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CRM Guru, Family Filmmaker, and Host of the Business-First Creatives podcast. I help creative service providers grow and streamline their businesses using Dubsado.
Clarity through storytelling is powerful when it comes to cultivating your brand. In today’s episode, Annie Franceschi joins us to share why your story matters for your business, how you can sell better when you’re connected to and trusted by your audience, and why branding is important in streamlining your business.
The Business-First Creatives Podcast is brought to you by CRM and Dubsado expert Colie James. Join Colie each week as she discusses how to build a business that brings you joy and a paycheck! From business advice with fellow entrepreneurs to sharing automation tips and tricks, Colie and her guests are sharing industry trends and resources, along with a little bit of sarcasm.
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Annie Franceschi is a former Disney storyteller, bestselling author, six-figure founder, and branding expert who’s been quoted by Forbes, Nasdaq, and BlogHer. In 2013, she quit a dream job telling stories at The Walt Disney Studios to start her own agency, Greatest Story Creative®. Over the last 10 years, Annie has advised hundreds of entrepreneurs, spoken for thousands, and released two bestselling books including the service business roadmap, “Establish Yourself”, and the self-help guide, “Permission to Try”. Today, through branding, coaching, and her Establish Yourself® Framework, Annie helps coaches and consultants confidently grow their greatest businesses without stressing social media. Annie is proud to be a Duke University graduate, a lifelong Muppets fan, and a serial rewatcher of The Golden Girls. She lives in Durham, NC with her husband, Gus, and their favorite person – their son, Leo.
Today’s episode is brought to you by my Love Your Leads private audio training! Are you providing an experience for your leads that sets an expectation on when they’ll hear from you, provides them with tools that will help them easily say yes and book you, while also making them feel seen and heard? In my private audio training, you’ll learn how to love your leads and get more booked clients through an automated booking process.
Here are the highlights…
[1:14] Meet Annie
[2:07] Why Branding is Important
[4:41] Finding Clarity in Your Brand
[6:45] The Importance of Meeting People Where They Are
[9:29] Your Best Referral Bio
[11:27] Why Your Story Matters
[16:33] Relationship Driven Businesses
[19:06] Confused People Don’t Book & Creativity Isn’t Clever
[19:58] Establish Yourself, Brand, Streamline, and Grow
[16:09] Tracking Your Time
[29:03] PIC Your Ideal Client
[31:45] Value Ladder
[35:40] The Power of a Quick Win
[37:49] Biggest Fuck Up
Mentioned in this Episode:
“Establish Yourself” book: greateststorycreative.com/book
“Permission to Try” book: permissiontotry.com
Kai Davis – https://themagicemail.com/
Connect with Annie
Review the Transcript:
Colie: Hello, hello, and welcome back to The Business First Creatives Podcast. Guys, today’s treat is I am bringing another Disney lover to you, Annie. Good morning and welcome to my podcast. How are you today?
Annie: I’m so good. How are you?
Colie: I am fantastic. Guys, just so that, you know, we were like midstream in a sentence and I basically told Annie to shut up and save it for the podcast, and then I hit record.
And so, I mean, I like to be honest around here. So, Annie, tell my listening audience, besides you being a Disney lover, what you do, who you serve, and where you’re located. And then we’re gonna talk about all the goodies.
Annie: Yeah, absolutely. So I’m a branding strategist and my business is called Greatest Story Creative. I help coaches, consultants, and service business owners brand streamline and grow your greatest business, not the business everybody’s telling you you have to have. And as a former Disney storyteller, that’s where I have a lot of fun of bringing some Annie Magic and just more fun into telling your story.
And if you hate self-promotion or social media, you’ve come to the right place. Cause we’re gonna talk about ways to brand and grow your business on your terms without. All the things they tell you, you have to have.
Colie: I mean, and I know what branding is, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like too many times when we talk about branding, people are talking about branding your website. Or getting branding photos, and they’re not really talking about the whole package of branding. So when someone asks you, you know, well, what is branding and why do I need it?
What’s your response, Annie?
Annie: Yeah, I think that there’s this sort of, myth out there that you create your brand and the reality is it’s kind of like your reputation, like. You don’t get to create it, it already exists. So, so really the question is, is are you doing anything to positively impact it? Because, because your brand is how people think and feel about your business.
You know, we take a company that we both love like Disney, like Disney does not literally control what we think about it. Right. We, how we think and feel about Disney’s brand is not up to Disney. It’s up to you and it’s up to me. And you know, we’re a hook line and sinker and someone else listening to this call is like, oh gosh, they’re not, you know?
Right. But Disney does a lot to positively impact how we feel about their brand. And that’s what I say is really important about branding is to take an active role in. How you want people to think and feel about your business. And you can do that through things you just mentioned, like your brand photos, your logo, your website.
But you can also do it in, you know, what a great client experience you deliver. Like I know that’s your zone of genius. And something I really believe in too is a shared value is, you know, how are you showing up, treating your clients well, treating the people you meet well, Really living your brand and knowing what that is and, and what you want it to be.
