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The Invisible (+ Sometimes Painful) Side of Business Growth

The Invisible (+ Sometimes Painful) Side of Business Growth

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

~ Thomas Edison

I can’t begin to tell you how many conversations I’ve had with business owners who are feeling deflated, discouraged and like they want to give up on their business out of sheer frustration. Why? Because they’re not yet seeing the results that they are both wanting and needing to see.

These are difficult conversations for me to have for a few reasons. Not least because I now find myself on the other side of this particular business dilemma and I worry that people think I don’t truly understand what they are facing and because in many cases there is no easy fix to this situation. Not what people want to hear when they are suffering.

My hope is that what I share in this blog helps to make this aspect of the business journey, at least somewhat easier to navigate.

The entire business journey in a nutshell goes from starting a business to succeeding in business with a whole load of stuff in between. I wrote a whole post about the various stages of business growth which you can read here but for the purposes of this blog, the stages themselves are less important than the problem that we as business owners face on our way to the goal of a successful and sustainable business.

The problem I’m referring to lies in the inbetween. It lies in the period of time during which the business is not yet working OR doesn’t seem to be working. Because here’s the thing, sometimes things are working even when they don’t look like they are.

Here’s another thing. There is always a period in any business journey when it looks like it’s not working. There is always a period of time when it feels as though success is eluding you.

The key is what you make of this information. Rather than think that the lack of tangible results is because you’re a failure, what if you just knew that this was an expected and necessary part of the journey?

The tricky part is that sometimes we’re not getting results because we are missing a crucial step or important part of the strategy and sometimes it IS working but we can’t yet see the evidence of it. Given that we rarely know which of these it is, being in this situation can feel both excruciating and frustrating.

Here’s what I recommend, regardless of the reason behind your lack of results.

Get curious and have faith.

Not sure if the lack of results is because you’re not executing your strategy correctly? Get curious. Ask your audience, do research, read up on how to get better results at the thing you’re trying, tweak things, test things but don’t give up. If you are consistently showing up for your audience with valuable content and offers, keep doing so. If you’re not, start doing so asap.

If you feel like you are doing everything you should be doing and yet you’re still not getting the results you desire. Have faith. These things take time. It takes time for social media algorithms to recognise your consistency. It takes time for people to realise that you are not just another flash in the pan, it takes a certain amount of regular new content on your website for Google to start showing it to people.

Now I’m not telling you to deny your feelings, pretend like everything is okay even when you feel miserable and pessimistic, but whatever you do, don’t stop. Don’t give up. Don’t allow your feelings of despair to result in you saying f*ck it, I’m not going to bother anymore! Because that’s the worst thing you can do. That’s when I begin to despair. When I see talented business owners allowing their feelings of doubt and insecurity to derail their business growing efforts.

It’s my belief that how you respond to your feelings about this phase of the business journey is what will determine how long or how quickly you will see results.

If you drop the ball on your consistent marketing efforts everytime you lose hope that anyone is listening, it will take longer to get the success you crave. If you retreat from your outreach efforts, everytime you begin to wonder if anyone even cares what you are up to then it will take longer to see results.

Maybe you are sat reading this and thinking, yes I get it and I still need things to move faster.

Are there shortcuts? Sure. A business owner I know started an Instagram account for a new business endeavour and started using a bot to follow and like other relevant accounts, while he’s eating dinner and sleeping, the bot is generating new followers for him. In the space of just a few short weeks, his business Instagram account went from 0 to 1500+ followers and he’s already getting enquiries about his product before it’s even ready to be delivered. Often when we see this kind of growth online and compare it to our own journey, we assume there must be something wrong with us.

On the other hand, I have had my Instagram business account for well over 4 years and I’ve just surpass the 1000 mark. Could I double, triple, heck even quadruple my numbers over the next month if I wanted to? Sure! Could I do it in a way that is in alignment with my values? Not likely. Could I do it in a way that generates the kind of trust and loyalty I enjoy from the people in my current, small but highly engaged audience? I don’t think so. That’s why I don’t subscribe to those kind of strategies.

Slow, organic and relationship-focused growth has been a conscious and intentional choice on my part.

I don’t underestimate the privilege that allows me to make this choice and in the first few years of my business I worked several side jobs to pay my bills while I waited for things to start working in my business. I did VA and online business management work right alongside my coaching business until my business started making the kind of money I needed it to make.

