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“Having an offer that converts” is not just for sales people—it’ can dramatically impact anyone’s life who see’s it’s importance.
James Schramko is one of the most successful Australian entrepreneurs I know of. He started in late 2005, and made his first six figures with just one product as an affiliate.
James is the real deal. He makes a few million $ per year. And even though I’ve read tons of books and followed loads of ‘gurus’, nobody has helped me advance my thinking and my earning capability like James.
Even if you are not ‘in sales’ (which we ALL are, by the way), this episode will show you an important lesson about having an offer that converts.
Currently, he runs two successful paid mastermind groups – Super Fast Business and Silver Circle.
I’m a part of Super Fast Business, and it’s a awesome community. Not only have I access to a ton of relevant content but I’ve also met a ton of great people in the forums. Around 79% of the community members earn more than $100,000 per year.
Through this forum, James has helped over 2000 students discover how to make six, seven and eight figures through online businesses.
His second mastermind group, Silver Circle, is a high-end group designed to take your million dollar business to the next level.
James is a friend and mentor of mine, so I had a lot of fun doing this episode. We covered a range of different topics from what is the difference between the best and average students, what’s the most important thing for online success and how to think about marketing.
One of my favorite things he discussed was having an ‘offer that converts’. A lot of people play around in the online business and don’t see any success because they don’t have an offer that converts. Once a business discovers an offer that its’ target audience wants, it’s then just a matter of scaling things from there.
Listen to this episode below, or download it from iTunes and let me know what you learned from this episode.
3:04 What does James do?
4:23 Difference between his two masterminds
7:15 Explosive growth of entrepreneurs
11:10 Focusing on results; not activity
21:21 Ownership thinking
25:45 Ownership thinking for larger companies
29:56 Role of discipline in success
34:55 Getting stuck with an offer that doesn’t convert
37:55 What to do if you aren’t getting results
40:45 How to prioritize projects?
42:37 New projects he’s working on
James: If you have the right mindset, then I think you can achieve whatever it is that you need to do. If hyper-growth is your target, then surely you need the mindset to come before that to recognize that hyper-growth is your target. And then for you to identify the right strategy to get the result you want and then to break that down into the tactical components. In terms of that thing that you really need to have if you wanna scale, I would say that it comes back to an offer that converts. If there’s one thing in common with people who have had explosive growth, it’s that they’ve got something for sale that people want to buy a lot of. And so they’ve figured out that component. I think that really is the Holy Grail, online especially, is figuring out what people actually wanna buy and being able to supply it to them. So I call that the offer that converts.
Todd: You are listening to the “Luminary Business Podcast,” the podcast where passionate entrepreneurs and executives just like you discover how to become more prominent, and influential, and build up profitable business that truly matters. Join me, Todd Staples, as I unlock the foundational skills, habits, and mindset needed to produce optimal personal and business results.
Hello, and welcome to the show. I’m your host, Todd Staples. My mission here is to help you develop the skills, habits, and mindset needed to build a profitable, enjoyable, and wildly successful business. Today, I am super excited. I have my friend, James Schramko, who’s been a friend and a mentor to me from across the world for the past, I would say year and a half or so. James runs a number of different companies. His two primary businesses are SuperFast Business and Silver Circle. The first one is a membership community that we’ll talk about today where he supports and coaches I believe it’s close to 1,000 students in there, adventure to start businesses and become more successful in the businesses that they have. And Silver Circle is a very high-end mastermind where he coaches businesses and entrepreneurs at a higher level. So James, thanks so much for joining the show. It’s great to have you here.
James: Well, thanks for inviting me, Todd.
Todd: Absolutely my pleasure. And it was funny. Right before the show, James and I were just kinda laughing at the fact that we’ve had a lot of discussions back and forth via the forum and via message, but this is really the first time we’ve had a lengthy conversation. And that’s the funny thing about digital media, video, audio. I really feel like I know James because he’s got so much content out there. And I believe…do you still have four podcasts, James, five?
James: Yeah, it’s somewhere in that range. I have some absentee podcasts hosts, but one of them actually, we’re finishing and that’s a strategic situation where our audience has changed. And that’s something that may come up in our conversation today as well.
Todd: Very interesting, yeah. I think it might. It absolutely might. Well, great. Well, I’m super happy to have you here. I’ve already changed around my format, speaking of changing, because I’m changing the format a little bit because I already know you pretty well. And I’ve already learned a lot from, like I said, your content and our conversations and your coaching. I’m gonna start just by asking you what you do for your company, your clients. And then I’m gonna dive into these four specific questions that I have. So what is it you do, James, just in your words, so people listening can understand?
