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The Transition Stage: Where the Magic—a.k.a. Preparation—Happens

by: Melinda Cohan

This article is the third in our The Success Path series. In the first article, we explained that The Success Path is a five-stage path coach-preneurs journey, as they go from coach, to startup business owner, to CEO.  To navigate the journey successfully, it’s important to complete each stage before moving on to the next. In the exercise at the end of the first article, we helped you identify where you are now on The Success Path, and what you need to do to continue on this journey to whichever stage you consider your final destination. In the second article, we went into depth about The Declaration Stage: what it is, what you may face when you’re in it, and what you must do before moving on to The Transition Stage. We recommend reading the first and second articles here before reading the article below:

Article 1: The Start-Up Entrepreneur’s Success Path: The Critical Process of Mapping Your Route to Success

Article 2: The Declaration Stage: Commit to Creating the Success You Dream About


 

 

If you were going to build a house, how would you start? Would you declare, “I’m ready!” and then run out to the unimproved lot and start nailing boards together? If so, you’d probably have a pretty ramshackle shelter, right?

The truth is, if you were going to build a house, you would first create a plan. Then you’d lay a foundation, right? A foundation gives your house a solid base on which to stand, so that it will be sturdy and safe!

When it comes to The Success Path we outlined in the first article in this series, that’s what the second stage, the Transition Stage, is all about: building a foundation for your business. It’s about getting prepared.

Your focus during the Transition Stage is to create the components to identify, find, attract, and engage prospects, and implement the funnels, strategies, and best practices to grow your list. Why? Because your list is the foundation for your coaching business.

Many coach-preneurs in the Transition Stage pursue their business—specifically—try to go out and get clients—without knowing, in advance, all the pieces and best practices they need, which results those pieces and best practices drive, and why they’re important.

With the right systems and processes in place, you can lay the foundation—incorporating the various pieces and best practices—for a successful business that is profitable and allows you to make that impact you dream of.

What you may be experiencing if you’re in the Transition Stage:

As startup coaches traverse the Transition Stage, they may begin to gain confidence. Although you know you have a lot to learn, you’ve put in place the pieces necessary to transition from full-time J-O-B to full-time coach-preneur. (Woohoo!)

You’ve got some cash reserves set aside, you know WHY you’re doing this whole coaching thing, and you’re READY to hit the ground running!

If there’s one word to describe you, it’s “enthusiastic,” and that’s great! (But, proceed with caution! More on this in a moment.)

To illustrate the feelings you may be experiencing, I’d like to share a few snippets from conversations I recently had with startup coaches who are in the Transition Stage.

“I don’t know how to reach people or start building a list from the start!”

“I don’t know how to reach people that I don’t already know.

“It seems like I’ve been spending a lot of time doing things for my business every day. I mean, I’ve been busy ALL day. But I dread each week that I still have a lack of prospects, and I don’t have any momentum in this area, so I just keep myself busy hoping something will make a difference and somehow, someone will want to hire me.”

What you should know:

 

There’s a difference between being ready and being prepared.

Preparation brings order to the otherwise chaotic, overwhelming task of building a business. This means you take time, up front, to know what needs to happen, when!

If you don’t, everything feels urgent. You spend a lot of time just keeping busy, hoping something will pan out, and you feel pressured and fearful—and your investments in terms of time, energy, money, and resources may not pay off in terms of the business-building results you want to see.

The very first thing you must do during the Transition Stage is to find and engage prospects so that when you are ready, you can effectively convert them into paying clients. How do you do that?

List building. Your email list is your goldmine: your Number One Business Asset. Hands down, it’s THE Number One Most Important System when it comes to laying that foundation we talked about.

But we’re not talking just any email list. You see, your list is only effective to the degree that its members are:

Made up of your ideal type of client.

Excited and ready to receive the wisdom you have to share.

Organized.

Responsive.

If your list is sloppy, created for the sake of having names in a database or a bigger number about which to boast, or if it’s scattered across multiple platforms, you’ll struggle to have enrollment conversations that lead to paying clients.

Now, we’re going to walk, step-by-step, through the four elements of effective list building, which will ensure you move through the Transition Stage efficiently.

Here we go!


 

How to move through the Transition Stage effectively:

Build a great list! Here are FOUR elements of a great list that converts.

Element One of a Great List That Converts: It’s Made up of Your Ideal Clients.

We mentioned above that the Transition Stage is all about growing your list. To be specific, though, we want you to keep in mind that you must focus on the QUALITY of the list you’re growing. That old adage—quality over quantity—is certainly true, here.