I’ve also been at this game long enough to know what works and how long it typically takes to see results from my efforts. It’s longer than you think! I also wrote a post about how long it really takes to succeed in business which you can read here.

To illustrate my point on this I’d like to share a couple of examples.

Those who work with me will have already heard my anecdotes about Medium, how it took nearly a year of publishing weekly content on there before I started to hear from several new clients, that they had first found me on Medium or how it was around the one year mark of publishing a weekly blog post before the people who were applying to work 1:1 with me started to say that they had found me on Google.

Many people will have also heard me share that despite consistently publishing on LinkedIn for the same amount of time, I’ve had nothing. No real engagement whatsoever. Despite the fact that I have well over 500 connections and I have it on good authority that the content I create serves people, there has been zero interaction. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. zilch.

Until there was.

Then one day, rather than get no likes and less than a handful of views, 2 of my published articles got 7 likes each and several comments apiece. To be honest I’m surprised, I had all but given up on LinkedIn and then as if by magic suddenly it seems like people are seeing my posts and they’re reacting positively.

Have I considered quitting publishing on LinkedIn over the past year or so? Yes, many times but I haven’t, because I know that success takes time. I know that success takes showing up consistently even when it seems like no one is paying attention. I know that there is a tipping point when all my effort adds up and I will start to see results.

Here’s the definition of tipping point:

“the point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change.”

That’s what happens in business. A series of small regular and consistent actions that seem insignificant at first but then become significant enough to create a larger, more important change.

Whilst every business journey is unique, one thing I do know is that we all start at zero. Zero clients. Zero followers. Zero subscribers. Even those who today have tens of thousands of followers, subscribers and dollars in monthly or annual income, started with zero.

I also know that somewhere along the way to success those business owners, wondered if what they were doing was working. Wondered when or if their efforts would pay off and then at some point, there was a tipping point.

Mine came around 3 years in. That’s 3 whole years when it wasn’t yet working as I needed it to be. Three whole years in which I stayed curious and had faith that one day it would.

So if that’s you — if you are in that period of not knowing — that post-starting, pre-results stage, know that you are not alone. I’ve been there and so has every successful business owner you’ve ever followed (and admired or envied) online.

You’ve got this.

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How To Get Your Business Out Of The Feast And Famine Cycle

How To Get Your Business Out Of The Feast And Famine Cycle

“Sales is an outcome, not a goal. It’s a function of doing numerous things right.” ~ Jill Konrath

In this post, I wanted to talk to you about something I haven’t seen talked about too much online, but that is actually very common, especially amongst the kind of service-based business owners I work with and that is the feast and famine phase many young businesses go through.

You might know what I mean. One month you get a new client (or even 2!) and you have more than enough money — what a high! Then a few months pass by and nothing. If you have some lower priced offers, maybe you scrape by with a few hundred dollars or pounds but other than that you’re firmly in famine status. Then at some point down the line, bam a new client and all is well again. The only problem is that the income for this new client is needed to cover what the last few months of famine cost you and so you’re right back to square one again.

Before you read on, I want you to know that I’ve been there, several times in my years as a coach and business owner, and it’s hard. On one level we’re grateful to be getting any clients at all and on another, we can’t seem to figure out how to get to the holy grail of consistent and sustainable income. We have some idea how to get clients, but we haven’t yet reached that stage where we know deep down inside that if we do more of X, we’ll get more of $$$.

Getting clients still feels a bit hit and miss and, when we do, it can feel more like luck than by design. Having started two different business, one in life coaching and one in business coaching, I’m here to tell you that it is definitely possible and I’m going to share with you 3 key ways to make it happen in your business.

1. Identify what works

Despite the fact that getting new clients can at times feel like a lottery, if you take some time to examine how the clients you have already created came to be, you’ll see a pattern emerge.

For example, nearly every single one of my clients came to me, either because of a referral (someone else told them I was great!) or because of some outreach I did to deepen a relationship with a member of my audience. The bottom line for me is that no 1:1 coaching client I have ever enrolled was created outside of a conversation. Which means I know deep in my bones that if I need to make more money, I need to be having more conversations.

The key is to find your X. The one thing that you know if you do more of, will inevitably result in more sales. I’ll give you a hint, it pretty much always involves cultivating deeper connections with your audience, but the method can vary. For some it might be podcasting, for others creating videos, for others it might be virtual coffee dates, for me it’s complimentary sessions — there are plenty of ways.