James: I help people with their business when they come across challenges and they’re trying to grow because I know that it can be difficult, having been there myself in the firing line working for large corporates and also tiny little businesses as small as a one-person business, my grandfather in the back yard of his house, who was a timber broker. So I’ve seen quite a good spread between one and 100 employees and $1 all the way through to $100 million a year revenue. And for some people, you know, when they’re going through and their business starts to change or grow, they don’t have experience. It can be quite frightening and difficult. So I help people by shining a light on the things that they might wanna look out for, the direction they might wanna take. Sometimes it’s handy to have somebody making those decisions with you who’s been there before. So that’s my primary business in the business coaching side of things.
Todd: And there’s a pretty big difference between the SuperFast Business and Silver Circle. Can you explain what that is and the different type of people that are in each group?
James: Well, I think if you look at them in terms of product line, then this high-level product is Silver Circle. And the regular product is SuperFast Business. And it’s kinda like a triangle. The base of the triangle is quite broad. And there’s a fairly big market of people who may be not just starting out because that’s not my ideal target audience, but it’s people who are already in motion, but it’s somewhere in that say $10,000 to $200,000 per year profit. And SuperFast Business is ideal for them. Once you reach $200,000 a year profit, then your business is gonna change substantially. So I’ve a different group for those people. It’s more of a high-level group. We have different discussions than we would have in the SuperFast Business. And, of course, part of the appeal is that the other people in that group are also high level. And you start to get a collaboration effect. And you cross-pollinate very good ideas in a pretty small group. So they all get an advantage over the rest of the market.
Todd: Yeah, that’s really neat. And I’m not in Silver Circle, but like I mentioned before, I’ve been in the SuperFast Business for over a year. And the value in there comes partially from the content that you have and the direct access, but also in the relationships and the feedback and the mastermind effect from the other people. So it’s great. How many people are in the SuperFast Business right now?
James: We have over 500 members at any one time and continually growing, actually. It’s in a growth phase right now. So it’s reasonably busy. If you think about Dunbar’s number, where, you know, most people know about 150 people, you know, accessing a community like SuperFast Business, it’s like having a race horse on tap. And that’s really the accelerator effect you’re talking about. You can cover a lot of ground in one central place.
Todd: Yeah, absolutely. All right. Very cool. Well, good. Thanks for the overview. So I think because of those two groups that you’re in and your past, and, you know, we could go on for ages about all the different things that you’ve done, but I’m not really gonna dive into that now because I know that you have a ton of experience running your own businesses. And especially in these two communities, you have access to these two very distinct and valuable groups that you have learned from. So you’re in a really unique position not only because you’ve learned it doing it yourself, and building these groups, and growing companies, but because you’re coaching these people and learning from them, you’re really the hub of activity there. So I’d love for you to explain a little bit about what do you believe leads to the most explosive growth for entrepreneurs and business owners? And specifically, do you think it is tactical? Do you think it is more of a mindset that leads to explosive growth?
James: Well, I think mindset’s very important. I’m sure that’s the bulk of our life is mindset-driven. That’s why I’ve been fascinated with success coaches and mindset experts. And I’ve read a lot about it and interviewed quite a few people because that’s a huge differentiator. If you have the right mindset, then I think you can achieve whatever it is that you need to do. If hyper-growth is your target, then surely you need the mindset to come before that to recognize that hyper-growth is your target. And then for you to identify the right strategy to get the result you want and then to break that down into the tactical components. In terms of that thing that you really need to have if you wanna scale, I would say that it comes back to an offer that converts.
If there’s one thing in common with people who have had explosive growth, it’s that they’ve got something for sale that people want to buy a lot of. And so they’ve figured out that component. I think that really is the Holy Grail, online especially, is figuring out what people actually wanna buy and being able to supply it to them. So I call that the offer that converts. Once you’ve got that, then scale is really a matter of implementing proven tactics, you know. It’s easy to buy traffic. You’ve got unlimited traffic, as long as you can get the right traffic and you can put in place measurements to make sure that it’s actually converting. And then you can optimize that offer with multiple variations of it, which I’m sure you’re more than familiar with. And your growth will come. Where people get stuck next is usually capacity to supply.
