Gone Fishing

August 27, 2012 · 93 comments

One of the things I love about small town businesses is that they can just scotch tape a sign to the window when they shut down for a break. “Gone fishing… See you tomorrow.” Or “Picking up the kids from school… back in 15 minutes.”

This is my “gone fishing” post.

Last week I found out that I am soon to begin treatment for what is presumed to be ovarian cancer (presumed because the final pathology will happen during surgery). Thanks to oncologists who are utterly devoted to helping women conquer something that sneaks up with virtually no warning, I’ll say goodbye to all non-essential organs, be “debulked” of as many abnormal growths as possible, and (hopefully) soaked with some radical heated chemo to slay the micro dragons that have set up camp in my body’s core. I’m making friends with more chemo for however long it takes. As my doc said, “Surgery doesn’t cure this; chemo can.”

Can I believe this is happening? No. Just no. But here’s what I do believe with my true core: healing is possible.

Deciding to hang the gone fishing sign here while I recover from the surgery and find some rhythm with the chemo process has been really hard. Grief. Anger. Frustration. I have worked hard – and with great joy – over the last few years to build communities and projects like Courage Studio that I love. My business model has been humming.

I had just gotten my micro-biz airplane to the right altitude for me, and things were cruising. Now there is a wild terrorist on board and I need to make an emergency landing. My intention now is simply to land this plane as gracefully as possible. Rest is what optimally leads to healing, and rest is what I shall do.

If you would like to go fishing with me, you can follow my progress toward healing at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/lauriefoley.

In my family we like to leave a radio playing in the house when we’re gone for a while. “Take Me to the River” is the first “gone fishing” song the radio will be playing for this trip because everything is better with Al Green.


What are you selling?

Have you ever really asked yourself that question? You might think that you know the answer to it very quickly: coaching, consulting, graphic design, writing services, etc. But those answers are “what” you do and actually have nothing to do with what you should be selling.

The question of what you are selling starts with “what would people like to buy?” because without buyers you aren’t exactly selling anything. This may surprise you, but people are not very interested in buying coaching or graphic design or any other services. They are, however, thrilled to pay for the results that they get when your service meets a need and satisfies a desire.

People buy results. It’s essential that you sell (and market!) results. Marketing the process or the “how” does not speak directly to the results that people get from working with you.

If you’re like most service providers, then you have been probably been marketing your process and not your results. It’s natural for newer business owners because they are quite enmeshed in learning and mastering the process. So let’s start from there and use mind mapping to find offers that will spur sales. The steps below will show you how this mind map was created:

mind map for coaching

Step 1: What process or service are you selling?
Suppose the answer is coaching. Write “coaching” in the middle of a blank sheet of paper. Don’t worry about what kind of coaching or any other details yet.

Step 2: Why would someone want your service?
Draw a set of lines coming out from the word coaching in the middle of the page and at the end of each line right a few words about why they would want coaching. For example, if you are a weight loss coach, you might write “lose weight,” “feel better,” “be healthier,” or “look better.”

Step 3: Why would someone want those results?
Draw lines from the node and write tangible reasons that your client would want the result in that note. It’s important that you create specific, measurable reasons here – not more concepts. For example, for “look better,” you could write “to attract a partner” and “to find a better job” but not “be more confident.” That’s not specific and tangible so if that’s a goal state, it needs to hang off the main process node.

Step 4: How will your client know when she has achieved this goal?
Drill down again on a certain node and create evidence that the goal is being achieved. Again, be very specific here. No bit of evidence is too small.

Step 5: What offers are inspired by the edges of your mind map?
It’s at these evidence nodes that you can begin to create specific offers.

Imagine two offers from a weight loss coach:

a) Three months of weekly coaching to help you uncover your issues with food.

Or, based on what we learned in the mind map:

b) “Date Your Way Thin”: A six-step program to help you find love and lose weight at the same time.

Which do you think more people will buy?

Let’s do it again for a graphic designer. This time, just peek at the mind map:

mind map for graphic design

From this you could contrast a traditional offer like “Business cards, rush service available” to “Three Day Dazzling Business Cards, Guaranteed.”

In these examples, I drilled down on one path at a time but I recommend that you sample multiple paths and notice what would feel fun to offer and appealing to your clients as well. You might not be excited about offering three-day business cards but you might be thrilled to work your clients to create “Confident First-Time Websites.”

drill down to find the sweet spot of your evidence-based offers

Evidence-based offers are the hot sauce for creating spicy sales. Next time you get the feeling that people don’t understand what you’re selling, revisit this exercise to drill down for offers that are sure to attract the attention that your services deserve.