2. Clear your paths.

We’ve all heard the term sales funnel. Personally I hate it, the idea of leading my ideal client through an increasingly narrow funnel — resulting in the squeeze (yes the squeeze is an actual marketing term!) is alien to me. The analogy I prefer to use (hat tip: Tad Hargrave) is that of a path.

Imagine your business as a house that sits in a thick and overgrown forest. In order for people to find it, there has to be one or several clear pathways to your front door and once people get there, you need a doorbell that works so people aren’t left on the doorstep wondering why you’re not opening the door.

How do you create and clear these pathways? You look at the journey people need to make from finding out about you to knowing and trusting you well enough to buy from you and you need to make sure that the journey (or path) is free of obstacles.

To give you one example from my business, one path that works very well for me is my content. I create, publish, repurpose and promote content regularly, which then gets shared and found by more people, as a result readers begin to engage with my content, which sometimes means they subscribe to my newsletter (which results in them receiving a welcome email from me with an invitation to have a complimentary session) or I see someone regularly liking and commenting on my content so I reach out to make a deeper connection, usually by offering my support which also will more often than not also result in a complimentary coaching session.

So can you see how I’ve identified my X (complimentary coaching sessions) and I’ve created several paths (content and outreach) for people to access them?

For more on paths, read this post: How Easy is it For Your Ideal Clients to Find You

3. Refine your business model

The third piece of this puzzle is to look at and refine your business model. To illustrate this for you I’m going to give you a concrete example of a change I made to my own business model early last year that has resulted in a huge increase in consistent income.

The income stream in question was my 1:1 coaching packages. 1:1 coaching was (and still is) my main source of income and something I had been steadily creating more clients in (as a result of working on 1 and 2), what I realised during the earlier part of last year is that as a result of my fixed length packages, I would see a boost in income for the few months while my new client paid their instalments and then that revenue would drop off.

This wasn’t working for me on a few levels. Firstly, the time I needed to truly help my clients make a difference in their businesses was significantly longer than the length of my most popular package (3 months) and I was only guaranteed income as long as I was enrolling premium clients every single month. This I realised was not only time-consuming but led to a lot of pressure to be constantly in conversation with people (something, that as a busy and introverted business owner, wasn’t serving me).

After a great deal of thought I switched to a subscription model. This is where clients subscribe to a rolling coaching program that (after a 3 month minimum commitment) they can cancel anytime. The price point is much lower but the income I am now generating from this service is dramatically higher. People are also working for me for much longer – on average between 6-12 months. A simple tweak to my business model (as well as some other key changes) has resulted in more consistent, sustainable and recurring income for my business!


So there you have it, three key ways to move your business out of a feast and famine cycle in 2021.

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Once a week, in the form of an e-letter, I share the best of what I know about building a business with integrity for conscious business owners.

The intention behind these letters is to be a voice for integrity within your (undoubtedly) cluttered inbox. To be the one email you can count on to contain strategic and soulful advice for building a business without selling your soul.

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How Willing Are You To Get IT Wrong?

How Willing Are You To Get IT Wrong?

 

SIGN UP FOR MY SOULFUL STRATEGIES WEEKLY

 

Once a week, in the form of an e-letter, I share the best of what I know about building a business with integrity for conscious business owners.

The intention behind these letters is to be a voice for integrity within your (undoubtedly) cluttered inbox. To be the one email you can count on to contain strategic and soulful advice for building a business without selling your soul.

If you want to receive the Soulful Strategies Weekly, simply share with me your name and email address below and you’ll start recieving emails right away.

Ten Bold Moves I’ve Made in Business

Ten Bold Moves I’ve Made in Business

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
~ E.E. Cummings

1. Started a blog (2011)

SIGN UP FOR MY SOULFUL STRATEGIES WEEKLY

 

Once a week, in the form of an e-letter, I share the best of what I know about building a business with integrity for conscious business owners.

The intention behind these letters is to be a voice for integrity within your (undoubtedly) cluttered inbox. To be the one email you can count on to contain strategic and soulful advice for building a business without selling your soul.

If you want to receive the Soulful Strategies Weekly, simply share with me your name and email address below and you’ll start recieving emails right away.

The Missing Piece When It Comes to Business Growth

The Missing Piece When It Comes to Business Growth

 

“Networking is simply the cultivating of mutually beneficial, give and take, win-win relationships. It works best, however, when emphasizing the “give” part.”