So I’d almost say it’s easy to come up with an offer that converts, until you put in a caveat that you must be able to deliver on it. So, you know, we can promise the world. Lotteries are a good example of this. You know, there’s a huge chance of massive riches, but only one or two people are gonna experience that, everyone else is a loser. And that’s how the system works. So they sell a lot of it. The offer does convert. Only one or two people actually get the payoff. So it’s not a great deal for the consumer. And that’s why a lot of people, you know, especially gambling addicts, have financial ruin and destroy their relationships in their lives because there’s no delivery on that offer.
So what you’re really looking for…and I call this the marketing capacity seesaw. Maybe you’ve heard it as supply and demand, but I think of it like the seesaw. If you get your marketing right and you’re making a lot of sales, you really need to balance that out now with a lot of capacity to deliver. And capacity to deliver, you could think of it in a few terms. The regular term we think of is perhaps an e-commerce store where there’s physical goods, but these days there’s also things like service businesses. You might be an agency. And if you take on work, then you have to have the manpower to be able to deliver that work. And I had quite a lot of experience in both of these realms to know what the constraints are for either of those business models.
Todd: Yeah. I kinda wanna dive into that a little bit because you have had a few shifts in just actually in the past 10 full years, right? What your focus has been, or what your offer is, or what you’re selling, right? What you’re supplying. So let’s talk a little bit about the agency model. And one of the things that I learned, you know, repeatedly from a number of your trainings and a lot of the discussions in your forum that I really latch onto because it resonates with my way of thinking is results, not activity, right? Results, not activity. It’s funny though because I see a lot of companies not doing it, right? I’ve worked at a number of agencies. I’ve worked with a lot of clients who are agencies who work for other companies. And where I totally agree to that as being the number one thing, results, not activity, because I put on that ownership-thinking hat for my client. I think, “If this was my dollar, what is the result I want to get from spending it?” But I’ve seen a lot of people who will put together a $5,000 or $10,000 a month marketing package. And they just do a lot of stuff. And they’re not so focused or concerned about the results. They’re just concerned about doing a big list of to-do items. So maybe you can talk a little bit on that and why your approach has worked so well and just maybe give some insight into that.
James: Yeah, I think that’s a good observation. Certainly, in the industry that I was in, which was CSEO industry, a lot of customers are looking for the wrong results. And, for example, some of them mistakenly believe that SEO equals backlinks. So they’re looking for a quantity of backlinks. And an SEO company will be more than happy to sell a customer X number of backlinks. But what the customer probably should be looking for is can they acquire a customer, a lifetime value for less than, you know, what they’re going to make from that customer? And if they were to focus on that metric, then what they’d be looking at is which phrases from our paycheck-it campaigns actually convert well because we’d like to rank well for those in the organic listings. And we know that if we get traffic on those phrases that they will convert into buyers. So if they were to take all those sales they could make from having the right phrases ranked, then they would make more money than they spend. The thing is we haven’t even talked about backlinks in that equation there. That’s nothing to do with it. It might be a small component of how you get ranked, but SEO does not equal backlinks. And that should almost be attainable. So that’s the entire industry where the customers have the wrong goals. And the sellers generally weren’t pointed out to them because it’s not gonna serve them well, if they have to do the hard work.
And the other thing is not everybody knows how to do a good job. Especially in agency world, there’s plenty of guys who are sitting around in black skivvies, in high-level agencies with, you know, nice, charming phrases for multi-national companies to go out with these splendid campaigns with zero measurement accountability. And they’re driving around in their Porsches and, you know, no way to measure. And it’s true to say that with social media, it’s still difficult to get a direct measurement. I mean, I know there’s a lot of Direct Response lovers out there, as well. So there’s like two camps. There’s the branding camp. And there’s the Direct Response camp. I reckon I have a foot in both camps because with things like AdWords and SEO, to some extent, you can measure specifically a return on investment and fairly immediately. But for other things, it’s harder to get a direct measurement. It’s harder to measure your social value, if you’re building up likes on a fan page. And then you sell something in two years from now. It’s hard to pin it back to that person who liked you two years ago and was continuing to stay a fan of your page.
So it is hard to measure a direct response from your social media in some ways. So I think what it really comes down to is having a lifetime customer philosophy. And that’s what it was for me. I quickly figured out when I was selling that if I just look after the customer, then I wouldn’t give them a reason to go somewhere else. And they’d continue to buy and continue to make referrals. So if you really…you need two things here. You need to have integrity because you really care about the customer. And you have a definition of selling that is customer-centric. And for me, that is a sale is the process of change from one situation to a better alternative situation. What that really means is you’re helping people be better off. So if I sell something, I would like my customer to be better off. And that’s a good way to look at it. It has integrity.
