people plus If you charged $10 per person and everyone pays on sign up, you made $600 vs $250. Clearly a win. Right?

Even when we cast aside your preparation time, the cost of a venue to comfortably host 60 people and catering, a 30% attendance rate brings with it a host of rich information about your process.

For example, it could be telling you that your price is too low. After all, if people are prepared to give up their $10 investment without even bothering to show up and hear what you have to say, $10 was not enough to ensure their commitment.

It could be telling you that you have an issue with your communications plan. Did you clearly lay out what people would get from attending your event? Did you send at least one reminder about your event after they signed up? Was the information to be shared at your event not easily found through other more convenient sources?

The second scenario communicates a very different message. It’s telling you that the price people paid made it worth it to show up. It’s telling you that your event while having lower mass appeal, is speaking directly to a niche audience, arguably far more important in the long run. And planning for 25 and hosting 15 means you were able to book a more intimate space, conversations could run longer and deeper. Everyone walks away believing your event was a success.

So what’s better?

Agreements

There is safety in a collective agreement that we all do things a certain way.

When we all agree, we eliminate the need to continually negotiate. We can stop looking over our shoulder. We no longer need to expend precious energy wondering when our turn will be, who we need to get in front of, whether we are going to miss out.

When we all agree, it’s obvious when someone acts out of turn. And we can be safe in the knowledge that if they do, that person will be held accountable. Perhaps through an overt punishment like a fine. Perhaps less overt - such as being socially shunned. But one way or another, they will be forced to go to the back of the line.

When we all agree, there are no shortcuts, no VIP clubs. These are some of the benefits of a collectivist culture.

But there’s the dark side too. In Japan, there’s an old saying that the nail that sticks out gets hammered down. In Western Culture, it’s known as tall poppy syndrome. It’s the idea that we don’t like those who speak up, who make change happen, who achieve higher status.

Still, there’s much we can learn about creating systems that support collective agreement, about supporting not just ourselves but our networks.

Website first-aid

You’ve got so much to say and of course, your website is the place to say it. You know who your audiences are and you have worked hard to ensure you speak to their needs. To top it off, you’ve got great tone of voice and you can really hear yourself in the pages.

So why aren’t more people taking action on your site?

Copywriting for the web is a special kind of beast and it can simply take time and testing to figure out how best to connect with your people.

But there are also some simple elements you can use (or tweak) right now to hook your reader and make your website instantly more sticky.

Headlines

It can be tempting to skip over headline and jump right to the body copy, especially when writing is not your strong suit. But headlines are simply too important not to include on your site.

So what are headlines actually for? In the simplest of terms, headlines exist to give your reader a hyper-brief snapshot of what they are about to read. Just as your intro is designed to get your reader to read your second paragraph, your headline should simply get your reader to read your intro.

Online, headlines are also used by search engines to assess how your page matches with a search.

So your headline should serve two basic functions, to hook your reader enough to get them to keep reading and to make your page highly findable by those who are looking for you.

Calls to action

What is the ultimate action you want your audience to take? Your entire website needs to reflect this one thing. Your website should be organized to gently guide your audience to their destination. Don’t require them to go on a treasure hunt, clicking and searching until they find what they need. Including a call to action on each page of your site will help your audience navigate your content quickly and easily.

Calls to Action are far more than simply that ‘Book Now’ button at the bottom of your page. Before you even put pen to paper, think long and hard about what you want your audience to do on each page of your site.

And above all else, make your calls to action crystal clear. This is not the place to use jargon or words that don’t specifically tell the reader what they’re about to click on.

Sub Heads

Remember, every sentence you write has just one goal. To get your reader to read the next sentence. Online readers will rarely scroll through swathes of copy unless it’s a white paper or an e-book. In other words, unless you have created a highly informative, instructional piece of content your reader has actively sought out, you’ll want to keep your copy short and to the point. And when you must use long form copy, break it up with sub heads. Sub heads are what will hold your piece together and dramatically enhance readability.

Think of subheads as milestones within your copy. They tell a story all of their own so even if your reader fails to read the text in between, they can grasp what you are trying to say.

Breakthroughs

It’s so simple that it’s crazy it took you this long to figure it out.

The breakthrough really does come when you’ve stopped looking for it. When you start doing something else. When you follow your nose and just do the thing that makes the most sense at the time.

Something tells me that you need to go through all the pushing and gnashing. Trying to mould what you do into a nice, neat, tidy package that’s valuable, that makes a real difference to your clients. That sense of it being okay but not quite it.

The breakthrough happens when you go from pushing your client through swathes of information to the crystal clear clarity when they reach the same conclusions you do but without the struggle.

Realizing you are finally in a place where you can take your client from point A to point B with ease for both parties.

It all seems so simple now. If only it was.

Working with what's known

There are some things in life that we tend to avoid knowing.

For example, our credit score or the median cost of a rental home in our city.

It’s because there are some facts for which we have no capacity. Blissful ignorance has a certain value, to a point.

Until your state of ignorance costs you more than knowing what you’re really up against. Until your state of ignorance becomes an energy leak.

In my business, I like to minimize energy leaks from the beginning. I like to work with clear deliverables, known timelines and transparent budgets.

When I share work with a client, I ensure to include a request for feedback by a specified date. If I don’t hear from them, I follow up. There’s no need to feel guilty or that I’m being a nag. The timeline was known.

There will always be uncertainty. There will always be unknowns. But cleaning up the unnecessary ambiguity frees up mental energy. It plugs the leaks.

Why not defining your service process is costing you money

One of the biggest challenges most of my clients deal with day to day is the sense of not having enough time.

Between networking, writing proposals, providing value to their existing clients, administration and invoicing, they’re already into overtime. So when it comes to marketing and business development, it’s hard for them to see where they could possibly carve out the time.

