About five weeks ago a young black female entrepreneur reached out to me for marketing assistance for her holistic health and wellness coaching business. I asked what she needed and she mentioned a website, logo, branding, etc. She also mentioned that sales weren’t going as well as she had planned. From my experience in business development, I knew that a logo and website would not help her increase sales. She needed to
“jump out the window”.
This euphemism, “jump out the window” is one I love to use which means take chances and do the unorthodox thing. I’ve been running my own marketing consultant business for the past 5 or 6 years and without a website, logo, branding, or even so much as a business card. Just me, Gmail, and my trusty iPhone.
First, I began asking her questions about her business. She started shooting off all these facts about health and wellness which proved that she knew her stuff. Like she REALLY knows this category well. But all these facts meant nothing to me because it was as if she was speaking another language. Now, I follow health and wellness so I could keep up but I just didn’t care. I knew these facts would not help her business grow. The average person has no idea what their pancreas does, so speaking technical jargon to these people won’t help. If I could barely keep up then I knew her desired consumer base wouldn’t be able to keep up either.
So, I started asking her to sell me her packages. Immediately, I was not interested. I just didn’t see the benefit. But that’s not because she can’t provide benefit; it’s because she didn’t know how to SELL the benefit in a way that people can understand.
I asked her package pricing and saw a flaw there as well. If she sold one of her packages, she had to do a ton of work for very little pay. I said, “If one sale can’t pay your rent, then you’re wasting your time.” She provides a service that saves lives, yet her own life struggled. That’s not fair!
So I suggested higher pricing and to compensate for higher pricing we would change her target demographic. We switched from normal everyday consumers to corporations. I knew from past experience that corporations are much easier to sell because they are not spending their own money. All expenses go on the corporate card. And because these corporations have large bank accounts they could afford her new higher priced packages. Problem solved.
To be honest, I still don’t know exactly what her business does. Mostly because I don’t care. What I do care about is that her business succeeds and I don’t need to know the intricacies of it all to help her. It doesn’t matter. But what does matter is that she knows and her potential buyers know. So, how did we do that? I had her create a business model using the Strategyzer business model canvas.
Every single time I work with a new client I draw up one of these up. It’s like the playbook for your business. I’m not going to go into detail about every aspect of this canvas but I did want to discuss Value Propositions. How can you create a logo, slogan, mission statement, website, etc. if you don’t know the value that your business provides?
The problem with her business and many other new businesses is, they don’t know how to translate and communicate the value that their product or service provides to the consumer. The value proposition must be simple yet tell the buyer exactly what they’re getting in a manner that’s easy to understand and relevant to their life.
For example: If you sell soap, your value proposition may be; leave your skin feeling moisturized and smooth. Or you can say it cuts through grease. Or whatever it is. What the buyer does not care about is, how you made the soap or what the soap is made from. Yes, there are some people who are particular about the ingredients of the products they buy but they are in the minority. A consumer just wants to know, what does your product do, and how will it make them FEEL after purchasing. You have to speak to their emotions, not their logic.
When people ask me how my marketing services will help them, I simply say, “I’ll show you how to start making money NOW”. I didn’t say anything about a logo, or branding, or marketing catch phrases, although I do provide these services. But so does everyone else. Those are the “HOW” items. People only care about the “WHAT” items. “What is going to happen after they purchase?”. I could also say, “I’ll triple your website traffic and double your sales in 90 days”. It’s pretty hard to say no to that. And I can make these kinds of promises because my methods work. And If it fails, it’s because the client chose not to listen or was just too lazy to execute.
When Jennifer first reached out to me I told her we would do one coaching call a week, free of charge. This is a struggling black female entrepreneur. What would I look like charging her for advice? That’s just foul and it’s not how I work. Besides, my hourly rate is no less that $100 and my lowest monthly fee is about $4,100. That would put her already struggling business into more debt.
She didn’t know this but, my goal wasn’t to coach her for the rest of her life or even longer than a few months. It’s not beneficial to myself or her to keep her dependent upon me. I wanted to put her on a path of self-sufficient success as quickly as possible. On our second call, we mostly tweaked her business model canvas. But after that call, I really started to brainstorm on how I can get her on this path to success NOW.
The solution was simple. Jump out the window! I was super-excited for our third call because I knew exactly what I would say to her and I knew she would be confused, fearful, and skeptical. What was my solution? Walk away from the computer. Something I tell most of the black business entrepreneurs I coach. Get away from the internet. Hit the streets.
