Evolution. Kind of a big topic for a Wednesday afternoon – and I’m no Charles Darwin. But on realising that this was the week that we’d release my 100th podcast episode, (and YES I’m doing a “Woohoo, we’re 100!” dance!) I figured that it was finally time to tackle the subject of business evolution.
You see, newer entrepreneurs can often be persuaded by glitzy Facebook ads, that businesses are built in a heartbeat. That in fact, most of the ‘big guys’ in business built their businesses in a matter of days – and that their brands, sales processes, products, teams et al – simply started that way.
No business is built immediately.
No business is built in 6 months (even if you do hit that magic ‘6 figure’ mark!)
You might have a business.
But building a successful and sustainable business is about consistent and considered evolution.
So sit back – and grab a cuppa. Because this is going to be a goldmine of #MythBustMoments and business lessons that you can learn from without sinking all of your spare cash (like I – and thousands of others – have done!)
How My Website Has Evolved
Let’s start with websites… most new entrepreneurs are told that without a ‘brand’ they’ll never be able to sell anything. I remember starting my business and being devastated that my website didn’t look like Marie Forleo’s. Not that I didn’t try mind you!
But your website is something that naturally evolves over time… so let’s take a look at some of the evolutions of my website – and how it really impacted my business.
Oh hey there, here’s the first ever banner – created by yours truly #HideousAndProud
As you can see – I’ve never really been a creative! ?
Now – I want to point out here, that my website was gross BUT it converted. Mainly because I never actually sent anyone there (!) I’m joking. Of course people saw it. But they weren’t looking at the brand. In fact, back in those days, people would hire me because they said that my copy sounded exactly like what they needed. Or because my story sounded just like theirs – and they wanted to get out of the rat race and into a freedom based lifestyle.
But nevertheless, this ‘bad boy’ website did actually make me money. Despite the yellow/ brown (let’s face it – post night out poop) kind of colour and the garish pink. Because the copy and the story spoke to my ideal clients. And because I had a call to action on every single frigging page!
This website got me my first ever email subscribers, contained my first sales pages that allowed people to buy – and taught me how to use Canva. Those things are a big deal in your first 6 or so months.
And then I decided to upgrade and hire my first web designer! I’d been generating consistent £10K months and figured that now was the time to upgrade my sh*tty site and get something that would make me stand out in the market and suit my personality a little better.
So I went bright, bold and beautiful – and completed my first brand board, used Pinterest for the first time ever and even stuck a few photos of me on there that weren’t cropped edits from my corporate days ?
As you can see ^^ the main opt-in is still going – two years old and that thing still converts like gangbusters! But I loved this site. It made me happy. For one, it actually worked – which was bliss in comparison to the complete mess of the previous one. And I even learnt about plugins and backing up my site in case all went wrong and the internet swallowed my new digital home. (I also upgraded ‘post night out poop colour’ for real gold!) This time, I was sending people to my website like no-one’s business. It was the first time I’d really invested in my digital space – and I’d gotten a new logo, invested in stock graphics, specialised fonts and a web designer to create it all and design a brand new brand for me. I thought it was awesome.
When You Outgrow Your Website!
But then… a year later, I outgrew it.
The elaborate gold background started to give me headaches.
My audience felt like the fonts were difficult to read.
And if I had to look at one more stock image of a ‘joyful woman staring into space’ I was going to vomit.
Plus – I found ClickFunnels and became quickly obsessed with all things funnels – and drag and drop page builders! And they’d host my website for me… so I thought it would be easier (oh how wrong I was!) to suddenly move my entire website over to ClickFunnels and host it there.
And If You Wanted To Join My Facebook Community…
Why Did I Move To ClickFunnels?
Now – ClickFunnels is GREAT at some things;
- Drag and drop landing pages
- Sales page builders
- Tracking conversion metrics
But building a website on there? Yeah. That’s not what the software is for. And it showed.
However, this website (despite going back to slightly uglier days) converted really well #HelloOptInConversions – BUT if I’m totally honest, I’m not sure that it was the website that was the driver behind the conversions.
Yep. If you’ve noticed anything in this section so far…
Even the ugliest website converts with warm traffic!