So, so I think the best analog that doesn’t come off up often enough is reputation. So you care a lot about managing your reputation. You know, you’re not gonna invent your reputation. It already exists. So, you know, applying that to your business in that business world, what are you doing to positively impact your brand?
Colie: It was funny. I had, I mean, I know what my branding is. I work very hard on my branding. I, I do. But something that someone mentioned to me the other day was they said, oh my gosh, you and your branding are so fun. You must make systems fun too. And I, I mean, I can’t even remember who it is at this moment. If you’re the listening audience, please remind me who you are and I will buy you a coffee.
I was like, that is probably the most impactful thing that I have heard someone say about me and my business in a really long time. I have never thought about the fact that I am always talking about having fun at Disney. I’m always talking about, you know, how much I love systems and my branding makes people think that systems are fun.
And that’s not just like my color scheme. That’s, that’s how I talk about it. That’s how much I love it. But like, I think that’s really stuck in my mind recently. Like, you know, branding really does impact how someone feels about the service that you provide, and it just, I don’t know, I felt like it opened a new window into how I talk about myself and the services that I offer.
Annie: Yeah, it’s really enlightening and I think, often when people feel confused about their brand, I think one of the biggest things I try to do is bring people clarity. You know, it’s like you’ve got all this spaghetti on the table and we take it all together, we put it back together. Your clients will tell you what your brand is. And I think you just gave a beautiful example of that. And so often people get stuck on this clarity piece and it’s like, One of the best things that I’ve learned to do in my business that I teach in my book that I teach other clients is to interview your clients.
Ask them why they work with you. Why is now the right time? What, why was it urgent? What was their urgent problem? Because that’s how I also, funny enough, have heard that I am fun and that my brand is fun. Like I never thought that. I also thought. Oh, my unique angle is storytelling. I’m a Disney storyteller, and through working with so many people and interviewing them, Hey, what did you get out of it?
I learned it’s not that for them, it’s not that. It’s clarity, it’s direction, it’s strategy, and hearing it from their lips has really changed how I show up in my brand and what I lean into and what I don’t. Because they’re telling the story back to me. They’re like, I often use this analogy of like, you gotta play your hit song to get your fans to sing your message back to you.
And so the more consistent you are, the more you’re out there playing that hit song. You’re gonna get those raving fans and they’re gonna tell you how great you are, what’s great, what songs they like, and what they don’t, and all the good stuff in between.
Colie: I mean, that’s really interesting, Annie. So when you are talking about that they are basically mirroring back to you that what they got from you was a lot of clarity and a lot of strategy, but is that what they’re looking for when they come to you? Because I often find, and I tell a lot of my people, it’s like, no, you have to, sometimes you have to tell them what they want in order to give them what they need.
And so when you’re saying that, you know, they got clarity, they got strategy from you. I’m thinking people didn’t hire you thinking that that was what they were gonna get. So how is like the messaging that you’re putting out in terms of the pain point that they think they have, and then your solution, which ends up being all of this great clarity and all this great strategy.
Annie: Yeah, I’m glad that you brought that up. And I think this comes up a lot. So what I talk to people about and what I’m always encouraging you to do is to build a bridge. You gotta meet people where they are, not where you’re going to take them. You know, I was very guilty of this early on in my business and I had a business mindset coach, go, you know, you are spending all this time describing the plane and I want you to talk about the beach in Bermuda.
Like, what are you doing? Stop telling me about the plane and the plane snacks and the this and that. And so that really stuck with me and it’s a lot of what I try to teach. So, funny enough with me, it is, a lot of people come to me because they want clarity. They’re unclear, they wanna untangle spaghetti.
They might not know that strategy is the right thing that they need or what I, I let people borrow me as a business partner for the day, which I call a magic strategy day. They are not searching for a magic strategy day. They’re not searching for that, but they are stuck. So that, you know, using their words inter, you know, paying attention to what your clients say in those inquiry forms, in those first conversations.
A lot of clients come to me because they’re like, I don’t know, I don’t like my website. I don’t know how to tell my story on social media. The biggest number one question I think you should always know the question that is on your IDO client’s minds is, I know what I do, but I have trouble communicating it. So when people have that, like I have the right solutions for them, but they’re problem aware, right? They’re not solution aware. And I think that that’s the thing where we gotta be thinking about bridge building, of saying, if you feel like this, this is what you need to be doing. And I think often in our marketing messaging, everyone’s jumping to the end of the story and they’re not telling the preamble, they’re not inviting people in meeting them where they are at the beginning of the hero’s journey, not at the end where you’re gonna take them on this amazing transformation.
Colie: I mean, I think this is the perfect place to talk about your freebie. I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know if you teed it up in that way, but guys, so Annie’s got this amazing elevator pitch, and if you are struggling to communicate your value, what you do, all of those good things, she helps you do it in a way.
To where I think the big thing on the market right now is networking. I mean, automated marketing might be on its way out, but actually networking, getting to know people is great. But then after you meet this person, there’s always the, okay, well what do I do next? And so Annie’s got this really great freebie where it’s gonna help you craft an email that you can actually send them.