In detail, basically what I told her is, put together your packages, dress professional, and start going door-to-door and soliciting these local corporations. Of course, she was fearful, and she should be. She said, “But I don’t have a website; What will I show them?”. I simply responded, “you don’t need one; show them you know what you’re talking about. Get your business model canvas, use it to create a simple brochure and START SELLING”.
I used to sell AT&T door-to-door with a badge that had no AT&T logo on it. I could have been some fraud but yet, I was able to sell these packages to businesses because all they cared about was lowering their monthly bill. The one’s that asked for a website or ID verification simply meant, I hadn’t sold them on the benefits and failed at my job. I took the NO on the chin and moved onto the next target.
I’ve also sold mortgages during the refinance boom and right up until the housing crisis of 2008. I was cold-calling people out of the blue and asking them for their paystubs, bank statements, and social security number. With no website or any other form of credentials other than the company name showing up on their caller ID.
If I could sell these packages to complete white strangers as a black male, I thought, surely Jennifer can sell wellness to corporations. It’s gotta be easy. So, on that third call, I answered all of her questions and got her as prepared as possible. She was ready to “jump out the window”.
I could still sense that she was still a bit skeptical and fearful, as she should be. She’s trying something she’s never done before. Honestly, from past experience with previous entrepreneurs, I didn’t expect her to actually go out and knock door-to-door. You have to be on the crazy side to do that (but it also takes a bit of “crazy” to be an entrepreneur). I figured she’d call me back in a few days and say, “I didn’t go out because I think it’s a bad idea”, or some other excuse I usually get from people. Going out and selling to strangers isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do.
So, a week went by and I hadn’t heard from Jennifer. I thought to myself, “Oh man! She bailed on me. Another entrepreneur lost in the sauce of fear.” So I sent her a text to check up. I was also worried that maybe I sent this girl out into the street and someone kidnapped her or something. So many ideas swirled through my head about why I haven’t heard from her.
She responded and said she closed her first deal! Immediately a smile drew across my face. She did it! She beat fear and sold her first corporate package. No logo, no website, no business card. Just a heart full of courage and a brochure.
Not only did she land her first deal but she had leads for two other opportunities, an invite to an event, and many great contacts. One contact was plugged into the insurance industry and assisted her by putting her in touch with the large national insurance companies to vet them for partnerships.
The best part? The package that Jennifer sold technically hadn’t existed yet. It was a workshop package which she hadn’t even put together yet. Of course, she knew the contents of the workshop but things like creating slides and workbooks were not done yet because those items are also VERY time-consuming to create. Who has time? We need to start making money NOW! It’s better to just sell the thing, THEN go back and create the product. My philosophy is, “If you can’t sell the product before it exists, then your product isn’t good enough”. Check out this article, “Sell before you build”.
All I did was create a concise vision for her business and direction. We hadn’t even discussed marketing or branding hardly.
I don’t care about the name of your business, the colors of your brand, your logo, website, or any of that. Are those things important? Yes. But do they drive immediate sales? NO! Do they create a sense of urgency for the consumer? No! Start doing the things that drive revenue to your brand, FIRST!
Logo, advertising, websites etc. all cost money and it’s very difficult to measure the impact they have on your bottom line. And as a new business, it is imperative that you cut cost as much as possible. Do the FREE things that drive immediate revenue, like knocking door-to-door. The only expense there is gas. Decrease cost, increase revenue is business 101 strategy. If the dollar spent, isn’t going to come back double, it might not make sense to spend it.
I can’t help everyone all the time so Hotep Nation is going to open a hotline once a week for one hour for black female entrepreneurs ONLY, FREE OF CHARGE. On this hotline, I will answer questions about growing your business and provide direction to help you double your income. If you’re interested, please email iamalishakur at Gmail.
Here’s a testimonial from Jennifer on working with me:
Ali has been extremely helpful in assisting me with honing in and structuring my business. He’s helped break business terminology and jargon down for me in a way that I can understand and that is relatable. Doing so has expanded my knowledge of how a business truly runs and operates. Now that I have a better understanding of this, I feel more confident in stepping out, moving forward and growing my business. I always look forward to our calls because they’re filled with little gems and I’m excited to continue our work together.
JENuine Nutrition + Fitness
Jennifer is a Certified Holistic Health and Wellness Professional, Fitness Specialist, CPT with a focus on Corporate Wellness and helping busy working professionals in the areas of health and nutrition. She leads wellness workshops and nutritional cooking demos and offers customized, individual health and wellness programs. Her expertise in corporate health greatly benefit both men and women working long stressful hours, regain control over their day to day lives so that they can live a more balanced, healthy life which in turns allows them to generate more income. For more information or to sign up for a free consultation, contact her on Facebook.