When I bring up standardizing some of their processes to streamline operations, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard any one of the following responses:

“That simply isn’t possible in my business.”

“This is just the way it is in my industry.”

“Every client is different. Every project is unique. There is no way I could shoehorn them into one process.”

I’m not here to tell you that all of your clients are a homogenous mass. I completely agree that every single client you work with will have a unique set of needs, a unique problem for you to solve.

But here’s the thing. As long as you treat every client, every proposal and every project as unique, you will never truly be able to shift away from trading time for money.

You risk being a me-too freelancer forever at the whim of whatever project comes along - changing your process with the wind. To compound your problems, you will eventually be overtaken by those who have a defined offering and are able to get really good at that one thing by doing it over and over again.

So what’s the alternative? I’m so glad you asked!

First, let me say that I don’t recommend refining your service offering until you have taken the time to understand your audiences and their pain points.

For more on this, check out my post: What is an audience persona and why do I need one?

Since you are now starting to get a true sense of what your audience segments are looking for, where the gaps are in the market and what’s stopping them from buying, you can create streamlined service packages that speak to them, address the unmet needs created by other options on the market and eliminate the sense of risk in trying something new.

Creating a set and repeatable service process will also help you realize the benefits of repeating the same process over and over until you can truly say you’re an expert.

Why visioning is so hard

With nothing but clear blue sky overhead, creative work like visioning can at first, seem so enticing. There’s absolutely nothing standing between you and your wildest ideas.

Why then, does a blank page generate so much anxiety? It’s as if the brain locks itself behind a bullet-proof shell. Nothing gets in and nothing gets out.

The solution seems counterintuitive. We need constraints, boundaries, parameters. When we contain our thoughts to meeting a certain need, suddenly the ideas start to flow. Because now you have a challenge. A problem to solve. The old expression that necessity is the mother of invention has never been more apt than when it comes to creative work.

For example, instead of “…today I need to write a blog post”, you might say “today I need to write a blog post to appeal to a reader with X problem.”

“For my design to work, it must be this long, this high and have XYZ characteristics.”

“I will know when I have achieved my vision because my life will look like…”

So next time you’re struggling to get your ideas on the page, start by generating some criteria. Some boundaries for your work.

What is an audience persona and why do I need one?

If you’re struggling to focus, if you’re struggling with overwhelm, if you have hit a slow patch and you’re struggling to generate new clients, you are showing symptoms that lead back to a single root cause.

You are not being specific enough about who you are trying to reach.

I’m sure I’m not the first person who has told you how important it is to understand your target audience. And you might already be able to list off their general attributes. But do these attributes help you picture in your mind a real person with real problems and real feelings? If not, it’s time to write an audience persona.

I know what you’re thinking.

“Lucy, I already know who I’m targeting. I don’t have time to write an audience persona!”

If the very thought of having to decide on exactly how old your ideal client is, exactly where they live or how much money they make, how they think, and what they believe in, it’s a sign that these are the very things you need to do.

There is a reason any marketer worth their salt (this includes strategists, copywriters, content marketers and so on) will ask you for an audience persona before they start work.

Audience personas are used to create laser-sharp focus around who you’re targeting and why. They form the very foundation for how to develop your service offering, how to set your price, how to write sales copy and your elevator pitch.

So what should an audience persona look like?

Let’s start with what it’s not.

  • It’s not a Frankenstein-ed amalgam of any client you can ever imagine wanting to hire you.

  • It’s not a unicorn - so imaginary, they couldn’t possibly exist in real life.

  • It’s not someone aged between 30-50, or some who earns $60,000 - $90,000 per year or someone who lives in any one of three suburbs.

How many personas do you need?

That all depends on how many different types of people you serve. If you believe you need to be pursuing multiple verticals simultaneously to build your business, you will need to generate multiple laser-sharp audience personas.

How to do it

Below is a basic template for an audience persona. Feel free to add categories until you have a well-rounded sense of your ideal client.

  1. Demographics

    • Age

    • Gender

    • Relationship status

    • Where they live

    • Their occupation

    • Their income

  2. Psychographics

    • Political leanings

    • How they think

    • What they care about

    • What they enjoy doing in their spare time

    • Their buying behaviour

    • Their needs

Do this for as many audience personas as you need to adequately encompass the different clients you reasonably want to serve.

What next? What’s it all for?

At this point, you might be wondering how to use your audience personas. The list is endless really, but here’s a start:

  • Unique value proposition

    • Pains

    • Gains

    • Pain relievers

    • Gain creators

  • Service development

  • Messaging

    • Testing

    • How do you best connect with each audience.

Use small and slow solutions

When you think about marketing for your business, does your mind automatically go to all of the things you ‘should’ be doing?

When you think of creating a marketing plan, does your body immediately tighten at the thought of spending hours working on a highly detailed plan that, let’s face it, you’re never going to stick to?

Do you have a Facebook page, an Instagram profile, a Linked In company page, a blog, a Youtube account? Are you simply everywhere? And when someone follows you, you get all bashful because your last post was in January 2017? Have you dabbled in webinars, podcasts, Facebook live or Instagram stories, perhaps for a month or two before getting too busy and letting them fall away?

You know, there is another way.

You could simply pick one thing. Choose just one activity, preferably something you love to do then commit to doing it regularly for three months. After three months, you will probably be starting to feel pretty good at your one thing. It probably won’t feel so scary to add another thing. The trick is, not to drop the first thing. To integrate. One activity supporting the other.

One of the 12 principles of permaculture is to:

“…use small and slow solutions: small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes.”

And this principle just sums up for me what marketing needs to look like for small business.