And guys, I know it’s amazing because I was on the other end. Of getting Annie’s after a coffee chat that we had. I read the email and I was like, uh, holy shit. I need to go write one of these by myself. So the link to this freebie is gonna be in the show notes if you are interested and you can’t figure out what to do next after you have an amazing connection with someone that you wanna network with more.
Annie: Yeah, check it out. It’s called Your Best Referral Bio, and it’s sort of, if you need a new elevator pitch, great. If you would love to be armed the next time you have a one-to-one or you meet someone in person and you want 30 seconds or less to be able to. Send them a quick rundown of what you do with introduction language.
I call this, uh, my $12,000 email. I sent it to somebody who does exactly what I do. We, she had never sent me a referral before. I had a meeting with her just to catch up. I sent this to her after the call. Two weeks later, she emailed me the perfect client that she had sent like the intro language to, and it was incredible like that.
Only difference was that email. So it is my magic email and I am passing it to you guys.
Colie: I mean, and now that she said magic email guys, for those of you who have heard me talk about the magic email in the client experience emails, this is not that
Annie: do have your
Colie: off Yeah. And get closure. Well, and it’s actually not my magic email, Annie, somebody else wrote it. And I keep forgetting to like give them proper credit.
Again, guys, I can’t remember the name, it’ll be in the show notes, but it’s this email that you know, after you’ve gone through your pitch to someone and you’ve done the follow up, this is the email that gets you the closure. It’s like, okay, maybe you went a different direction. No need to reply. Your inquiry will close today just so that you can get someone to give you a, no, I’m not willing to work with you.
Or I found someone else, or I’m still thinking. I mean, I love closure. And so just to make sure that it’s clear, guys. This magic email is not that magic email. Okay, so let’s continue to talk about strategy. So someone comes to you and they don’t know what, what, actually, let’s back up Annie. Why is your brand story important? Because I know I was guilty of this in the beginning of my career. I. I was like, why do people need to know why I opened my photography business?
Like, why is that relevant to the amazing photographs that I’m gonna give them? So can you put it into perspective as to why our story matters beyond, the service that we’re providing?
Annie: Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s a really fair question, and I would say that. You know, when’s the last time you spent, you invested more than a thousand dollars with someone you didn’t know, like, and trust.
Annie: Who do you trust to help you to change your life, to have an impact on your life, your friends, the people you have relationships with.
And I, I, you know, I would you be hard pressed to find a friend that you don’t know a little bit about who they are. Versus what they are or what they do. And I think online marketers have done a really good job in the past, many, many years selling us on, we had to have the webinars and the funnels and the followers.
But what they’re not, I think disclosing to all of us is all they’re teaching you how to do is scale, relationships. Everything is relationship building. And so a lot of what I teach in, in my book, establish Yourself and in my practice is, You don’t have to grow using TikTok, using email marketing. You know all these fancy tools if you’re willing to do the legwork to scale relationships on your own.
If you’re willing to follow up with your past clients, as I know you’ve covered in a past episode, you know, go out to networking events. Clearly share what you do, and I think that that’s, you don’t build relationships without people getting to know you as a person. And that’s where I think the brand story comes in, truthfully, like, you know, I’m big on clarity.
That clarity has to come before creativity because the clarity is what gives you the context of whether somebody’s offer or, or business makes any sense for you. But I think it’s the story that makes them invest that really builds that trust level. Like you can’t have only clarity. Clarity without a story doesn’t connect a story with no clarity around it doesn’t resonate, doesn’t connect either. So they sort, they sort of see them as Batman and Robin.
Colie: I’m gonna ask you a follow up question, but before I get there, you just said something really interesting. So you said, have you ever paid someone a thousand dollars when you didn’t really get to know them? But does that mean that your brand story is more important the more you charge for your service?
Annie: I think so.
Okay. I’m, I’ve, that was what I got.
Annie: yeah. Well, I just think, you know, I think that that’s true. Think of you as yourself as a consumer and who you hire. You are, you scrutinize. The more money you spend, the more trust I think needs to be there. Right. You know, that’s why so many people offer free things because it’s, it removes any sort of concern in most cases.
There. There’s lots be said about free, but you know, in general, I’ve offered free things. You offer free things. We just talked about a free thing I offer, right? That is the no risk way into working with me. A next step is a book, right? Like there’s that way up the ladder to do that, but, People are not gonna spend a thousand, 5,000, $10,000 working with me unless they’ve talked to me, unless they get a good vibe from me.
Unless they have some sort of connection. And I think telling your brand story, you know, showing up and being, you know, it’s not just, Hey, I do branding. It’s like I do branding cuz I learned how to do it at Disney and I’m from a lifelong, you know, series of entrepreneurs and I’ve written two books on this subject.
I show up as the expert, but. The expertise has to come out through your story, through how you talk about what you do with confidence. And I call this, it’s like kind of the first step of a three step framework. Embrace your story. Are you showing up to your conversations? You know, as Brene Brown says, you know, you’ve gotta own your story.
I say, you’ve gotta embrace it. You’ve gotta like wholeheartedly put your arms around and go, I may not have the perfect path to what I’m doing, but I’m gonna show up to this conversation. Networking, sales or otherwise. Confident that I have something of value to offer from my story.
