9/260 The beauty of friends

... with mad skills

Welcome to The Next Five Years! If you’ve just joined us - as I know a few people have in the past week - we’re in the ninth week of this open business experiment.

Today, I want us all to think about the beauty of having friends with mad skills.

In the past week, I have gained the benefit of having friends in a whole range of places. I’m going to tell you what they are, what I’ve learned from it, and what’s next.

First: Working in new spaces

The first was being able to spend a week working out of Brick+Mortar Coworking in Norwood, for the Coworking South Australia Association’s Roving Writer project. This was super fun. I discovered my friends at Seated Massage working from the space, and had a great time talking to Elizabeth (who runs B+M) about how the space has changed, and what she’s learned doing it. Once my piece is published at Coworking South Australia, I’ll share it with you guys.

What I learned from working here

For ages I’ve had this experiential blockage. Yes, I can work from anywhere. But the reality is that I tend to work in the same places, that I build routines and preferences for locations (like my home office). Then, going outside of those places is challenging for my level of comfort.

This issue really dawned on me this week. Hence, I spent time focusing on unravelling it, and being effective in a new, noisy, location. It worked, I worked, shit still got done, and I had a great time doing it.

From here in, my focus is on just getting in the flow, no matter where I am. The issue isn’t the location, it’s whether you actually do the work.

Second: Building sales funnels

The second was spending time with John Kiama, a friend of mine with an insane passion for building lead funnels and automation. I met John about five years ago, when we were working out of Majoran Coworking together. John is a developer by trade, but he’s happier building funnels and automating businesses.

While I am good at advising others on how to do these things, I find it hard to apply them to my own business. So I did what I tell others to do: I asked for help. John was kind enough to gift me some of his time and expertise.

I spent a couple of hours this week with John, smashing out some ideas for adding value to people and building the bridge from awareness to sales. It was fantastic and I am super glad I did. We’re going to have a second session in the coming week. Once we’ve done that, I’ll have a crystal clear plan for putting it all together and making it fly.

What I learned, and what happens next

In working through my products and sales under John’s close questioning, I realised that my own work in this area has been scattershot. Yes, I have clarity about who I’m selling to and why. No, I haven’t built the sequence that (a) delivers value to that person, and (b) encourages them to work with me.

In a sense, I’ve built a fabulous offering but haven’t been selling it.

My next step is to pull the threads together into a coherent whole, so that the pathway is really clear for people. John’s going to help me work out the best way to do that, and then to automate as much as I can to remove the heavy lifting.

Third: Finalising the first impression

The third was going shopping, with a style consultant friend. This friend, Silvana Patrick, has decades of corporate, international experience in image and style consulting. So I asked her to design my corporate look.

What I wanted it to reflect included:

  • the industries that I work in

  • the styles of all of the most powerful people in my industries (and yes, I did spend time researching them and building a lookbook)

  • my own unique style

  • comfort!

    It also had to be simple enough that it doesn’t require dry cleaning, because urgh.

Silvana spent time with me to understand both me and the business, then went away and designed the outcome. And then she took me shopping.

Now, I am not a woman who spends her time clothes shopping. I was surprised to find women doing this for leisure on a Friday afternoon (yeah, yeah, I know). To be comfortable with it, I had to put my feelings completely on hold and just trust her. And then to be willing to have piles of clothes thrust at me while I tried them on.

But the outcome is a stylish, flattering, professional capsule wardrobe that will travel, that is polished, and comfortable, and frankly amazing.

What I learned - and what comes next

Working with Silvana has been part of taking the business seriously. This year I have found myself absolutely agonising about what to wear when meeting with prospects: Is it too formal or not formal enough? Is it too conservative? Was it comfortable? Was it me enough? I found myself hating my corporate dresses, resenting my suits, and then not having anything between those and my long boots and Deceased shirts. I was guessing, constantly, and never knowing what kind of impression I created.

What I’ve learned from Silvana is that it’s ok to be your own style, and have your own quirks. But that you have to have certain elements and a set of colours to work with. Like, did you know that pointed-toe shoes give your outfit the polish it needs to fly in business? No, I didn’t either. Cue wearing shoes I would never naturally buy.

Brand messages are sent in so many ways: Clothing is one of them, particularly if you’re out in public, at events, meeting new people, pitching new business, etc. Being ad-hoc about it sucks. My next step of this is to finalise the capsule wardrobe, buy some more shoes to finish it off, and go get a tailor to fix up some shirts. Then, we rock.

Fourth: Step one of higher visibility

The final thing I did this week was talk to my friends at Online Path about running a 30-day, digital ad campaign in some new territories to test an offering.

The campaign is going to require a small commitment of about $1,000 over the course of a month, and we’re going to kick it off in January 2019, to run in three cities simultaneously.

Then, whichever territory has the best uptake is the area in which we’re going to focus our sales activity.

Now, I could do this myself instead of getting them to do it. But they have the expertise in digital advertising - not me. They know how to build it, how to run it, how to optimize it. They understand my business (we’ve worked together, and they’ve worked with our clients too). And I trust their outcomes.

The timing is great, too. There’s enough time to get the Pixie content and funnels sorted out before the campaigns run, and then the campaign will test not only the territories but also the effectiveness of the sales funnels.

What I learned, and what’s next

What I learned from these guys is actually how granular is my business and its offerings. In terms of historical search activity, you have to go super broad to get any indicative outcomes. I’ve learned that the pitch and the funnel together is what is going to work to qualify those who come through from the campaign, particularly if we go broad with the campaign.

The next thing for me to do is to pull it together and make it fly.

So, in a sense, this week has felt a lot like I haven’t done a great deal to move things forward. But reflecting on it here, I realise that I have done a whole lot to get the right foundations in place.

I just have to keep remembering that you have to walk before you can run.

In summary

For the past five years, I’ve been working alongside many of the people I have mentioned above. I’ve helped them out, I’ve given them advice. I’ve been someone to give feedback, catch up for coffee. And you know, if you’re a giver, then after a while you start to feel like you’re the giving one, all the time.

But that only happens until you ask for help. Then, when you ask for help from your friends with mad skills, you find that all of your help comes back to you. It comes back to you in surprise freebies, offers, or discounts. It comes back to you in the deep quality of the services or advice you get in return.

In short: Nothing you give out is ever for nothing. Never begrudge the value that you give to others, because if they’re the right people for you, then those friends (the ones with mad skills) you go to for help, will bring it back to you tenfold.