Let’s play a game!

I have built out two mailing lists, and you get to choose one of them to start sending communications to.

List A: The list size is 5,000 contacts, made up of a collection of people who may or may not be similar to the type of ideal client you’d like to work with. It’s in the general ballpark, anyway. These people may not be spot on, but there are 5,000 contacts! When you send out an email offering a free resource, 120 of them might open the email and click through to check it out. And about 60 unsubscribe on each send.

List B: This list has 1,800 contacts. It’s a solid list made up of the exact type of person you’d love to work with. When you send out an email offering a free resource (the same one as above,), 420 of them open the email and click through to check out the resource you’re sharing. And because this list is made up of exactly the type of client you want to work with, facing the exact challenges you can help transform into results through your coaching, only six unsubscribe.

You’d choose List B, right? (Right?!)

Yes, your ego may want the bigger list. It sounds so impressive to say you’ve got 5,000 people on your list! But, what’s more important at the end of the day? Size, or results?

Results!

(If you’re thinking size, you may want to do some self-coaching around your need for your ego to take charge of your business – and I say this with LOVE.)

Transition Stage Pitfall: Letting your ego get the best of you. In an effort to alleviate the fear they’re experiencing during the early stages of their business, many startups allow their ego to get the best of them. They want to make themselves look better by boasting that they have a larger list. But if that list is doing more harm in the long run, who does that really serve?

Bottom Line: When you focus on quality, when you put your time and attention into adding ideal clients to your list, and you’re fierce in protecting the types of people who are on your list, you end up creating a strong list that grows quickly. The people you add to your list want what you have. They tell their friends, and you grow your list faster, with less effort.

You CAN have it all: quality and quantity!

 

Element Two of a Great List That Converts: Its Members Are Excited to Receive What You’re Sharing.

This is where preparation is absolutely critical. You want your list to be filled with your ideal clients, right? Well, how do you make that happen?

You offer them lead generation tools that are aligned with addressing the exact challenges they’re facing, and the transformation you help them experience when it comes to those challenges.

Lead generation tools are free gifts that you give people in exchange for their email addresses. They may take the form of downloads, checklists, free reports, or blueprints. They’re also a great opportunity for the people you DO know—your existing contacts—to refer their friends to you, to give people you DON’T know a taste of the transformation you provide.

Here are five components of an effective lead generation tool – the tool:

1. Clarifies the steps necessary for the ideal client to get out of the challenges he or she has felt stuck in.
2. Conveys an understanding of why those steps are critical.
3. Provides the promise of a different possible future … and how creating those results in their life will positively impact their world.
4. Paints the picture of what it would look like NOT to pursue a path of change (and how this will negatively impact their world).
5. Gives social proof that what you’re sharing actually creates the transformation, or the end results your ideal client desires.

Transition Stage Pitfall: Telling them the HOW. Your lead generation tool should never include the HOW. Explain the WHAT and the WHY. If they want to know HOW to actually go about making the changes, well, they have to hire you to get that information. 😉

Bottom Line: The more clarity that’s present in your lead generation tool, and the more effectively it conveys the information to your contacts, the more ready they’ll be to receive and engage in what you share with them! And, as a sweet bonus, their life will be better for having read it, even if they never hire you!

 

Element Three of a Great List That Converts: Your List Is Organized.

This almost goes without saying … almost. It is SO important that you have your list of contacts organized in one place. You’d be surprised how many people overlook this simple, but major element of list building.

For example, one of my private clients had her contacts scattered across seven different platforms (her smartphone, an old email account, a spreadsheet, Facebook, and a couple others).

This type of disorganization in the back end makes it extremely difficult to communicate with your people … and consider how much time it takes to repeat a single message seven times and send it out seven times in seven platforms!

There are two general ways to organize your contact list when you’re first starting out (and keep in mind that as your list grows and your business evolves, you’ll likely add a deeper level of organization to this segmenting):

1. By status type:
Prospects: your ideal clients, or those who may know your ideal clients.
Hot leads: people who have booked a sample session, are very curious and interested in what you’re doing and how it can help them transform, but haven’t made the commitment yet.
Active clients: paying or pro-bono clients who are actively working with you in some capacity.
Inactive clients: former clients who are no longer working with you.
Buyers: people who have purchased other programs from you, beyond your one-on-one coaching packages.

2. By segment.
• Demographic
• Marketing/networking events
• Referral source
• Niche

The more organized your list is, the better you can communicate the right information to the right people to get the best conversion possible.