Colie: So the confidence, I feel like I have been talking to people about confidence on every single episode on this podcast because the confidence does come from. Knowing what you offer has value, but it, the confidence also exudes when you are telling your brand story. And so another thing that’s come to mind is, For photography, for example, cuz there’s a sea of photographers and we’re all basically offering the same like thing that you can hold in your hand if you print them, which is photographs.
But the way that each of us do the service and how we began offering the service is unique to all of us. So even if there’s another documentary family photographer up the street who offers the exact same end result, you know, a great documentary family session that everyone enjoys. What differentiates.
Let’s assume that the price, the amount of time I spend with them, the deliverables is all the same. But what is going to differentiate me from that other photographer is my brand story. It is how I come across on my social media, on my website, the type of bond that we possibly form when we have a conversation.
And so it is more than just the offer. It is how you are putting your brand story and then how that client connects. To it because I just feel like that’s another alignment check. I mean, if I put my brand story out and the person that I’m talking to doesn’t feel connected to it, well then it’s probably not a good fit for my services, right?
Annie: Well for the kind of service you provide, which is very relationship driven. And I think for those of us who are listening, I think almost all of our businesses are relationship driven. And so you don’t, like, I kind of go back to my original line of thought is, you know, in some degree these people, people who spend this kind of money with you, come become some form of friend with you. You know, if you’re lucky, I mean, I have dear friends, people who’ve basically like become like a godparent to my child who started out as clients for me, or started out as networking connections. And not everybody gets that experience. But, I think that that shows the potential of it. Right. And that, that’s why I think, I think photographers, let’s take them as an example.
Cause I know this is, an audience that listens to this a lot. And I would just say, I hear so often people are so frustrated and they think I have to stand out. What, how am I gonna stand out? Right. That’s always the question. And I al I always say that I think that that’s the wrong question. I think people really need to worry more about understanding than they do about standing out. And I, what I mean by that is the clarity that they’re so worried that they, they think originality is the only way to grow a business. That if they use some clever tagline or message on their website or, you know, uh, we probably hear this, you probably could go for days about people who are calling themselves like.
Fine portrait artist or something, but they actually do family photos and it’s really confusing for their ideal clients if they call themselves that. But they’re calling themselves that because they wanna stand out. Like that’s the difference. And that goes back to our conversation about building bridges, is you gotta start with language that your clients actually use.
It’s fine if you have your unique spin, you know how you’re showing up, how your process works, what you offer, and who you are, who they’re gonna be developing this bond or relationship with. That should all be part of it. But it doesn’t need to be dressed up. It doesn’t need to be the most original thing.
And I can tell you, having written hundred plus brand voice guides, there are only so many words in the English language. Right, so only so many words I’ve asked chat, g p t, these questions, you know, there are only so many words that mean X, Y, or Z or mean photography. It’s not, I don’t think originality is the marketing strategy.
We’ve all been sold. It is like, that’s one of the biggest myths I’m trying to undo in my practice and when I show up and teach is like, you feel like you, you are stuck in this behavior bottleneck because you think there’s some perfect message out there. There isn’t. You would be much better served to just slap on I’m a photographer and start showing up as who you are talking about your offer and just offering your services.
You know, showing up confidently, being in the right rooms, like talking about it, worrying less about relying on originality to do all your marketing for you, cuz it’s not gonna do that. And in some cases it’s gonna repel people who don’t get what you do cuz you confuse them with creativity.
Colie: simple is best.
Creativity is not always clever.
I mean, sometimes if you’re giving someone a phrase and they can’t figure out what you mean, they are just gonna move on.
If they are confused by what you’re putting out there, they’re looking for a family photographer and you are calling yourself something wildly different, they are gonna move on because they are not sure if what you are offering is what they are actually seeking.
Annie: The context has to come before the creativity. Absolutely. Every time.
Colie: Absolutely. So let’s talk about like finding your brand story.
So if people are listening to this podcast and they’re like, oh my gosh, I am so guilty of that. Maybe I need to excavate my brand story. What is the first thing that you tell people? Cuz you’ve already mentioned client interviews, but I feel like that’s not the first step. Or is it?
Annie: So I kind of break this down in my book. Establish Yourself brand, streamline, and Grow Your Greatest business. I’ve got it right here on my desk. and I think that the first step is actually to narrow down what you are greatest at. So this may be even more relevant for people beyond the photography scope, but even so this is, you know, it’s the age old niche down thing.
But I think it’s really taking the data that you already have, looking back and going. What is that thing that I am so good at that I’m profitable at? Like I can offer profitably for my time? My clients love it and I love doing it, and I’m uniquely prepared to do because of everything that’s happened in my story.
I think that that, to me, I always call this going from being the salad bar to being the chef. So it’s this, this idea of like, I don’t know if you’ve been to Los Angeles, I know you’ve been down to Disneyland, but there’s a amazing salad bar called Mrs. Winston’s in, right down in Santa Monica.
And I would go there for lunches when I worked in the film industry and they would have, you know, every single ingredient. And I would go grab everything I liked and I would weigh it, you know, pay whatever it was by the pound. And I realized that like, mandarin oranges don’t belong on Caesar salad. Like I never would make like a satisfying salad cuz I would just put everything I liked into a salad.