The second component, of course, implies that you must know what you’re actually doing. You would only take on a results-based focus if you can’t actually deliver results. And that’s the other sad thing about a lot of businesses out there. They can’t actually deliver a result. I know there was, particularly popular, a challenge in our industry years ago where the guy who ran it eventually came out and said, “Hey, look. We had like single-digit percentage success rates.” And then I was aware of another program that cost several thousand dollars that was teaching people to go from a start-up to come up with an idea and to validate it and make money. And they were so unhappy with their success rate, they ended up stop selling their program because it was single-digit percentage, whereas I look at to my own community. And I was just researching this during the week. If you go back about 7 years ago when I was running my live event, 25% of the room then were not yet making $10,000 a year online. So I had quite a big portion of people starting out. My most recent event last week, only 10% of the room were yet to make $10,000 a year, which meant 90% of them were over that. And a huge chunk of them are past $100,000, 76% or so, a massive proportion of them. And it’s really encouraging to see that they’re getting results.
So if you can get results and if you care about your customer, take a results focus. And you will stand out. And it’s for that reason that now, my highest-level program, which is even above Silver Circle, is a straight-up revenue-share deal. And that is where I take a small percentage of a customer’s revenue. So whatever it is when they come and start with me, we start that as the start line. And then I take a percentage of revenue as my little finder’s fee for growing their business over and above that. And for the right business, they’re very happy with it. They’re gonna make 90% or more on the amount over that. You know, I’m just taking it, you know, maybe up to 10% as my little fee for helping them out, but you can only do that if your stuff works. And that’s really important.
So, I mean, I don’t recommend anybody sell a product or a service that’s not good. And if you are, you should stop, or change, or make improvements. And one thing that set our agency apart from most other agencies is we had an entire team devoted to research and development. And I think this is probably something I brought across from the automotive industry, having worked with Mercedes Benz and BMW. There was a lot of discussion around new products, and innovation, and leadership in design and having that up-front investment. I think Mercedes Benz used to spend 30% of all the money in the world on R&D and to safety, for example. And that’s why they were able to pioneer things like airbags and anti-lock braking systems. And that trickle down of technology that came down to regular vehicles years and years later. It just gave them an authoritative position in the market. And the product’s good. It’s actually a good product. So having a good product is really a keystone to being successful in business because we serve…for me, the other sting in the tail these days is that people are pretty quickly gonna find out about you, whether you’re good or bad.
Todd: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of what you said resonates with me. And, you know, I don’t think it is typically that some companies are doing something that doesn’t work at all. It just might not be the best for the customer. It might not be getting the best results that they could, but, you know, it’s put in a little box. And they get their, you know, 500 backlinks a month or whatever they put together in their packages, you know. And it may not be getting the best results, but it looks good on paper. And it’s okay. It gets okay results.
James: Not only that, it can actually be super harmful for customers. Probably a good example would be if they’d take a Fiverr gig and they end up with 10,000 spare-me-form links, that can penalize their website. You know, it can drop it out of the search results. Big companies are being caught doing things like that where they’ve made a foolish choice. And, you know, the offer seems too good to be true, but there’s plenty of people out there who will happily sell something that is not good for the customer.
Todd: Yeah, it’s a shame.
James: And that’s why we should be diligent as a buyer to check our resources. And I’ve watched most of our competitors collapse over the last seven or eight years. Most of them are not in business anymore because they didn’t have research and development.
Todd: Wow. Well, I think back to your mindset. I wanna touch on this. I mentioned the word at the beginning, and we actually talked about it before the show started, but I’ve always been really, really into the ownership thinking. You know I had an e-commerce store that I started and ran for a number of years and sold about four years ago. And I think going through that process, I mean, it was not easy. I had really, really challenging times where, you know, to get my employees fed, I starved. And it was really, really hard. And I think that builds this mindset of being very cautious with what I do, both with the dollars, the budget, and then also my time and my employee’s time. But I see so often employees at companies don’t have that. And so I’m actually really fortunate the agency I’m at right now, Muhlenhaupt & Company, that is sponsoring this show now, is phenomenal. All the key executives here have owned and run their own businesses. So they really understand that type of thinking. What do you think you can do to…I guess that’s two questions. One, do you have any specific strategies to coach people on having that type of ownership thinking, like your staff? Do you do anything to train them to think that way? And then two, since I am at an agency, we have that here. I guess how would we attract customers that value that type of thinking in the company that they’re hiring?
