Want Champagne Style? It’s Possible – Even on a Beer Budget.
Building your speaker business as a solo-entrepreneur or major content provider has many parallels. Think of your business as a cutting-edge Fortune 50 firm, with major operating business units, directors, and strategic business unit goals and profit centers, with a need to collaborate for peak performance.
Now, recognize that most members of NSA are one-person shops. And yet, just like large firms, many moving pieces compose a profitable and successful business, and you must understand all of them and ensure they work well with and support one another.
How much support do you need and at what level of your business do you need that support?
First, understand your business, and design your business model for your goals and lifestyle. Do not fall into the trap of chasing what everyone else does. For me, starting as a solo business enterprise, merging two years ago with another firm, and now once again back on my own, the model has been the same from zero revenue to $7.5 million in annual revenue. The basic principles do not change; they merely become scalable. Here are the lessons of scalability I have learned and personally implement.
Virtual Product Team
Everything today is about smart-sourcing, out-sourcing, e-sourcing. I use eLance.com (a major online clearinghouse for vendors in the design, graphics and programming world looking for clients) to post requests for bids for branding, new designs, collateral materials, websites, media materials, etc. I have found the quality of work equal to that of any live face-to-face vendor as well as faster and significantly more cost effective.
Tap into the international playing field of experts to give you champagne style on a beer budget! I’ve worked with Dan Janal and Michael Jeffries many times and with service providers from several foreign countries. Using foreign providers is safe and works well.
Replicate, Duplicate and Monetize
Evaluate every deliverable you have and explore how to monetize every aspect for the diverse market you serve. If I write a column, then that article may be able to be replicated into a blog (both deliverables are administered by service bureaus/providers). Both then can become a piece of a book. I also can use a just-in-time print-on-demand vendor like www.Lulu.com to have the book appear on my website. A purchaser is then hyperlinked to the host site to purchase, and the book is printed on demand and shipped to the client. (Amazon has a similar service.) I never touch the actual process; I merely collect a monthly royalty/commission/fee.
That book can be offered as an ebook or broken down into white papers or reports. I can then transform all or part of the book into a podcast or a YouTube video. I can also use individual components as new content for keynotes, workshops, training courses, webinars, teleseminars, DVD sets, MP3 audio files or downloads. I use www.OverNightPrints.com to make two-sided wallet cards as handouts at keynotes and workshops. One side is my business card; the other is a recap of the program. McGraw-Hill and CRC/St. Lucie Press are also great partners for satisfying that champagne style on a beer budget.
Deliverable & Distribution Channels
The lesson here is, everything you do needs to be evaluated as a deliverable, and new delivery options need to be identified. For any content you mentally own, there is someone who wants to partner with you to convert it into a product. You can cross-index that against every distribution channel out there. Look for a vendor who has the distribution channel in search of content providers (that’s you!), and form a partnership with them to cover all distribution needs.
Remember that content you brainstormed earlier? Start thinking about all of the appropriate social media platforms that can aggregate it and that you can push it through for greater market awareness. But remember, people will pay for what they can’t easily find in the market, so also utilize your subject matter expertise to drive traffic to your revenue-generating distribution channels and deliverables.
Connect with the business, marketing and advertising deans of your local colleges and universities, and explore how to provide a co-op, internship or part-time job (and yes, you can tap into your local Job Corp or SCORE for the same). For 20 years, I have found that most students need internships, and some must be nonpaid for their major to be able to graduate. Identify your core needs, and match those with younger talent to compensate for your weaknesses. I have found several of my employees from this feeder system. Now you can have the benefits of champagne style on your beer budget.
Alliances & Partnerships
Identify colleagues at your level who serve clients you can share. Be certain they don’t provide the same deliverables you do. Form an alliance to provide greater value to the customer by becoming a larger service provider. In exchange for business spun off from each another, you provide a passive income stream via referral fees. (You can also find a speakers bureau that you could do this with.)
Without bastardizing your database, consider how to leverage one another’s email lists to cross-promote. I’ve done this with Tony Robbins and Stephen Covey many times, and it works. Smart business professionals realize that you can have the champagne style most every time without breaking a beer budget!
Use your Google Analytics to track the effectiveness of every page of your website, ezines, blogs, ecommerce campaigns, social media presence, etc., to ensure what you do works for you! Remember every day you must make new contacts, expand your market reach, follow up on leads and inquiries, cultivate new sales, and when on stage or delivering your product do such a phenomenal job that it generates a re-loop to everything you do and grows your business.
Make sure you allow your clients to pay via direct deposit into your bank account. Explore credit card merchant accounts, electronic online pay partners like PayPal®, and percentage discount for early or pre-pay. Get deposits and hold them in escrow (separate accounts). Find out if a special fee or discount would induce faster payment from the client and improve your cash flow. Run your business like a business, have a budget and manage your money intelligently each month, so you pay your bills, invest in your retirement and then expand your lifestyle. If you work the systems astutely, you will have the revenue for champagne even if you want beer.
Business of the Business
You must on a daily, weekly, monthly basis personally own the Selling-Promoting- Awareness-Marketing (SPAM) of your business. This is the single greatest killer of every business and speaker I have observed for 20 years. Systems I use: Deploy Rule 1-12-50. This means that the first part of the month (1), every month (12) you identify a demographic you want to connect or reconnect with, and design and send a high-impact, information media piece (direct mail, email, social media, audience handout, etc.) that has a call to action to motivate prospects and suspects to contact you to find out more about your services. This can place you into a conversational selling position. This demographic (50) can be as small or large a target market as you like. The key is that what you send out can allow you, for the next three weeks, to call the recipients as a follow-up warm call, which is much better than cold calling.
Now go back to SPAM and ask yourself daily what have you done to build alliances, partnerships, reach out to past and lost clients, identify new and emerging markets and get your brand in front of them. FileMaker Pro® (or any of the countless database management systems) will be invaluable. I live by FileMaker Pro®. This system (with no ongoing monthly fees) allows me to maintain contact names, code and prioritize them, manage email campaigns, do direct-mail drops, manage daily phone call follow-ups, create customized tracking systems and more.
I code every name with a No. 1 through No. 4 code. Those given a No. 1 have a budget, need my content and have opportunities for me to present (money, need, opportunity). A No. 2 has two of the three criteria, a No. 3 has one of the three criteria, and all other contacts receive a No. 4 (media, family, friends, audience, etc.), until a reason is presented to delete them from the database or elevate their number. Using this contact list, I can enroll them into a weekly content-rich ezine, etc.
Even if your business isn’t a Fortune 500 enterprise with a champagne budget, you don’t have to give up on champagne style. By taking the right steps to build your business and using your limited time and financial resources wisely, beer budget can yield more than ever thought possible.