And that’s kind of how I think most of us start our businesses. I know I did. It was sort of this ingredient menu of hey, we can be all of these things for you. And that’s how you get, you can only charge by the pound. Right? But like when you shift to a mindset of I’m gonna be the chef. What is my signature dish?
You know, what’s my signature service? What’s the thing that I’m really great at that I can hit it outta the park every single time? Like be the chef, come up with the menu, that one to three dishes that people are gonna, you know, line up out the door, buy the glass of wine and the salad, and sit for a while and pay a premium for like, that’s really the difference I think, to.
Integrating your brand story into using that as leverage as opportunity to grow beyond your, what we, I would call a salad bar season where you’re offering everything to everybody. But showing, choosing to show up as the chef at a certain kind of restaurant for a certain kind of salad. You know, that’s just a totally different mindset, but I think that is where you need to start if you want to take your business to the next level.
Colie: I mean, the idea of niching down, it’s, it’s a difficult one because there are truly some people. Who enjoy doing all of the things, like they’re good at all the things they enjoy doing, all of the things. And so when I have that kind of conversation with them, they’re like, yeah, but you know, I don’t wanna niche down.
And even though I try to convince them of, you know, nicheing helps you speak to your ideal client in a, in a clearer way. Um, it helps you communicate what you do and bring value without someone trying to decipher it for themselves and figure out if. All of the things that you offer, what’s the one thing that they’re seeking?
But when you do all of that, What I like to tell people is when you’re telling your brand story, it doesn’t mean you have to get rid of everything. It doesn’t mean that you can never again do this kind of session. It means that what you are putting forth, like what you are making your signature dish is what will probably bring people in to you and your business and those other things have a place.
It just might not be front and center on your website. I mean, are we thinking the same thing or. Or
is it that people really do need to eliminate their menu? Because I was really surprised that you didn’t like bringing the Cheesecake Factory. I feel like everyone picks on the Cheesecake Factory
Annie: They do.
And because I have a coach who talks about that analogy, I don’t often use it. I think the, to me, the salad bar makes more sense. Because it is like, that’s why you end up, you know, charging by the pound basically is like, you’re like everybody else. Right. And so I also, I think I. It’s interesting because I think you and I both have heard a lot of pushback on the niche conversation.
And look, I was right there. I am a multi-passionate person. My business used to have four different angles to it, so it was greatest story for weddings, events every day, like job searching and your business. And it was this whole really awesome idea of like serving you throughout your life cycle. And like it took me doing it to realize that was running four.
Okay. Businesses instead of one great one. And so that was my story of nicheing down. And I think maybe the conversation should change a little bit around nicheing. Like what I’m really trying to say, and I think what you’ve been trying to say is you wanna be really mindful of your alignment to your business model.
So what I mean by that is what kind of marketing resources and time do you have relative to what you wanna offer? And what is your satisfaction level with your current business? So if you are highly satisfied and you’re good from a marketing resource and time perspective, offering lots of different sources of different people, don’t change a thing.
If you wanna grow and you wanna scale your business, maybe you wanna double your revenue or something like that. That’s gonna be a lot harder to do if you don’t narrow down what you’re offering. And nicheing is one way to do that, whether you niche the offers, niche the audience, or both.
And it’s really, I think about finding that alignment moment of where you feel like, I’m good on time, I’m good on satisfaction, I’m good on profitability here. Here’s where I’m gonna stay. Because like I could show up on this podcast and say, I do branding only for photographers. You know, like I don’t, it’s coaches, consultant, service, business owners.
I could say women in those fields, right? Like I could get more specific, but, or I could get broader, right? It’s just about finding where I’m happiest and giving some form of a flag. You know, picking a group that organizes themselves. Coaches and consultants have associations, right? So that makes it, you know, easier for us to find matches across the board.
But you can go farther down the pole. You can go higher up the pole, but it’s truly about. When people come to you and I, I know it can be frustrating from the coach or strategist perspective, someone coming to you saying like, well, I wanna grow, but I don’t wanna change anything. And you’re like, well, bad
Colie: me, I mean, or they bring me all of these things that they’ve been doing for their client experience. They’re like, well, no, I need to do this. And I’m like, yeah, but this, this doesn’t really make sense.
Annie: So a big thing that I think, you know, I, I’ll pass this back to you. I don’t know if you already tell your clients this, but one of the big things I I’ll tell people about that is you will change your mind if you track your time. So a lot of business owners I know don’t track their time, specifically the time that they spend on their marketing, like in outside their, like on their business versus working with clients.
Because when you track your time, you make different business decisions. And that was the biggest eye-opener for me of like how I wasn’t being very profitable and all these other offers for all these other audiences. Like I knew the wisdom and the itching down, but I was really reluctant to do it until I saw the data and was like, oh.
Yeah, this is not good. And is there a way for me to find that alignment? And so, so like you said, like there’s also a big difference I think between what you market and what you sell. So you can, you know, take clients who come at you from different angles that are not in your marketing, right? Say you work with women, but a great, you know, male client comes to you, right?
