Last night in one of our mastermind calls, the group recommended I get a dog.
I’m not sure what they were suggesting about my life, but I’m pretty sure our cats would disagree with this assessment (note hapless kitty in canine death grip.) This illustrates the kind of helpful recommendations one can receive in a support group.
Plus, it gives me a great excuse to use a photo with both a puppy and kitty, which I hear are irresistible.
Which brings us to today’s question: Who’s on your support team?
A few weeks ago, we talked about the dream and business-killing threat of isolation for entrepreneurs, and suggested that a great solution could be participating in online discussion forums or mastermind groups.
Is a mastermind group the best option for you, or would an online forum best meet your needs?
Before you join a mastermind group or an online forum, here are a few things to consider.
Is an Online Forum Right For You?
Many membership sites include a discussion forum, and it’s often the most valuable part of the membership program – at least it has been for me.
- In a good forum, you’ll meet other people with similar goals and projects, create joint ventures, and get both learning and business growth opportunities.
- Forums can be an inexpensive support option: they can run anywhere from $20 to $100 a month, depending on the other features included in the membership package.
- Because forums are best suited to conversations, creating alliances, and asking for tactical advice, it’s not always easy to get reliable strategic advice.
In fact, if you plan on asking other forum participants for advice, know your strategic goals first.
Spot the difference between these two typical forum questions:
Typical Question #1: “I have a new product, and we want to do a video. What video presentation tools do you recommend?”
Typical Question #2: “Our membership site launched last week and we have zero new sign ups. Please take a look at the site and tell us why.”
The member asking the first question is asking for input on tools and tactics. A forum can be great for this kind of information: The type of video camera you use, for example, isn’t usually dependent on your personal business strategy.
The member asking the second question may not always get the best advice because not everyone is aware of the context or goals of his or her project.
“Here’s what worked for me,” isn’t always what will work for you.
What’s more, a lot of people are quite happy to toss out opinions with very little information to go on.
And for those members just starting out and trying to figure things out, this can be counter-productive.
Here’s What Joe Discovered
Joe belongs to a popular online membership discussion forum. He recently launched a new product, and it was going nowhere, so into the forum he went.
His question was simple: “My product isn’t working. What am I doing wrong?”
And for the next several days, he received an endless parade of very helpful people more than willing to tell him what he was “doing wrong.”
Some people thought his website was completely wrong.
Others thought the site was fine – it was in fact his sales page, which was completely wrong.
Still others disagreed, and told him his sales page was great – his pricing structure was to blame.
And on and on it went.
At the end of this exchange, do you think Joe was any less confused?
Was he closer to a solution to his problem?
Joe really began questioning the wisdom of asking such open-ended questions when Mark, a successful Internet Marketer in the group, chimed in that Joe was focusing on the completely wrong target market to begin with.
“That market will never buy what you’re selling, they don’t have any money,” said Mark, confidently.
Now Joe was really confused, and he pointed it out: “Hey Mark, just last month you told me this target market was perfect. What’s changed?”
If you’re new to online forums, here’s a tip that may be helpful: The best advice often comes from people willing to take the time to ask some questions, first. They’ll want to know a bit of context before dispensing advice.
Any advice unattached to your own overarching strategy can leave you in danger of taking dead-end paths.
So what’s a better option for you? If you’re in search of strategic advice, consider a mastermind group.
Is a Mastermind Group Right For You?
Most mastermind groups are formed by peers, and some are formed by a leader or expert that he or she moderates.
The self-formed groups can be cost-free, while the expert-led groups can range anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the caliber and experience of the group leaders and other members of the group.
Regardless of which one you chose, a mastermind group is typically a more focused group of peers helping each other meet common goals.
They may meet in person, or over the phone – but the impact is the same: the group discusses options and holds each other accountable to goals.
- Masterminds have more continuity, so group members can better understand your business context, and you have a better chance of getting solid strategic advice.
- More focused, typically more goal-oriented.
- Can usually be created at no cost to group members: This approach can work if the incentive of setting and meeting goals is enough to sustain consistent participation.
- If you have people with not enough commonalities, it can diffuse the effectiveness of the group.
- The success of the mastermind depends a lot on the kind of people who are attracted to the group, and how committed they are.
If you want to form your own group (with people you met in that online forum, for example), here’s an article Jon wrote on four mastermind formats you could consider.
In fact, when looking to join a mastermind group, one of the best places to go is the forum. There you get to know people and find others with similar goals and join forces.
Know what kind of interaction would best meet your needs. Ask the group leader how their group works.
Six Things You’ll Want in a Mastermind Group
Is this a generalized group with a wide topic focus? Or is it hyper-focused on a narrow range of topics? Which type would work better for your project needs?
You want to be talking to the same group of people over time; people who can get to know you and your business. When other group members are aware of your business process and progress over time, their responses can be more helpful.
You want to have people who are committed to helping you succeed, not just asking and answering questions occasionally.
You need to have input from people who will have some different ideas and are not just doing and selling exactly what you are.
You need to be giving as well as you get. If you belong to a group where members share similar goals or objectives, then the give and take can become really valuable.
The contact needs to be frequent and consistent enough that you get past the ‘anonymous’ stage and actually develop a relationship of some kind with others.
Is a Coach Your Best Option?
Finally, if you want personalized strategic advice, or want help clarifying your options, a personal business or life coach might be a great option for you.
How About You?
- What kinds of masterminds or forums have worked best for you?
- Which specific forums have you participated in, that you could recommend to others?
- What have you most enjoyed in your forum, mastermind, or coaching experiences?