Transition Stage Pitfall: Diving into emailing your contacts without first putting the systems in place to organize them and streamline your communication process. Again, this is where preparation is key! The time you take to put all your contacts into one program, and to segment them appropriately will pay off in huge time, money, and energy savings almost immediately.

Bottom Line: Get organized! You’ll be glad you did. Not only will you be able to reach the right people at the right time, but you’ll continuously improve the quality of your list as you tell people only about the things in which they’d be interested.

 

Element Four of a Great List That Converts: Its Members Are Responsive.

A responsive list is a healthy list!

But what does it mean to have a responsive list? It means that when you send out communications of any kind—resources, promotions, referrals, content, a video—you get the best response. People open your emails, click through to the pages you’re linking to, and take the call to action you provide.

Creating a responsive list is centered upon your ability to send them quality, varied information, consistently. That means sending emails that:

1. Are different from one another, and arrive regularly.
2. Share great content.
3. Share great resources (created by you or someone else).
4. Introduce them to another helpful resource—one that helps them overcome challenges that impact their success in the areas where they’re working with you.
5. Provide fun, inspiring, or challenging personal stories so people get to know you outside of business.

Transition Stage Pitfall: Many startup coach-preneurs don’t want to seem “pushy” or “too salesy,” so they shy away from creating regular follow up. They fear being overbearing, so they go to the other extreme, and it’s radio silence, instead.

Bottom Line: While we recommend mixing up the type of content you share with your list (to keep them intrigued and engaged), we also want to remind you that consistency is queen! Send regular communication to nurture your list and build your relationship with its members.


 

Exercise.

As you now know, the Transition Stage is all about preparation.
So here are four steps to getting PREPARED!

1. Go to the various places in which you have your contacts scattered (consider them all: Gmail, Yahoo, Excel, Outlook, your smartphone, Facebook, LinkedIn, that pile of business cards on your desk). Put those contacts all into one central place. For Coaches Console members, this is as easy as importing the contacts from various platforms into one organized, segmented list in your Console System.
2. Group your newly organized contacts/prospects by status type.
3. Group your newly organized contacts/prospects into segments, as outlined above.
4. Send a “Dear Jane” letter, telling all your contacts what you’re up to, the ideal type of client you’re looking to support, and the transformation your services provide. Then, ask them to opt in to your free gift or sign up for your newsletter, if they’re looking for what you have to offer!

Transition Stage Mantra.

Benjamin Franklin said it best: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Confucius said it pretty well, too: “Success depends upon previous preparation.”

Choose one of these and live by it!

In the Transition Stage, the more you can focus on growing a quality list—one that is organized, engaged, and responsive—the deeper you’ll build the know-like-trust factor. When people know you, like you, and trust you, they’ll book a sample session! Then they’ll hire you, re-hire you, and refer you to their friends, colleagues, and family members.

So many startups rush straight to trying to get clients, without taking a bit of time to build a quality list and build the relationships necessary for that sense of trust. After all, that’s what great coaching is – nurturing and supporting and being of service to those we love … and that especially includes the members of your list.

Being in business is a long-term game, and when it comes to coaching, it’s all about taking time to intentionally create a solid, kick-ass mailing list that will bring you results now and in the future.

Complete the exercises in this post, and then move on to the next stage, The Attraction Stage. (This is where you finally get to go out and attract the clients who need your life changing work! It’s going to be epic!)

Watch your inbox for the next article in this series, which gives you everything you need to know about navigating The Attraction Stage.

 

Posted in: StartUp Coach

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3 Steps to Building a Responsive, Engaged List – Authentically

So, you want to build your mailing list. And not just build it, but also take steps to make its members engaged and responsive. You know authenticity, readership, and engagement are crucial to growing your business.

But.

You’re just starting out, and you don’t have any contacts! Even if you did, you aren’t sure if it’s okay to start contacting them. And even if it was okay, you don’t know what to say to them.

Hold it right there.

Help is here!

The contact list you create in your business is a gold mine. You should treat it as such: mindfully create it, cultivate it, nurture it, and protect it. Fortunately, I’m going to show you how.

First of all, chances are you have more contacts than you realize. And there is a way to have them “opt-in,” officially, so you can start sending them emails. And … you guessed it: I’m going to give you a template for what to say when you reach out!

Ready? Let’s do this.

First and foremost, you have more contacts than you realize. They’re just scattered across the many facets of your life and the many platforms on which you’ve collected them. From your high school and college classmates to your colleagues from previous jobs, to all the friends you’ve made along the way, it’s likely that your contact list is already pretty decent.