Like, fine, like you’re gonna still take them. It’s about where you only have so many market. So much marketing time and resources, you know, what are you gonna put that into? You wanna put that into your slam dunkers, your best fit clients that come across your email and you’re like, yes, I can help you. You don’t wanna pander to everybody.
That’s, but if some everybody comes your way and you wanna help ’em, fabulous, they don’t have to be the same thing. And I think people have really married those concepts to the point that they’ve kind of held themselves back.
Colie: Yes. I’ve actually been saying it on several recent podcasts because I, I started doing these system setups specifically for photographers, and then at one point I felt like maybe there weren’t gonna be enough photographers. As clients, which I know is ridiculous. Annie, don’t laugh at me. But, so I started talking to creative entrepreneurs in general, like photographers and creative entrepreneurs, and I did that for a while.
And then I had Rachel Greiman on this podcast, which I’m gonna link her episode in the show notes, and she basically yelled at me on the podcast and said, Colie, you’re being super ridiculous. You are never going to run out of photographer. Stop doing that. So then I niched my marketing back down to continuously talk to photographers again.
And what I finally had to figure out for myself is if someone loves me and loves my brand story and loves the experience that I offer, they are gonna hire me even if they’re a dog walker from Los Angeles. Hello, Brittany. How are you doing? I have a client that did that, but I mean, it’s. It’s just down to the fact that you market to kind of who you want to work with most.
But if there is someone that falls outside their marketing, they will still hire you. I mean, at the end of the day, you want your messaging to be consistent, to help you out, to help your leads and your possible clients figure out if they’re aligned with you. But that doesn’t mean that you never work with someone that you didn’t consider to be your ideal marketing client.
Um, You know, if they contact you and you have a great conversation, you can still work with them. You are the boss, you make the rules.
Annie: Yeah, I always call it like you need to pick, pick a primary ideal client to like p i c, but in picking, you get to keep permission to work with anybody you want. This is truly a strategy to make your life easier. Right. So you know, the more specific you are when you talk to people, you’re gonna get more of those better fit clients.
You’re gonna be able to grow your and scale your business more often, but you still are gonna get those random people who’ve never been to your website, right? Some, some friend of a friend recommended them, or even if they went to your website, they’re still gonna reach out to you. So I’m so glad that you’ve shared some of those examples.
And it’s interesting, like, I think as much as people clinging to standing out as a strategy, they don’t clinging enough. To this as a strategy to be more specific to picking a, a group of people that you, you know, really are the best fit for. Like, that is the flag that we all need to be flying more.
Because I can’t tell you how many times I go to sites and go like, who is this for? What is this? Like, that’s the thing we need to fix. Not man that’s really creative. It’s like, no, like, What is this and is it for me? And like, tell me please. I’m be, I’m, people are so worried they’re gonna miss an opportunity that they are, you know, confusing the heck out of people.
And uh, one of my coaches is, her name’s Kate Rosenau and she says, confused people don’t buy and she is spot on.
Colie: spot on. Before we hit record, you and I were talking very briefly about a value ladder, and I thought that this would be something really interesting to ask you because in this conversation of nicheing down, I feel like people don’t put enough strategy behind the value ladder. Like it’s okay that you offer.
All of these things, but you as the expert, need to figure out maybe the best path for someone who comes into your business in how they should purchase offers from you. And so, Have you ever had someone that like niche down in terms of the path that they want someone to take and that they have gained something like in their brand story and communicating their value to their clients?
Because the worst thing that you can have is someone who’s confused. Like if, if you have an everything page, please don’t think I’m picking on you if you have an everything page, but the problem that I see with everything pages is that you land on it and there’s so much stuff you don’t know what to do first.
So, Anything that you can do to remove confusion from the situation helps you get clients faster, and I think part of that is like taking all of the things that you are good at and all of the offers that you have and package them in a way, I’m taking your word Annie, package them in a way to create a path to where for the person landing on your website, it’s clear what they should do first or what they should do next.
Annie: Yeah, absolutely. And I’m, I’m right on there with you. And so it’s interesting if you’ve ever heard of this concept of a value ladder. The brief history is the chairman of General Motors created it so to, to come up with car brand. So that there would be a car for every purse and every purpose. So this idea of that’s why you have Cadillac and Buick and all these different car brands from General Motors is they’re like, well, this type of person’s gonna want this car, right?
So we wanna meet everybody where they are. And I think that unfortunately, people have taken this pricing ladder, value ladder strategy and taken it to mean that they should have something at every single level for a completely different person. And what I actually teach is what I call a streamlined service value ladder.
So this is all about that alignment again of like what your marketing time and resources are really, really are. Realistically, it’s so much easier to market to one ideal client, but at different le layers of like emotional and financial readiness. So like sometimes people are emotionally ready to work with you, but not financially.
Sometimes financially ready, but not emotionally. So looking at like your offers, you know, that free offer, that a hundred dollars offer that $500, you know, et cetera. Kind of going up into the thousands. I have done that work visually, and it’s for the same person. Because if you market to the same person, so much easier, right?