James: Well, I think the magic word there is responsibility. You foster an environment of responsibility where people are accountable to themselves, first and foremost. And so one thing you can do as a business is to come up with a code of values for the business. It’s not the business owner dictating the values to the team. It’s everyone in the business sitting down together either physically or virtually these days, and thinking about a few words that summarize what it means to work at that business. And together, they work on a Codec. It’s like the DNA for the business. In our business, that’s what we did with our team. And we only have a small team now that we sold the agencies last year. We sold our SEO business. And we sold our website development business. And now that we’re a coaching business and a publisher in another completely unrelated market, we’ve got our values that have been driving us like a locomotive for the last seven years now. And it’s just a few little short statements that define what it means to work in our business.
And one of them, for example, is that we’re ninja-good. It has implications. If you’re a ninja-good and you’re doing a transcription, or an illustration, or coding a website, it implies that you’re not going to just be mediocre. You’re not resting on your laurels of whatever work you did at university, for example. It means you’re continuing to learn about what it is that you do. If you’re doing illustrations, you’ll be looking at other artists’ work, you’ll be reading about new techniques, you’ll be trying, experimenting with new tools and refining your craft. If you’re a web developer, you’ll be getting onto Amazon and buying all the new coding books and learning about the new technologies as they come out, whether it’s Bootstrap or whatever. And you’ll be, you know, experimenting.
And so that comes to the second idea there. And that is that your team members can actually think. And a lot of businesses I’ve worked with initially when I get in there, I’ve realized that they really just have a dictator at the top and an army of soldiers who are following instructions. And soldiers in just the general grunt soldiers are generally not encouraged to think too much. They definitely do what they’re told to do. And they can march in line, but, you know, if the leader goes away, which happens a lot in actual business, they need to be able to think for themselves. And they need to be able to self-organize and grow without constant instructions. So if we wanna look to some places to learn about this stuff, you could read up on someone like Ricardo Semler, who published a book called “The Seven-Day Weekend.” And it’s more of an open way of having an organization where people are encouraged to be responsible and to grow. And we take down a lot of the bureaucracy and red tape and rules that pull back high performers. And I say that with purpose because most regulations in a company are designed for the average plodder to keep them in line, but if you don’t have average plodders, if you have above-average team members, you could take down a lot of the restrictions. You can give them a lot more freedom. You can’t pen in an eagle into a cage like you would with a hen who’s laying eggs. So you know, do you have egg layers or do you have a hunting eagle? And I like to work with eagles more than I prefer to work with turkeys, you know. And so you’ll find this is characteristic. You can look at a few team members and get a pretty good feel for what type of leadership’s happening in a business.
Todd: Yeah, that’s great. And the visual there is fantastic. And do you think you can sustain that at a really big company because, you know, I’ve seen that that’s pretty challenging in a larger company most times. I’ve also seen…I had the pleasure of meeting Tony Hsieh at Zappos after I read his book. And a lot of that book is on core values and building a culture. Really nice of him. I had been in communication with him about a potential investment. And he invited me up to one of their all-hands meetings. And it was just phenomenal to see that, but I don’t think that’s the norm because from what I see, you can have that in a small organization. It’s at least a lot easier than you can in a large one. What are your thoughts on that?
James: Well, I think it’s really easy to run a team up to five or six people. And then it starts to change shape when you start to add a little bit of layering. But with that being said, you know, Ricardo Hsieh had 3,000 employees.
Todd: Oh, did he? Wow.
James: And he went from $4 million to $212 million over a few decades with very little Draconian management style. Now, the other example you mentioned, Tony, you know, they’ve gone through this thing called holacracy. And there was this huge furor about that, but it’s along the same lines or I guess what I’m saying is challenge the conventional way that things are done. I’m not like a 100% advocate of giving team members shareholdings in the business and opening up the structure to that extent. I quite like to own my business 100%.
Todd: Yep, I know you do.
James: Again, I’m probably somewhere in the middle. But we can take ideas from this like an artist with different paint colors and different brushes. If business is a blank canvas, you know, there’s more than a few ways to paint. And, you know, what we come out with is gonna be different every time we approach it. So it is something to think about and to question, why do we do the things we do? And I got a lot of the important tools that I’ve gleaned for running a business from the automotive industry and, in particular, from that era where Japan became strong after the World War II and with the guidance of American experts on efficiency and engineering. They really were able to dominate the U.S. market decades later because W. Edwards Deming came and brought fantastic ideas for eliminating bad work, you know, at the end of the production line.