~ Bob Burg

Do you ever feel like there is a part of the business building puzzle that you just can’t seem to find. You know like the piece of a jigsaw puzzle that is invariably found covered in dust under the sofa, when you move house?

It can feel so frustrating to have so many of the pieces in place yet still not be making enough money to really feel like you can say this thing is working.

Of course when you find yourself in this place (and it is much more a case of when rather than if) it can feel very disheartening. Like everyone is in on some secret you haven’t been told yet. In several of my recent coaching sessions this question of the missing piece has come up and in this blog post I want to share with you what I believe that piece is.

Allow me to cut right to the chase — CONNECTION is for many business owners the missing piece when it comes to business success.

Yes I know. This isn’t news coming from me but It bears repeating again (and again) because it’s so easy to forget and get drawn into the idea that we should be focusing on promoting and selling ourselves rather than making meaningful connections with people. Even when people hear me talk about the importance of connection in business and agree that it’s makes perfect sense, rarely do they follow up with the very real action required to develop and deepen actual relationships with people in their audience and network.

And what does connection look like in practice? Simply put — it’s having conversations — the actual real-life sort!

Back in the day when I spent a LOT of money on an expensive Business Coach, one thing he drilled into me was the idea that no client was ever created outside of a conversation. So the goal of everything I did in my business was to have more conversations. And let’s just be very clear, conversations are not: posting on social media, commenting on other people’s posts, doing Instagram stories, making videos for YouTube, writing on Medium or blogging. Conversations are what happen after those things. They are what happen when we engage with another human being and say: Hey thanks for your comment on my post, I’d love to know more about how it impacted you, do you fancy hopping on a call? Or Thanks for sharing how you are struggling with this issue, I’d love to gift you a complimentary session for us to look at that?

In a recent coaching session with a newly qualified coach, we looked at what she was doing to grow her business and I was impressed to see that she was consistently putting out solid content to her audience and getting a lot of great engagement in return. What she couldn’t understand was how to take this engagement and transform it into paying clients.

The missing piece? Connection.

As we reviewed her Facebook page and looked through the comments people had left on her content, it quickly became clear to me that she wasn’t doing enough to deepen the relationships on an individual level. She was responding to the comments people left by saying thank you but she wasn’t trying to move the conversation forward beyond that.

When we seek to deepen the connection and engage in a more meaningful dialogue, it becomes more likely that an opportunity to serve the other person will arise. And when we genuinely serve the other person, we allow that person to see the potential impact of working with us.

Just this week someone left the following positive comment on one of my videos on YouTube:

Lovely interview, I was so engaged, the information was beneficial and relevant, thank you. Now I could have simply replied with something to the effect of thanks for your comment or not even replied at all as some people do, but instead I wrote the following: Thanks Lillian! I’m so glad you found the interview useful. Curious to know what your biggest take-away was?

Can you see the difference, now this lady may never reply but if she does and she shares with me why the video was impactful for her, then the chances of me being able to help her on a deeper level dramatically increase. And if I genuinely help her, the chances of her hiring me also increase.

People buy from people they know, like and trust and it’s said that it takes 7 touch points (interactions with your business) to create a deep enough connection to make a sale. In fact some experts predict this is now closer to 13, given how inundated we are by marketing messages across devices and platforms these days. Some examples of touch points could include, reading a blog post, seeing a FB ad, watching an Instagram story or receiving a marketing email.

But here’s the thing. Not all touch points are equal. Which do you think is more likely to be effective in creating a genuine connection — a cleverly crafted social media post that you blast out to hundreds or thousands of people or a direct and meaningful 1 to 1 conversation? In my mind it’s a no brainer and as well as being more effective at creating connection, it’s also a far more conscious, authentic and fun way to do business.

The problem I’ve found with this missing piece is that it’s so deceptively simple — sure people say, I can have more conversations but when it comes to doing the real work of outreach, people often underestimate the time, effort and energy it takes to be in a mode of connection. It requires you to take actions daily to reach out to people in your audience, to serve them powerfully and to deepen the relationship. But here’s the good news, whilst it may take effort, the rewards are plenty. To name just a few, if you prioritise connection in your business, you’re likely to have:

  • More collaborations,

So there you have it the missing piece that many business owners simply overlook when it comes to growing their business. Who could you reach out to today to be more connected in your business?