That’s right. With every iteration of the website (pretty or ugly) I was driving more and more warm traffic.
In fact, in the two years that these iterations all took place, my traffic had grown exponentially.
- From a zero person email list with website one… and growing to 237 people in four months.
- From zero online community or presence to a 1200 person Facebook community with website two.
- To iteration three with a two thousand person Facebook group, 10K + list…
That meant that I was driving consistently warm traffic to pages that encouraged them to opt-in and sign up for my email list/ book a call with me. And it’s those calls to action that have helped me convert audience members into clients.
Now – don’t get me wrong. The websites have helped. You can’t after all, have an opt-in without anywhere to put it. But without consistent calls to action, content that nurtures, educates and adds value and active selling? Well they wouldn’t have had any traffic to convert in the first place.
But it really is the tribe building that has helped me to grow my business so quickly – that and actively creating a community of buyers and being unafraid to sell to them. So – let’s take a look at what it really looked like;
Teeny tiny email list – seriously. Props to the 130 people who signed up later on in 2014. The majority of my revenue was made with LinkedIn at this point #LovedMyLinkedInConnections
Email list grew to 237 in the beginning half of the year. Launched my first ever group programme and sold 25 spots (YAY!) I then figured out how to leverage my network to build my list further using LinkedIn and Facebook Groups… #BOOMTo1000PeopleOnTheList I also wrote articles for online blogs and got featured on The Story Exchange to grow my community!
Created a Facebook Group and called it Fabulous Female Entrepreneurs. Cue ugly pink headers and wonky fonts. Over 200 people joined the group in the first 6 months… and I spoke to myself #Tumbleweed whilst waiting for people to get engaged and start conversations. My email list continued to grow – and I continued to send them two emails per week.
The year that I started to take PR seriously! In the first half of the year, I hired my very first PR consultant… and managed to get featured in Huffington Post, Forbes, YFS. In fact, I had one article that helped me gain over 1200 Facebook Group members in less than 48 hours! I also took part in 4 telesummits, 6 giveaways and did over 50 podcast interviews to start growing my community properly! That’s not to mention all of the Guest Expert trainings that I provided for well known entrepreneurs and their communities too!
Well – we’re not at the end yet. But as it stands, this year, I’ve invested in PR and made my first television appearances for Channel 5 News and Good Morning Britain. I’ve also spoken at numerous events including; Enterprise Nation’s Start Up Event, Expert Unrivalled, Entrepreneurial Leaders Live, Media Influence Live 2018 – and am gearing up to stand on the Youpreneur Summit stage alongside Jay Bauer, Carrie Wilkerson, Chris Ducker and many more incredible entrepreneurs this November!
I’ve also got a Facebook community that currently stands at just over 2000 members (2142 to be exact!), my own podcast generating thousands of downloads per month, a substantial email list and I’ve been featured in 5 articles, 18 podcasts and 3 video interviews so far. I’ve also stopped participating in telesummits and giveaways – as I started to find that people were simply using them to rinse my list and harvest from my community #NoNoNo
Do You Need A Large Community To Build A Successful Business?
Four years in the making… and my community still isn’t as large as the communities of some of my peers.
Does it matter?
When everyone else was jumping on the ‘next big thing’ *cough, Periscope, cough*, I was staying in my lane and providing consistent value to my community and encouraging them to share with their peers and friends.
Building a buying tribe is about really focusing on the platforms that you enjoy using – and remembering to sell regularly and effectively. Not about getting 10,000 people in a group and looking for vanity ‘likes’ on your posts.
Has The Way I Work Changed As My Business Evolved?
This is probably the BIGGEST thing to have changed over the last four years… That and maybe my Canva graphic abilities ?
When I first started out, I started with 1:1 coaching… it was the highest ticket offer I had – and the one that I knew would allow me the cashflow to be able to leave my job and have consistent, recurring revenue #PaymentPlansForTheWin
Now, when I started out, there wasn’t quite so much chatter about ‘charging your worth’. And if there was… well I wasn’t listening. In between holding down a full time job and working 70 hours per week, plus being diagnosed with a chronic illness… I wasn’t hearing all that much noise back then. Instead, I was focused on staying in my own lane and hitting the goals that I had set out for myself.