And they had process optimization. You look at Toyota, which I think is the richest car company in the world. And it’s got the five Ys. Look at the way that Carlos Ghosn turned around Nissan by combining people from different departments in the same room so they could communicate properly and shorten the time it takes to make a new vehicle and reduce errors. And, you know, he finally had designers who could design something that the engineers thought they could actually build that the marketing people figured they could actually sell. And, you know, that was a revolutionary concept. And even if you were to go back before that even to Henry Ford, he made huge changes in the industry and had massive market share domination in the early days by constantly researching and developing. He had cheaper, lighter materials. He kept lowering the price of the vehicle. He had a production line, assembly line. He had one-color option at one point, black. So there’s so many lessons for us in history, we’d be crazy not to just have a look at it and see how that impacts your current business.
Todd: Yeah, James you are a wealth of information. You are like an encyclopedia every time I hear you on a podcast. And on this one, you are not letting me down here, buddy. That’s great. You mentioned something about in the Japanese automakers, Toyota, that was W. Edwards Deming went there. And then decades later was when they really started to show that the results and the dominance. And that’s making me think of another question that I’m really excited to hear your answer on, which is sort of the short play versus the long play and how discipline plays a part in the success of your most successful students.
James: Well, that’s a really instructive example, the Japanese domination of the U.S. market, because they started by going to Australia first and testing because per head of capita, Australia is the second most competitive market in the world for motor vehicle sales, only after New Zealand, who has just a lot less people. So they win the brands available per population wager, but in terms of actual markets, Australia is super competitive because we have a lot of different brands and not too many people. And we have an extremely multi-cultural society. We have every type of race and nationality here in business. So Toyota came here to learn. And then also, other companies like Nissan sent students to America to live with American families and find out their preferences. And they discovered that America likes cars with soft suspension. And they like quiet cars. So Toyota came out with an entire brand aimed at the American market. Do you know what that brand was?
James: Yes. And Lexus actually stands for luxury export U.S.
Todd: No kidding. I didn’t not know that.
James: Yep. It’s like, “Let’s take a Toyota or dress it up and make it all luxurious for the…and we’ll make it really quiet and soft suspension. And the Americans are gonna love this.” And true to form, Lexus dominated the market there. And it started eating into the market share of established players like Cadillac and so forth. And then the other thing that they did is they had a much lower cost of production. The cost of production was something like $1,200 per employee, whereas the American car companies were somewhere like $4,500 per employee. And then the other thing is, you know, by going to different countries, they really got a global feel for it, whereas three-quarters of the Board of Directors of the American car companies did not even hold a passport. They never left the country. So they were flying in this like blind market of this like one place. And they got complacent.
So basically, a light, a strong competitor came and just annihilated them. And, as you know, most of the American car companies actually went broke and suffered bankruptcy. And this is a great lesson in business. So it wasn’t an overnight success for Toyota. They actually started out of a crisis. I think that’s even the title of Deming’s book, “Out of Crisis,” but they started in, you know, a destroyed city. After the war, they had to start from scratch, which was their frustration, but also their benefit. Being able to wipe the slate clean, it sort of eliminated the problem that I think holds most businesses back, which is sunk costs. They didn’t have any sunk costs. They had nothing. So they had to start again. And I think what a big burden for businesses is they’re so invested in where they’re at that it’s hard for them to change direction or the mindset required to do that is so strong that it won’t get done. And most people just hang around with the old because it’s convenient. And that sort of level of comfort means they’re gonna persist with all their sunk costs. Like if you were building the Titanic and you just got the last few bolts to stick on it, but you knew it’s gonna sink, you know, someone’s probably gonna say, “Hey, listen. Just keep quiet, friend.”
James: I mean, it’s scary, but it’s true. Like that’s just how it is. If you really wanna be successful, it is a long game. It is a marathon, not a sprint. And try and think about the market that you’re in three to five years from now. What does it look like in three to five years from now? For me, I guess that was one of the decisions why I wanted to sell my SEO business. And I wanted to double down on coaching because I still think there’s actually gonna be more and more people coming into an online business. It’s the number one export for some countries like the Philippines, for example, labor is a huge export for them. So American and Australian companies looking for labor. And I think it’s a thing, and it’s growing, and it will continue to grow. And people will continue to have frustrations and challenges. So think about what is the objective? And don’t look for a win today or tomorrow or next week. If you can extend the timeline a little bit and lay solid foundations, then you’ll be okay. And if that means having to let go of an old plan because it’s not gonna get you where you need to be in a few years from now, it’s better to just take the pain up front and then move quickly. And it’s the smaller a business you are, the more of an advantage you have because you’re more nimble.
