Most practitioners exchange their hours for income. And it can be easy to fall into the artificially limited choice of either working more hours – or charging more for those hours – to increase your income. You’ve seen other doctors create additional streams of income — from stocking a line of supplements in the office to creating and selling a product of their own — and who doesn’t want additional streams of income?
The ideas — and often outlandish promises — behind “passive” leveraged income are very popular with online ‘gooroos’ these days. You’ll often see ‘leverage’ presented in a very common sense way:
- Outsource lower level tasks so you can maximize your earning power.
- Deliver your product or service to a group of ten people rather than just an individual so you get paid ten times an hour, not just one time an hour.
- Turn your product or service into something people can buy and use even without you – so it’s not tied to your hours at all.
- Get others to sell your product for you – and keep a percentage of their work.
Most of them tell us it’s easy! Here’s the blueprint! I did it, so can you!
So if the principles behind leveraged income make so much sense; if those principles are indeed so easy to implement; if the gooroos have “proven” it can work; then why does it remain so elusive for most practitioners?
Here’s the way most people attempt to create leverage . . .
The heady promise of leveraged income is the shiny lure most direct sales companies use to attract regular folks into their organizations – with the promise of income that isn’t shackled to hours worked. One of the most painful things for me to watch is people I know and love involved in these mini-sales organizations (commonly called network marketing). Not that I have anything against some of these companies — I like the underlying philosophy, and when properly applied, these principles have taught a lot of regular folks valuable skills like salesmanship and self-reliance.
But many of these companies know that most of their new recruits aren’t really cut out for sales and will run out of steam within the first few months. So the company will run contests to get these folks to call or email all their friends (or patients, or clients) before their newest salespeople lose their motivation.
“If you sell ten cases of SuperMega Drops this month, you’ll win the fry-cooker!”
And the new recruits scrape and scramble to create instant new contacts, talking to anyone and everyone, attempting to introduce themselves and sell liquid widgets in the same breath — before any kind of relationship has a chance to get off the ground. The recruits look at the successful people in the company – the ones who have proven they can do it – and wonder why it’s not working for them.
What’s often more frustrating is what I call the “Sad Supplement Stack.” In many practitioner’s offices, you’ll find a nicely-arrayed stack of supplements and a pile of brochures sitting on a table in the waiting room. After all, the supplement company claimed “these supermega drops sell themselves!” Turns out, those drops don’t sell themselves.
Not everyone who signs up for these kinds of opportunities takes the time to learn that sales of any kind is about first establishing a context, in this case, a relationship, in which an exchange can naturally take place. And sometimes — in fact most of the time — you have to invest time time into nurturing that relationship before it will turn into a sale, if ever. And those sales contests certainly don’t help encourage this kind of relationship building.
People considering opportunities like these or an “Internet Marketing” business may need to consider one fundamental question before jumping in: What do those who succeed in both of these businesses have in common?
Here’s the truth: Those few who do succeed in this game either have an existing network of people from a previous business, or they are natural connectors who excel at meeting new people and building a network of relationships. If you’re a practitioner whose personality is more naturally suited to research and writing than it is to rubbing shoulders and creating relationships, maybe traditional “leverage opportunities” like these aren’t right for you.
If the principles behind leveraged income make so much sense; if those principles are indeed so easy to implement; if the gooroos have “proven” it can work; then why does it remain so elusive for most practitioners?
Tapping into the source of true leverage
I used to coach sales teams with companies like Oracle. These teams handle complex deals that take months – if not years – to complete. Most of these people were sharp and knew how to build a relationship and “close” a deal.
Every once in awhile I encountered a smart technician who really understood the company’s product inside and out, but was not achieving great sales numbers. These guys knew the product better than anyone. They would invest a great deal of time researching their current client needs, creating in-depth presentations, and responding to in-bound client calls.
What these few didn’t get was the importance of picking up the phone and developing relationships. They didn’t understand how critical it was to invest as much time into nurturing a prospect and gently leading them down the path to becoming a customer as it was presenting those clients with the best, most logical product solutions.
In sales, we call this “building a pipeline.”
If you want water or oil, and you don’t have a natural well bubbling in your backyard, someone has to build a pipeline to bring that valuable commodity into your home. And if you want the most valuable asset a business can possibly have, you have to build the same kind of pipeline for your business – no matter what kind of business you’re in.