So when I started out, I was charging $1200 for 4 weeks 1:1 coaching with me…. And that didn’t change for a long while. I spent time honing my ability to help my clients generate results and kept focused on getting better and better testimonials before I started raising my rates. In hindsight, I’d have definitely raised my rates a lot earlier – but that’s the benefit of rose tinted glasses right?! I worked my way up to creating three month 1:1 packages – which I ditched pretty early because I hated them. They just didn’t do what I wanted them to do… and instead, lulled the client into a false sense of security that they had ages to hit the goal.
In 2015, I decided to venture into the world of group programmes and quickly became OBSESSED with creating action based group cultures and developing programmes that people actually wanted to complete. Having never completed a group programme past week 6 myself, I decided to shun the industry ‘norm’ and only have short term group programmes that were action, rather than theory, focused. The majority of these ranged from $495 – $1995 (and yes – I used to charge in dollars!)
My revenue increased at this point – but contrary to what I’d been told, my workload actually went up. Suddenly I had group clients to support alongside my 1:1 clients – and a desire to help everyone get the best results. I was beginning to get stressed… and needed to hire a team… and cut the workload.
So in 2016, I started to focus on funnels – and began to automate the sales processes in my business. I put a clear focus on email marketing, traffic and lead generation and building funnels that converted for a year. By the end of 2016, I was able to automate almost 70% of my sales – and spent the majority of my days inside ClickFunnels trying to build new funnels and think of new ways to serve my audience with the levels of support that they needed.
After creating over 20 funnels (!) in 2017, I decided to make the boldest move for my business model; to retire from 1:1 coaching. I was finding that I was enjoying the community aspects that group programmes provided – and I found that my group programme participants were getting phenomenal results. We had a higher than average course completion rate and some incredible success stories – so I decided to quit 1:1 coaching and focus on my group programmes. 2017 was the year that I started my private membership community and accepted our founding members into the Dotties.
This year, I’ve really looked hard at what brings me JOY in my business model. I still adore the group programmes that I run – and I’m obsessed with curating and running the BEST membership community for women on the internet. And I even missed 1:1 work. So I decided to make my groups/ the Dotties my key focus and to continue improving and enhancing the experiences and results that my clients would get – alongside taking two private clients per quarter so that I could focus fully on those clients and become a partner resource in their business for the duration. This year has also been the year that I’ve finalised …
Hiring A Team For Success
Hiring a team is hard. Put it this way, over the last four years, I’ve had at least 5 VA’s, two web designers, 3 graphics specialists, 2 PR experts and countless coaches. (Okay – not countless coaches. But at least 4.)
And yet, despite my recruitment background… it took me a while to get it right.
But – I learnt a lot about hiring for my business. I started hiring for attitude and genuine skills, rather than hiring the ‘popular guru’ of the moment’s team members.
And in 2018, I ended up with a fabulous team; Liz Wilkins (my COO), Beth Lynch (my fabulous VA) Scott Doucet (podcast producer) and we have hired in ad hoc help for different specialisms – like Amanda Ruiz (PR expert).
Now – it hasn’t all been plain sailing – and I’ve put a lot of time and effort into training, development and buying a TON of software to make the lives of my team members easier. (Also #AppSumoBingeAHolic But we are at a point where it’s now become easier to rebrand. Better to communicate. Easier to build out new products and services. And where everyone is committed to driving Smart Leaders Sell forward… and that’s really exciting – and very different from other teams that I’ve worked with. It’s definitely down to knowing what you’re hiring for;
- Are you hiring to save time?
- To help with specific projects?
- To repurpose your content or create regular graphics?
- To schedule your social media posts?
In fact, one of my biggest learns has been to be specific about what you want people to do – and how you want them to communicate and complete tasks within the business.
It makes life a lot easier in the long run and means that your team grows with you.