Todd: Yeah, it’s a great insight. Tying this all together, going back to your first point of having an offer that converts, do you think some people get stuck? They have the sunk costs of an offer that doesn’t convert or a product line that doesn’t convert. And then they get stuck on that, rather than moving forward and creating something new?
James: I do, yes. I see some people, by the time they come to me for coaching, they may have spent one year building a product that they have yet to validate or do any research in the market. They just decided to build something. And nothing will convince these people to stop, down tools, go and validate their market, because they’re scared if the market doesn’t validate it that it’s not gonna fly. And they’ve wasted a year of their life on this thing, but it’s actually really common. The other one is where they’ve spent a lot of money on software that no one wants to use there’s no need for. And it’s something to watch for certainly. That’s why I like to see, what are people really hungry for? What are they already asking for? And what do they already buy? That information is fairly easy to get. And start there, no matter, you know, at least follow the rules before you break them.
Todd: Yeah, I see exactly what you’re talking about too. Like people who have those projects that they’ve been doing for a year, and it’s not only that they don’t want to validate it. Even if it’s validated as not being something they’re gonna be able to sell, they still refuse to believe it. Their idea is good. And people will buy it. And they will take that to the grave.
James: Well, I think where this is important for a customer of an agency like yours is they might think they know what the result they want is or what success means for them. It might be that their Board of Directors needs to achieve a certain market share or it might be they need to put money in the bottom line. We shouldn’t presuppose it, I suppose. We’ve got to find out what does success mean for them? What would they deem a successful result from the campaign? And then they should be pretty open-minded when they’re listening to a brief because people in the agency have other clients, and they see the landscape. And they spend money out there getting results for other customers and they can learn from that. And that’s part of the power of dealing with people who are already in the market. And maybe they’ve already run 1,000 tests before. So they can get pretty close to the mark out of the gates compared to a customer trying to do it in isolation or even worse, when they have an in-house intern who’s on a junior wage, maybe doing some study at a university. And I’d hate to think what they’re teaching about online marketing at an actual university these days because I’m sure it’s not super current, versus an in-the-trenches agency that wouldn’t even be a comparison.
Todd: Yeah, I like what you said a lot about helping the client, like if it’s our agency client, really get clarity on the results they want at the beginning. We actually just had a meeting yesterday with a new client where that’s the first thing we focused on, but here’s just a follow-up question to that. If you have given them an outline of a three-month project say with a bunch of deliverables, and you get really clear on the result they want at the beginning, you’re trying to do two things, right? You’re trying to fulfill on the actual result they want, but the deliverables that they bought and your big fancy proposal at times. If things shift and you realize that a lot of those deliverables are really not gonna move the needle, do you have strategies for presenting that to the client and basically changing the scope of the project in a way that they’d be very open to?
James: Well, I’ve always found direct communication is the simplest. And I’d probably look for a metaphor to explain it because metaphors can be quite instructive to help people grasp difficult concepts.
Todd: Like an eagle in a pen?
James: Yeah, it’s like if you drive along the freeway and you notice that your wheel’s starting to fall off the car, it would be a good idea to pull over fairly quickly, you know. “Hey, we have to indicate and pull over and tighten the nuts on this thing because if we continue and the wheel falls off, we could roll the vehicle and die.” So I just come up with a way to explain what needs to happen. And, of course, you should be fairly clear about why it would have to change. And you know that the things that will stop someone telling a customer about a change in plan is the customer’s gonna start pointing fingers and say that you gave them bad advice, that you should have known better, and there might be a big blame game and all this sort of stuff. So these are sensitivities that you’d have to be aware of and saying, “Look. Here are the facts. This is where we are now. This is what’s changed. This is the next course of action we would prescribe, based on this new information.”
Todd: Yeah, and I think what’s worked for me in the past, I mean, I just wanted kind of wanted to see your take on that. What has worked for me is framing the conversation and repeatedly, like the beginning of every single call, every single session, focusing on the results, and then explaining that that is our number one goal. And here was our plan, but we’ve actually got a few recommendations of a few things to drop off and a few changes in course of action to get those results in there.
James: So in that kind of phrase, I would just change “but” to “and” or “however.”
Todd: And, yes. Remove the “but.”
James: “And” is a softer segue into the next piece of information than a “but.”