In terms of who you’re trying to reach, who you’re talking to, what shows you need to be on, what rooms you need to be in. Now, when I meet anybody in a sales call, I can do that navigational work of, you’re here, you should do this. You know, your budget’s here, you’re emotionally here. You should do that, right?
So I don’t even rely as much on my website as much as I build websites and sales pages, that kind of thing. To tell them that. I just, my biggest thing is to make it easy to talk to you. And I think that’s one of the biggest problems I’m seeing across the board with folks. Cause I go to people’s websites, they’re so creative.
Whatever. I don’t know how to just talk to you. I wanna talk to you. I’m not gonna spend thousands of dollars without talking to you. So I have a big, you know, free consult button. In the top right hand corner, you know, Donald Miller’s not right about a lot of things. He’s right about that. It’s something he teaches and it’s something I teach my clients too, cuz you and I Coley, were not selling a million coffee cups, you know, here.
Like people aren’t just gonna buy our service like right off the site. And so it does take some connecting with us to build that relationship and to be that kind of traffic director. So you had asked me about an example, and I think this goes back to the build a bridge moment. So I just wanted to talk briefly about, I had a client.
She’s an amazing sales consultant. She has a great three month program, and she was like, why is no one signing up for the three month program? Like we were doing a strategy day together. And I was like, there may be an issue with the value ladder because your introductory offer, the thing that someone who’s brand new to you should do first.
It might not be an alignment with your ideal client. And this is where we look at like her ideal clients are B2B business owners who feel overwhelmed. They are, they have slower, inconsistent sales, but they don’t feel like they have time to deal with it. And knowing that about them, it kind of made sense, right?
That they weren’t willing to take a risk and the investment on three months of coaching if they don’t feel like they have time. And so the solution we came up with in her value ladder was to add a v I P day. So sort of to do that first Lego brick of success. You know, this is what we were talking about before the call is getting them some momentum.
So if they don’t have time, giving them an opportunity, we call it, she calls it a level up your leads day. So it’s a day where you can start getting clear about who you need to reach out to, have a plan to do it, have some templates to make it happen, right? So to get a little bit of momentum and some dedicated time to work on her business.
It’s not too much money, it’s not too much of a, of a commitment. Since we came up with it a couple months ago, she sold eight of them. You know, she wasn’t getting any traction on her high ticket service and she sold eight of them. And now those people go through that experience and can be a better fit for the three month as the follow-on opportunity.
So sometimes it may just be a mismatch of consider who your IDA clients are and where they are stuck. And if your, if your main solution that you’re pushing doesn’t actually solve their problem or is too intimidating, there may need to be that interim quick win step, like what we’ve created for Liz.
Colie: I mean, I don’t think that any of us should. Underestimate the power of a quick win. And what you and I were talking about before we hit record is, I mean, you know, I have my fully done for you Deb Soto setup package. And what I have come to realize is that perhaps not everyone, even though everyone needs it, not everyone feels ready for it.
everything that I’ve thought about at like a lower level, Didn’t feel good to me because at the end of the day, they walk away and they’re not ready to get a quick win. I want everyone that works with me to like get a win within the first week. I know that’s. I know that’s high pie in the sky kind of thing, but like I don’t want anybody to work with me and then feel like they have to invest several hours after in order to see the value of what I just gave them.
And so I had this idea to just do someone’s booking workflow because then even if I haven’t given you all the strategy, even if I haven’t told you how automations will make a, a consistent client experience before the sale and after the sale. At least I’m helping you get the sale in the most efficient and consistent manner, and we’re increasing your conversion rate at the same time.
And so that was just like a thought that I had to myself was okay, even though I know people would benefit from like this entire thing. I really do have to think about. the people that would want the big service, what is a quick win that I can
help them get first? Because then they’re either gonna walk away with it and feel satisfied, or they’re gonna be like, oh my God, that was amazing.
Like can we do the rest of it now? And
I’m good either way. I just want people to do less in their business. That en enables them to spend more time doing the things that they actually love. So
that was like my little epiphany in the last month. And so I’m still working through it, but yeah. alright, Annie, so this conversation has been absolutely amazing. I feel like you and I could chat all day long, but I am gonna end this interview with the question that I ask every single one of my guests, and that is, what was the biggest fuck up in your business?
What did you learn from it and how did you grow?
Annie: My gosh. So, I don’t know about you, but I’m like a recovering people pleaser. You know, I’m probably less ahead than I say I am on that. Um, I’m a big achiever growing up and so I always really want to make people happy and truthfully, that’s a big reason why I always interview my clients at the end of a project and a couple years into my business, I was interviewing.
After a project that was like not as smooth as I would’ve wanted. We went through many review, you know, logo reviews, situation. It just didn’t go kind of as well as I wanted. But I was like on the call and my friend had recommended me. She’s on the call with me and the c e o and I had, of course, of course, my like headphones weren’t working, so I had to use like these really big like bows, embarrassing headphone, like I look like a pilot.
I looked like a pilot. Like it was just like not cool. And so I’m in there and I’m, I’m asking questions and then I say, you know, what would you tell another business owner about working with me? And the CEO kind of lowered the boom and was like, actually we would hesitate and we wouldn’t, you know, and here’s why.