As technology has evolved in the past couple of decades, you’ve probably stored your contacts in different places: that old Rolodex, Outlook, your personal email account, your smartphone, your address book … you get the picture.

 

Collect Your Contacts and Organize Them into a Central Platform.

This is the groundwork. Go through Outlook, your smart phone, Facebook, LinkedIn, your business cards, old email accounts, maybe even old spreadsheets. Enter ALL your contacts into one central list.

Once you see this new, central list, you may be surprised that you have several hundred contacts!

The problem: they’re not official business contacts. They may be family, friends, colleagues, co-workers, or people you’ve encountered at various events.

A quick note here: even though you may be thinking these people don’t necessarily seem like your ideal clients, don’t be too quick to cull them out! Your existing contacts may not be your ideal clients, but they could provide a stepping-stone to people who are.

Ok, so you have your list of contacts. But none of them have officially opted in (signed up) to receive emails from you about the services you offer through your business.

So, let’s talk about the next step.

 

Ask for Permission to Send Them Emails.

Once you’ve got your contacts organized into one big email list, it’s time to let them know about your transition into starting your coaching business.

I call this notification the “Dear Jane” letter.

It’s a quick and easy way to get in touch with your existing contacts and give them the opportunity to opt in to your business mailing list.

It serves a secondary purpose, too, as a networking tool: your contacts can refer their own contacts to you, now that they know what you’re up to.

The “Dear Jane” letter includes seven components:

  1. The positioning and personalization statement. This is where you connect with those you know in a simple and personal manner.
  2. Your announcement. Let readers know you’re launching your coaching business, and tell them about your specialty.
  3. Your 5-Part Connection Conversation to create engaging dialog and response.
  4. An invitation to opt in and receive your lead generation magnet (also known as your free gift).
  5. The Ask. Ask directly if they are interested in what you’re up to or if they know someone who is. Ask for the referral.
  6. An invite to “Coffee.” Bring it back to a causal connection and show interest in what THEY are up to.
  7. The opportunity to unsubscribe. Including this option in every email ensures you meet spam regulations.

This “Dear Jane” letter will help you cultivate a specific contact list for your business, full of people who are interested in hearing what you have to say.

 

Take the “Quality over Quantity” Approach.

List building is not about getting a name on your contact list for the sake of having a greater number of “subscribers” and the bragging rights that come with that.

(The “Quantity over Quality” approach will get you high unsubscribe rates, frustrated people, and a list that isn’t responsive when you promote your services, events, or programs.)

When you cultivate a list of interested people, you’re then able to communicate the right message to them, quickly, prompting action.

When you share messages, tips, and resources, the members of your list will be more likely to take the next step toward reaching their desired results.

YOUR result: a mailing list that is engaged and responsive … and a business that continues to grow.

 

Posted in: Networking

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I Went to a Networking Event. Now What?

You’ve heard that networking is a great way to build your business.

“Just get yourself out there.”

“Go out and meet people.”

“You never know who your friends know.”

That’s what they all say, right?

So. You just went to a networking event. You had some great conversations. You met some really nice people. And you collected a ton of business cards.

And now you’re home, and you’re thinking … “Now what?!”

Should you follow up? Does the fact that someone gave you a card imply that it’s okay for you to contact them? Can you add them to your email list? And what do you even say when you DO follow up?

All these questions may leave you paralyzed with indecision. So you wait, which creates a time gap, and then you’re embarrassed because you don’t know what to say or how to follow up

Which leads to wasted opportunities.

It’s all so overwhelming!

Okay, stop right there.

There’s no need to panic.

I’m going to walk you through how to know whether you can email or call someone whose business card you got at an event, and how to follow up in a way that’s effective, authentic, and fun.

Okay, let’s dive in!


 

Do you know where all good follow-up starts?

BEFORE the meeting.

The very first step to successful networking follow-up is to get prepared in advance.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to networking is to fail to think about follow-up before the meeting. When this happens, you’re in reactionary mode. You’re behind the 8-ball.

The solution: shift your mindset. Go from reactive to proactive.

With decisions made ahead of time, you can network and follow up with confidence.

Before you even begin thinking about follow-up messages, you may wonder whether you’re even supposed to follow up with the people you’ve met (or the people whose business cards you’ve collected) at an event.

How to Know if You Have Permission to Contact Someone

Wow! That stack of business cards you picked up at the networking event is huge! But are all of these prospects actually prospects? Is it okay to reach out to them?

My answer: it depends how you got the business cards.