You’ve been working on it for months. You’ve been writing, sweating, recording, transcribing, formatting, building sales pages, creating autoresponders, testing it all out, and wrestling myriad other technologies. You have probably shed a few tears. You’ve been counting down to launch day.

Like the human cannonball, you load all that you’ve got into the mechanics of your launch and you light the fuse.

KA-BOOM! You are shot from the cannon, flying through the air, exhilarated, and thrilled that you have shipped. Your very dear thing is available to the world.

And then…. fzzzzzt….. Crickets. Nothing. One or two people bought it. Or, Lawd-help-me, no one bought it.

What happened? What went wrong? IT WAS A GIANT CANNON, wasn’t it?!

Well, yes. But only to you.

To the rest of the world, it was a snap of a twig or a faint pop-gun. Or maybe someone just blowing bubbles with gum.

We live in a very, very noisy world. What sounds like a cannon to you – your cannon – simply isn’t a cannon to everyone else.

So what happens now, after your cannon is shot but no one turned to look?

Truth: most people get discouraged and even sad after a launch. Understandably so. All of that energy is draining. A post-launch letdown feeling is totally normal. Be gentle with yourself knowing that an exhausting or disappointing launch can be turned around into future success.

What can we learn from a launch that is a fizzle? Let’s go back to the circus and the human cannonball.

1. The circus tells people to expect the human cannonball long before they arrive.
The human cannonball act is a central feature, even a peak moment, of the performance. Circus goers expect the boom. How can you get the word out in advance that people can expect a boom from you at some point?

Here are a few ways to prime expectations for a boom:

  • Create a first-to-know or pre-sale list for your upcoming launch.
  • Start hinting about it on social media with a specific date set for the big reveal.
  • Launch your item seasonally or even once a year so that over time, people will know that it is coming.
  • Blog about what is coming or create a series of pre-launch videos so that people are excited to learn the background info that will create an appetite for your product.

2. The ringmaster tells everyone in the audience, “Ladies and Gentlemen, direct your attention here, please!”
There is quite a lot of chatter and anticipation as the ringmaster explains the drama that is about to unfold but he is commanding in his request. This part is tricky for solo practitioners because attention is a very scarce commodity. The ringmaster is a showman, and the audience is primed. Never underestimate the power of those factors. You too will benefit from being very specific in asking for attention.

When it’s time to direct attention to your launch, try these techniques:

  • Ask your peers or your mastermind group if they will help you spread the word of the launch. No pressure, but if they usually love your stuff, then they will likely be happy to share another great product with their audience. If you have even a half-dozen other people sharing what you are doing with their social networks on launch day, it can make a big difference between a pop and a boom. (Want to know what can inspire people to share your stuff? When you share theirs… Reciprocation is a powerful motivator.)
  • Create an affiliate program to offer a thank-you commission to those who help direct attention.
  • Use every channel at your disposal to get the word out – and post it multiple times with helpful adjunct info each time. Only sending a link to the sales page to your email list one time or only posting it once on Facebook is definitely not going to create a boom. Make the info around the announcement generous and rich.
  • Tell inviting stories as part of your launch. Stories draw people in and make them want to know more. You may not be a showman in a velvet jacket and a top hat but you surely have compelling stories.

3. Survive the launch so that you can stand up and wave to the crowd.
Part of the excitement of the human cannonball (or any other daredevil stunt) is seeing the performer rise up from their landing, no matter how clumsy or inelegant the shot – or the landing – might have been. You too must rise up and learn as quickly as possible from the launch experience. If you crumple in a heap for too long after launch day, then you are missing vital opportunities to keep campaigning for your product. The final day of sales is very often the most active day so pace yourself to take advantage of that phenomenon.

If you’ve completed the whole launch cycle and sales were still disappointing, then there are other vital questions to ask:

  • Did you communicate the offer to people who actually want what you are selling?
  • Did you share the offer often enough for your ideal clients to have a chance to notice it?
  • Did your sales page convey the benefits clearly?
  • Were you credible with your experience and testimonials?
  • Do you need to do more to build your ideal audience before you try this kind of launch again?
  • Did you make a strong offer that is obviously desirable and has a price that feels aligned with the value?

What you hear as the boom from inside the cannon will never be as loud to others but you can improve your chances of turning heads with a strategic approach and your own resilience.

Popcorn, anyone?

What other launch strategy suggestions do you have? How have you mustered resilience after a tough launch?

photo credit: wolfsavard