(It’s also worth pointing out that skimping on your team and trying to pay them less than they’re worth doesn’t work. These are the people who are helping you drive your business forward – so make sure that you reward them properly – and that loyal team members are always made to feel valued. #LoyaltyIsPriceless)
The Software That Drives My Business
So – one of the biggest differences to my business over the last four years, has been the technology that we use at Smart Leaders Sell. Now honestly, if I went through every piece of software that I’ve ever used… I’d never get around to finishing this blog… So I’m just going to focus on the software that I use now – and why it’s made such a difference to my business in 2018.
For Email Marketing ActiveCampaign Is My Secret Weapon
With tons of functionality for one of the lowest starting prices in the industry, ActiveCampaign is a super simple email marketing tool with a lot of power. When you sign up for Active Campaign, you can immediately create complex automations, segment your lists according to behaviours and identify your top subscribers, see clickthrough rates and even create landing pages/ banner opt-ins. And it really is simple to use. They have tons of help videos, live chat support and it’s a drag and drop builder. You can grab a free trial of Active Campaign by clicking here.
Why My Membership Community Now Runs On MemberVault
Another piece of software that has completely rejuvenated the business and given us all the tools we could ever need to make our customer experience even better, is Membervault. Membervault is the software that I use to host the Dotties portal, all of our courses and create an easy system to get our audience members to download awesome new freebies!
- The support is PHENOMENAL. When our previous membership platform provider let us down by having consistent drop outs in delivery, we were able to purchase and move the entire membership and all of the members across to MemberVault in just one weekend. #TeamJessRocks #MemberVaultLiveChatWorkingAtWeekends
- They have a free tier that isn’t limited. That’s right. Their free trial goes on for as long as YOU want. Instead of getting you to try a product at ‘pro’ level and then stinging you with a huge monthly cost if you want to continue using the features, MemberVault gives you all of the features – and if you decide to upgrade to a pro account, starts from just $39 per month. (FYI – a LOT cheaper than it’s nearest competitors at $67 and $97 – with way more features!)
- It looks great and you can gamify your content! Run a membership site? Or a course with a competitive element? Or just want to check that your participants are actually using the course content? You can do all of that and more to make your customer experience the best it can possibly be.
- And did I mention that as well as being super simple to use, they’ll even help move your content from your existing platforms for you #NoBrainer
ClickFunnels for Sales Funnels
For the moment, my funnels are held inside ClickFunnels which has been fabulous over the last two years of funnel building and perfecting. It’s going to take us a while to move everything across and in the meantime, we’re leaving it with ClickFunnels because they’re super reliable with zero downtime… so our funnels are always up and running! They also have a drag and drop builder to make life super simple – and they offer an affiliate system and email responder… Their own email responder does however, require you setting up a free third party account – and can take a little getting used to. But the funnel builder itself is fabulous – and they have a helpful support team and a great reputation in the marketplace.
I Love Demio For Webinars
Now I run a lot of automated webinars – and so I use Demio to host both automated and live webinar content. Demio is fab because it’s easy to use and gives you some INSANE analytics about your webinar participants… like who watched until the end of the webinar/ who left during the pitch – and it even segments the emails they get according to the behaviours that they exhibited. Cool right?!
But of course, the video tool that I use MOST – is Zoom. I use Zoom for pretty much every video related business activity that I do (oo-er!) I hold my Discovery Calls via Zoom, use it to record my podcast, host hot-seats for my community, use it as a virtual workspace and host my client calls on it too! It’s much more stable than Skype, has a great record function and only costs $14.99 per month for the pro version. If you’re looking for a great free conference software, you can use Zoom for up to 40 mins free (per meeting!) which makes it a great taster product!
Booking Calls With Me
And finally, for a calendar booking system, I’m obsessed with Book Like A Boss. I originally purchased it when I was on an AppSumo binge (and quickly became obsessed!) We had some problems with a previous provider not correctly connecting to my Google calendar and double booking important appointments. BLAB works way better, is more reliable and gives you tons of opportunities; like taking payments, adding your own branding and setting up useful questionnaires.
How Has Your Business Evolved?
So there you go – a *relatively* quick overview of the last four years (and the changes) that I’ve made so that you can learn from my mistakes – and successes!
Make sure you head over to my FREE Facebook Community where you can join others for interesting sales discussions, great free trainings and quarterly challenges.
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