If you just went around and picked them up off a table, then, no, it’s not okay to reach out to them. The point is not to collect cards, just for the sake of collecting cards.

But, if you had a conversation with people, and they said they’d like to learn more about what you do, then yes! Reach out to them.

It’s okay to do so for two reasons:

  1. They asked to learn more.
  2. Every email message you send will include an “unsubscribe” link, which will allow people to unsubscribe or to adjust the settings of their subscription – so they choose which types of messages to receive. (By including an “unsubscribe” link, you’re also adhering to spam regulations. This means you can follow up with confidence.)

The best way to reach out to them is with a pre-written, automated email series. Even better, when you’re prepared and proactive, you can actually let people know, while you’re talking with them at a networking event, that they’re going to receive your free gift in your follow-up series, and what else to expect.

Follow-Up Email Messages

Before you even attend a networking event, create a series of follow-up emails you can send out to the people whose business cards you collect.

Keep in mind that the purpose of this follow-up is clarity (not necessarily to get a client). You want the reader to self-identify as one of your potential clients, and refer people they know who may be potential clients. It’s a great way to get people in touch with you.

The First Message

Obviously, since you’re creating this message ahead of time, it will be generalized, and it will include:

  • A “Nice to meet you” statement, for the people with whom you talked or interacted.
  • Information about the transformation you provide through your services.
  • An invitation to get your free gift. I recommend adding people to your prospect list and giving them access to the gift, without requiring them to do anything else. This will give prospects a better idea of how you serve the people with whom you work, and the transformation they experience.
  • A Call to Action, asking people to download the gift (yes, it’s best to actually spell it out – people are more likely to download your gift if you say, “Download my gift.”) Or, you can ask the reader to forward the link to the free gift on to a friend or family member who may be a good fit if he or she isn’t.
  • A Secondary Call to Action in the PS. This Call to Action will provide a link to a scheduler where people can book a sample session with you. It may say something like, “If you’re ready to overcome your challenges and experience results, book a sample session to get started today.” Of course, it’s best to be specific about which challenges they’ll overcome, and which results they’ll achieve.

The Second Message

In this message, share the top questions people have about working with you: specifically, about the transformation they experience, and how you answer those questions.

This may read like an FAQ question. The point of sharing questions and answers is to overcome common objections someone might have to hiring you (or any coach!).

Here’s an example:

Q: I’m so busy! I don’t have time for coaching. How can I justify this time investment?

A: During our work together, I’ll show you how to choose your priorities and get more of the important items done in less time, while providing accountability you may not otherwise hold yourself to.  So while you may feel short on time later, you’ll soon find that as a result of the focus and accountability, you have more free time and an increased sense of calm.

As with your first message, this one should include a Call to Action. Let readers know that if they’re ready to overcome challenges and achieve results, they can click on the link to your schedule and set up a complimentary session with you. Or, alternately, to send the link to someone who may be a good fit.

The Third Message

A few days after you send the previous message, send a third in which you share the success story of one of your clients.

I recommend this message focus on a case study or testimonial that shows your client’s before and after.

This provides social proof—evidence that you’ve walked your talk and that what you’re promising is real.

As with your first two messages, this one should include a Call to Action. Ask readers to click on the link to your schedule and set up a complimentary session with you if they’re ready to overcome challenges and achieve results. Or, alternately, to send the link to someone who may be a good fit.

Bringing It All Together

So many coaches love the social aspect of networking, but find the conversations and follow-up intimidating.

The good news is that knowing how you’re going to follow up and what you’re going to say in advance brings clarity on what to talk about and how to guide the in-person conversation at the actual networking event. And when you know the sequence of your follow-up messages, you can minimize the time gap between the networking event and their receipt of your first message, which keeps them interested and engaged.

One quick note, here: be sure to enter new names and contact information into your database within 24 hours upon receiving them. If you can’t find the time to do this, it’s a great project to outsource to a VA.

Being prepared and proactive can change the way you feel about—and approach—networking so it’s effective!


 

So remember:

  • Be proactive rather than reactive. Create your follow-up messages ahead of time.
  • During networking meetings, let prospects know what to expect. Give them a hint about what they’ll get from your autoresponder series (like your free gift!).
  • Enter new contact information within 24 hours of receiving it.
  • Assign and send your autoresponder series with a Call to Action on every message.

When you follow these steps, you’ll find networking is effective, because you’ll be growing your community, whether these new contacts sign up for strategy sessions, refer their friends to you, or just remain a part of your list. And guess what? You’ll find this process fun—and way less intimidating!

Posted in: Networking

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