Todd: I’m good. Okay. Thank you. Well, this has been great, James. I think I covered the key questions I really wanted to ask you. You know, maybe one more that really touches on your mindset. And, again, it’s a little bit related to the results and not activity, but just the idea of discernment, right? So this could be when putting together a proposal for a client. It could be just in your every-day life. What is your approach to choosing what to focus on when you have limited bandwidth for yourself and in your business?
James: Well, I focus pretty carefully on things that I think will excite me, that interest me. For me, that’s one of the filters that’s important these days. And I have a checklist. Like it’s probably more of an unconscious behavior now, but I used to have an actual checklist of, you know, will this have a compound effect later on? Is there a by-product from this activity? Does this get me a high-impact return for the amount of effort involved, you know? Is this super enjoyable to…do I want to be doing this? I guess part of the inspiration for that would have been a checklist I saw from Dane Jackson many, many years ago, which I stuck to the side of my filing cabinet. And it was something along the lines of, “I know I’m being successful when…” And it had things on it like, you know, I wear a watch merely for curiosity. And I only work on projects that I want. I can stop at any time, if I don’t enjoy it anymore. I only deal with people who energize me and those sort of things. It was great. I’m thinking, “You know, why can’t we craft our lifestyle around the things that we want to?” And that’s where I started exploring lifestyle design. And that’s been one of the more popular topics that I talk about and cover off with students because we really can craft or chisel out the life that we want, no matter where we’re at. It might take time, but just knowing that you have a choice is the first step.
Todd: Yeah, that’s fantastic. And I’m gonna go back. For anyone listening, you went through your list really quickly. You had some really good stuff about what this create compound effect. What would be a by-product of this activity? So in the show notes, I’m gonna put all those things. James, this has been great. Maybe just to wrap up, you can tell me anything new you’re working on. I mean, you did mention briefly your highest-level coaching or I guess kind of a joint venture partnership program. Is there anything else that you haven’t chatted about on the podcast airwaves that you wanna touch on?
James: Not really. I think it’s just important to always be working on a project that really excites and energizes you. So for us, the team and I are working on a brand new project in a completely unrelated market that’s more of a passion interest for us, but we’re still…that one’s a five-year timeline. We don’t have any expectations up front. And it’s just important to do something that you enjoy. And, you know, it’s not all work, grind, and hustle. So that’s really more my sort of tip there is don’t lose sight of what you’re doing. You don’t have to tip yourself entirely into boring work stuff.
Todd: Yeah. And I’m gonna just add something here. For anyone listening who does not know James’ stuff, I highly recommend you listen to some of his podcasts and go to SuperFast Business. I cannot over-emphasize the value in that community. And I do really resonate with what you’re saying. James, I’m looking at your picture on Skype right here with the waves in the background. James has become an avid surfer over the past, what, five years I guess, James. And, you know, the lifestyle that you have built for yourself, you know, it shows through in what you teach in your coaching and, just like you said, your lifestyle design…your emphasis on lifestyle design has really changed a lot of people’s lives. And I’ve seen that in the SuperFast Business community. And I know a bunch of people who have gone through Silver Circle. I don’t wanna call them out on the air. I don’t know if they’re public with that, but you’ve worked with a ton of some of the most successful entrepreneurs that are getting a lot of attention and writing books these days. And, you know, I’ve learned a lot from you. So thank you so much for all of that. And, again, anyone listening, definitely go to superfastbusiness.com. Sign up, get some info watching videos, and if you’re in there, you’ll be in the group with me and James and the rest of the community. So James, thanks so much for coming on the show. Really great to talk to you.
James: Thank you, Todd. Great to catch up.
Todd: All right. Have a great one.
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Todd: Thank you for listening today. Before you go, I wanna leave you with three important questions designed to get you results from what you just heard. Number one, what one lesson did you just learn that you can take action on? Two, what single action can you commit to doing in the next 24 hours to integrate the skill, habit or mindset into your daily life? And three, what can you do to ensure you will actually take this action? Speed of implementation is the key to success. And you’ve got to take action on what you just learned.
Perhaps you need to put a reminder in your calendar, put a Post-it on your computer screen, or talk to an accountability partner to check in to make sure you did this. Whatever you do, make sure you take action on the one key thing you learned from this episode to make sure you start seeing results. You deserve the success and peace of mind that comes from building a profitable and influential business that truly matters. You deserve it, your family deserves it, the world deserves the best business products and services you have to offer.
Thanks for listening and make it a great one.