This is especially true once you take your business online, and begin building an audience of your own and an email list. The majority of your readers and subscribers have a ways to come before they’re ready to buy from you. So, you have to go to where they are now – unfamiliar with you, unsure if they can trust you, unable to see the value of your product, and unprepared to buy – and build a “pipeline” that moves them closer to where you want them to be: trusting you, seeing your value, and being eager to buy from you.
It doesn’t matter if you sell “Super-Mega drops,” professional services, or information products: your most important task is to build a pipeline that turns strangers, readers, and subscribers into loyal, enthusiastic, customers.
And if you are surrounded by ‘prospects,’ but your product isn’t selling, or no one is subscribing to your mailing list, there’s usually one key reason: You haven’t built a pipeline. And without that relationship pipeline, you’re kind of like those MLM recruits trying to create a new friend and sell a product in the same breath.
Nothing is more valuable to your business than a growing network of people who know you, trust you, and are ready and willing to buy from you. Yet a system or process for gathering and nurturing this group of people is exactly what most people leave out of the “passive income” equation.
Here’s how you “lay some pipe”
“Pipeline” may sound like a cold, impersonal sales term, or like a lot of ‘extra’ work. But if you don’t yet have leverage, it is an apt metaphor for a critical missing piece of your business success. Pipelines carry valuable things from where they are, to where you need them to be. And in the case of building your audience, you are moving people’s hearts, minds and attention from ‘not with you’ to ‘with you.’
Creating a real pipeline in the physical world is a huge investment that can reap huge profits. One doesn’t go to the trouble of building a pipeline unless they need to carry something very valuable over great distances – like bringing water to the desert. And nothing is more valuable to your business than a growing network of people who know you, trust you, and are ready and willing to buy from you. Yet a system or process for gathering and nurturing this group of people is exactly what most people leave out of the “passive income” equation.
Why not just go to the source?
So what does this all this pipeline talk have to do with creating leverage income for practitioners? Everything.
First, though, let’s not confuse creating a pipeline with getting “traffic” online. Traffic consists of strangers momentarily finding your website. They do not yet know or trust you, and most of these strangers certainly aren’t yet willing to take a chance and purchase from you. That traffic often has to travel a long way from first contact to trusting you enough to purchase. Fortunately, this kind of “traffic” is only one source of your future customers.
Building your pipeline is an ongoing process that gathers people who’ve shown interest in your message – at whatever stage in the relationship cycle they are in – and naturally and gradually either filters them out as not aligned with your message, or brings them closer to you and the other members of your “tribe.”
If you simply make sales offers directly to your “traffic,” you may convince a small percentage of them to buy. But that transaction is a one-time interaction. If you want genuine, lasting leverage, you need a high percentage of your traffic to become readers and subscribers, and then create a deep, sustainable relationship that naturally encourages many purchases from those subscribers over time.
This is one reason all these “high traffic” salesmen annoy me. They’ll come up with clever ways to churn lots of “traffic” through a site, but have no mechanism for staying connected with the 98% of people not ready to buy “now.”
So, their “sales conversion” will range from tiny to non-existent. And yet they continue to defend this practice by reasoning that “it’s a numbers game, you’ve just got to get more traffic through the door.”
I’d rather have 1,000 people visit your site who read, subscribe, and join the conversation than 100,000 people for whom your message isn’t relevant or helpful.
If you want genuine, lasting leverage, you need a high percentage of your traffic to become readers and subscribers, and then create a deep, sustainable relationship that naturally encourages many purchases from those subscribers over time.
Before you worry about attracting more traffic to your website, you have to first build your process that will meet people where they are, earn their trust, keep their attention, and either turn them into loyal, happy customers or a source of referrals.
How do we do that online? The same way we’ve always done it offline. In fact, the principles of relationship building and relationship-nurturance remain the same, only the tools continue to evolve.
So let’s talk about those tools every health practitioner has at his or her disposal.
The Internet is a content-delivery tool. Content is your voice. Get your voice out there in as many different forums and media as you can. Your voice – your message – is what draws people to you. A continuous flow of valuable content is what builds and strengthens your relationship with others.
1. Create a message that connects with your “tribe”
This not technically a tool, but first on the list nonetheless. Online, relationships are built through content. But not every conversation leads to trust or credibility. And not every conversation is persuasive or compelling. So, your first task is to keep working until you have a crisp, differentiated message that does three things:
a. Demonstrates your unique value to a defined niche.
b. Builds trust, credibility, and affinity.
c. Makes a compelling case for why they need what you have to offer.