And like, I don’t know if you have those moments where your like heart kind of falls into your shoes. And like, I’d never had anyone sort of tell me they weren’t happy with what I did. And it like, really kind of broke my heart. And I was like, and I feel like I look ridiculous. Right? And so it was really, really tough and I tried to kind of like keep it together.
Thankfully I’d had a, I’d done that enough, like I’d had those, Moments enough to be able to like ask questions and to listen and to kind of, you know, offer my perspective. You know, in hindsight it was a situation where I thought I was gonna be working with one person, but it was a team. Like there was a lot of things that I could have done better in my process before working with this person to like make it a smoother project or not have worked together to begin with because of a red flag or two, but, In any case, like it gave me some practice with hearing some constructive criticism and showing up and like being able to manage the conversation.
And it’s something I take away that I always teach about. This is like unhappy clients are unhappy whether or not you talk to them. So it’s really, really important I think to ask and I think even better than to ask over an email, but to ask. Over a call. Like I always build in calls at the end of my projects to say, you know, how did it go?
What could I do better? And I still ask that question even though it’s a vulnerable question, even though I got my heart broken. Because it leads to making the business better, it lea and it really repairs the relationship. So this is someone who was not happy, had spent thousands of dollars, and it gave me an opportunity to listen to their concerns and say, you know, I totally get that.
Here’s where I was coming from, but I respect your, um, experience and what can I do to make it better? And they were like, oh, we’re really happy with it now. It’s just like the experience should have been better. And we had this great conversation and she ended up sending me referrals for years, but to different, to a different better fit client cuz she was like, I think you’re a better fit for coaches and consultants than for startup teams.
And like, you’re a hundred percent right. And I’ve learned that through this experience too. Like my process wasn’t really built. For that. I didn’t really think this was that. Right. But we all kind of figured out what we needed to do. So that is, you know, my biggest F up. To me was like the thing I just never wanted to have happen.
Like it’s, it was so heartbreaking to have somebody not be happy and you know, it’s happened a few times since then, but I always feel better and braver for always asking the question and oftentimes it’s, Hey, you couldn’t have done anything. Or, Hey, this is great idea I had that you couldn’t make your process smoother.
Like, I’m known for how great my process is, but I can only get there if I’m willing to f up, right? If I’m willing to have my heart broken sometimes over not making a client happy, but. I am so grateful to leave nearly every engagement, not striving for perfection, but for greatness, right? So it’s like that unhappy client is gonna go tell a bunch of people unless I show up, willing to listen, hear, and repair that relationship.
So if you don’t already interview your clients, this is one of the cornerstones, I call it fans and feedback. You’ve gotta ask, you gotta ask them questions, you gotta understand their experience, and you’ve gotta say, what can I do better? Even if you really don’t want to hear what you could do better.
Colie: Yes, Annie. I mean, that was really insightful and I feel like. What I walk away from that with is you don’t know what you don’t know. And so if you don’t ask them, maybe you thought the entire thing went really well and you don’t know what their perspective was. And like you said, I mean, you salvage the relationship by having a conversation with them about it.
And it ended up that not only. Did they send you referrals? But I mean, from what you just said, it really helped you refine who your ideal client was and who your services were a best fit for which, I mean, I think we can all relate because we’ve all had jobs where we thought it was good and like at the end we’re like, okay, this is probably not the best.
Person for my services. And so let me add this to my list of criteria that I’m asking questions and kind of filtering people either on my website or through my calls to make sure that I really am working with people that would benefit from my services the most. Cuz it’s not always about who has the money.
Everybody’s got money guys, and just because you provide a great service doesn’t mean it’s a great service for everyone. So I am so happy you shared that story with us.
Annie: Yes. I always say the two most profitable words in business are yes and no. So it really matters what you say yes to and what and who you say no to as well, because that’s a lot of protecting your piece and learning through that. That was such a powerful, fundamental learning experience, and I’m so glad you brought up that notion of kind of filtering at the beginning too, because if I’d asked better questions, had a better clarity, I probably wouldn’t have even taken that project on and I would’ve saved myself.
The agony saved them the agony of a not as smooth process as I would’ve liked. So it is, it is a learning process, but I do think that. Kind of writing those words on the board that it’s really okay to say no to business if you don’t think you can hit it out of the park.
Colie: And when you say no to a bad opportunity, you are making space for a good opportunity. There is nothing worse than having said yes to something that ends up being bad, and then the perfect opportunity comes along and you don’t have the capacity. Because you said yes to someone who wasn’t a good fit. All money ain’t good money.
Can we just, can we put that on a t-shirt, Annie? If the listening audience wanna know where they can find out more about you and your brand on the internet, where can they find you?
Annie: Well, they can always find firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you’re curious about how to establish yourself or the book, you can check that out at how to establish yourself.com.
Colie: Ah. Annie, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. This was an amazing chat. I know that everybody in the listening audience is going to enjoy it as much as I did.
Annie: Well, thank you for having me.
Colie: Yes. All right, everyone. That’s it for this episode. See you next time.