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Once a week, in the form of an e-letter, I share the best of what I know about building a business with integrity for conscious business owners.

The intention behind these letters is to be a voice for integrity within your (undoubtedly) cluttered inbox. To be the one email you can count on to contain strategic and soulful advice for building a business without selling your soul.

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Six Reasons to Make Content a Business Priority

Six Reasons to Make Content a Business Priority

“By dedicating yourself to a content rhythm, you’ll develop a consistent level of creativity and energy that flows into everything else in your business.”
~ George Kao

You might already get that it pays to have a presence on social media, to publish a blog and/or to send out regular newsletters. But if I were to guess, I’d say it might not be abundantly clear to you why it’s so important to make content a business priority and because of this, perhaps you’re not making it the priority it deserves to be.

Before we go on, let’s just clarify what we mean by creating content.

What I’m not talking about here is marketing copy such as sales pages, launch posts or any other copy designed specifically to get your audience to buy. Instead, what I’m referring to is content that serves your audience, in much the same way that your products or services might, albeit, of course not as profoundly. Content that helps them, educates them, inspires and uplifts them. Content that freely shares your best ideas and advice on the very transformation you help your clients to achieve.

What trips most people up when it comes to content creation is the mistaken belief that their content has to entice people to buy, which of course then feels icky and gross. When we let go of that idea, we’re free to simply show up and share what we know and when we do that, not only does our audience benefit but we also enjoy creating content a whole lot more.

So why is creating content so important if it’s not focused on making a sale? 

Good question! Consistently creating and sharing free content supports you and your business in a number of fundamental ways.

1. It demonstrates your expertise. What better way to show people how knowledgeable you are about your skill or service, than to create content that illustrates it?

2. It helps you more deeply connect to your audience. When you show up regularly in people’s lives, be that in their inbox or their newsfeed, people not only get to know you better, but they also begin to trust and rely on you and the information you share.

3. It allows you to serve your audience before they’ve even spent a penny with you. Being generous with your content and giving your best ideas away for free cultivates reciprocal generosity, meaning people are more likely to invest in what you’re selling (if the content resonates) and/or refer you to other people.

4. It allows you to find your voice and express your point of view. Having a strong point of view is crucial to helping you stand out to your right-fit people. Creating content consistently allows us to explore what we believe and share that with the world.

5. Consistent content creation allows us to get to know our audience better. By paying attention to which pieces of content get the most likes, shares or comments, we begin to better understand what our audience is interested in and therefore what it needs from us.

6. It helps to grow your audience. As your content improves, which of course it will the more you practice and the more you heed the feedback you get, the more likely it is that people will share that content and the more eyes will, therefore, be on you and your business.

It’s for all of the above reasons, that content creation has been at the heart of my business growth strategy for years now and because of this ongoing commitment and consistency, my content is now sending me paying clients on the regular. Two clients recently told me that they found me via my content on Medium and many of my current 1:1 clients found me via Google because my blog posts came up in their searches. 

This wasn’t the case even a year ago but over the past year, having been pretty consistent with my content since early 2019, people are now finding my content online and hiring me as a result.

So what does consistency look like? I always think about these words from my business mentor, George Kao:

“How often should you create? Once a week is a good rhythm, but what’s interesting is that it’s easier to do it everyday. When you have a weekly habit, it can be hard to build momentum. When it’s a daily habit, there’s no question that you have to do it each day, and it becomes a rhythm.”

I certainly don’t write every day these days, but back when I was struggling to get into a rhythm of weekly writing, I took George’s words to heart and whilst initially thinking that there was no way could I create a blog post every day, I subsequently remembered a 30-day challenge I set for myself back in 2012, where I did exactly that for my old personal growth blog.

This in turn led me to running a 30-day content challenge in 2019 in which I wrote 30 blog posts in 30 days. This is where my journey of consistent content creation began. Since then, I’ve written many more pieces and regular content creation has become a ingrained part of my weekly business schedule and I truly wish the same for you.

SIGN UP FOR MY SOULFUL STRATEGIES WEEKLY

 

Once a week, in the form of an e-letter, I share the best of what I know about building a business with integrity for conscious business owners.

The intention behind these letters is to be a voice for integrity within your (undoubtedly) cluttered inbox. To be the one email you can count on to contain strategic and soulful advice for building a business without selling your soul.

If you want to receive the Soulful Strategies Weekly, simply share with me your name and email address below and you’ll start recieving emails right away.