2. Build an Authority platform that’s a “destination”
Your website is the hub of all your online activity, and is what gives your pipeline strength. It is the core of your persona and your message. People arrive at your site from all over the web, places like your Facebook page, for example.
A lot of sites may get someone to visit once, but have nothing to compel anyone to return. The sites that grow are those with a strong, clear personality with something unique to say and ways to interact. So, your platform needs to be designed to:
a. Create opportunities to interact with you and with your message.
b. Make it easy for visitors to find the valuable content that’s most interesting and relevant to them.
c. Be a platform from which you can speak and be seen and heard as an expert – not a huckster.
3. Create content that connects
Everyone has a blog. It’s not the blog or the site that does the connecting or the selling: it’s your content that connects.
A blog can be a great place to carry on a conversation and build relationships. From your platform, you’ll showcase what you know and what makes you unique. There, you’ll provide truly useful and valuable information that builds trust and gives you a chance to show that you know what you are talking about, which builds authority and credibility.
Most importantly, a blog is a chance to show some personality. People want to do business with others they feel they know and like. A blog can be a place to showcase your personality, or the business persona that people can relate to and feel connected to.
4. Use “dynamic” email and Auto-responders
Email is still where most conversations are nurtured. The conversation can begin in your email or in the social networks, and then continue on your site.
Lots of people claim your email list is your most valuable asset. That’s not always true. I’ve seen a lot of big email lists that were pretty useless because the list owners had never connected with their subscribers in a meaningful way. Instead, they chose to beat the life out of their list.
Your list is only valuable if it’s also responsive. A “dynamic” list is an active list: reading, clicking, commenting, tweeting, sharing, and buying. Build small but regular calls to action into your communications with your list.
Some questions or interests are similar across large groups of potential customers. You can use an automatically-delivered email series (an auto responder) to walk your subscribers through these conversations. These are conversations that can essentially be pre-scripted and delivered automatically.
5. “Personalize” your pipeline
Segment your lists by your reader’s interests and actions. Allowing your readers to choose to “opt-in” to content that interests them means that they will only initiate the conversations they most need and want. The last thing you want to do is overwhelm someone by sending him or her every possible piece of information whether they need it or not.
Your best friend in building relationships is the tool that allows you to see where people are in your “pipeline” process and send them targeted information that you know will be most useful and relevant to them.
A customer management tool, like Aweber, allows you to search your database for customers who have downloaded the same ebook, or made the same small ‘trial’ purchase, or who came from the same traffic sources. Then you can send just this ‘segment’ of your list information that is specifically relevant to them.
In this age of spam, nothing says “I Care” more than only sending messages that are valuable and relevant.
6. Use social media only if it helps you build relationships
Social Media is all the rage, and it might help you “connect” with lots of people, but can you build relationships from those connections?
The social networks can be useful in building relationships in certain situations. Just make sure that it isn’t something you’re forcing. If it’s the natural way your customers interact and converse, then be sure you make it part of your pipeline.
Your very own, personal pipeline
Let’s tie this all together with a tasty nugget of wisdom that Seth Godin published on his blog in 2008:
I trust Sarah Fishko.
Every once in a while, over the last few years, Sarah’s voice has come out of my radio, telling me about one interesting cultural event or another. She’s consistent. She shows up. She has built a body of work over time, taking her time that leads to trust.
Twitter can do that for you. Not for a million New Yorkers, but perhaps for a hundred or a thousand people you want to reach. Blogs do the same thing.
The best time to look for a job next year is right now. The best time to plan for a sale in three years is right now. The mistake so many marketers make is that they conjoin the urgency of making another sale with the timing to earn the right to make that sale. In other words, you must build trust before you need it. Building trust right when you want to make a sale is just too late.
Publishing your ideas . . . in books, or on a blog, or in little twits on Twitter . . . and doing it with patience, over time, is the best way I can think of to lay a foundation for whatever it is you hope to do next.
I sometimes listen to an investment guy on Saturday radio, and he has a great line:
“What’s the best time to plant a tree? 25 years ago. What’s the second best time to plant a tree? Now.”
Yeah, it would be great to have done all the right pipeline-building stuff for the last five years so we could be selling more stuff right now. So maybe you haven’t always been a superstar pipeline builder.
But you can be — starting right now. What can you do right now to “lay the pipeline” to guarantee your future results? What can you do differently today?