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The Surprising Four Letter Formula for Success… It’s Not What You Think

Everyone is always looking for ways to get the “secret formula” to business success. The older I get, the more I see that in one way or another, the secret to success always comes down to one very simple little four letter word. It’s something that any business owner can do, no matter whether you’re offering a product or a service, whether you are introvert or exrovert, cash-rich or cash-strapped.

See if you can guess what that is. Since you probably have Monday Brain, I’ll even throw in some hints!

You already know that marketing is essential to any business. But there are many marketing tools and strategies out there. Which one you pick comes down to your product, market, your personality. For example if you are an extrovert, then you’ll probably be drawn to marketing strategies that put you in front of other people. Local realtor and exuberant extrovert Carol Bright is a phenomenal marketer and networker.

On April 15th (tax day here in the States) she invited 30 or so local business owners to a cocktail reception. While some people were protesting taxes, we were celebrating the great tax deductions the federal government gives to entrepreneurs!

As an aside: Proving that out of adversity often come blessings, the first three people I talked to – a commercial photographer, an interior house painter, and a home stager – all started their businesses during the previous recession when they were downsized. They all said something I’ve heard many times before, “Losing my job was the best thing that ever happened to me because it led me into my own business.”

Okay back to my main point and to your hints…

Not only did Carol spring for a great spread of tasty hors d’oeuvres but she even gave cool door prizes. After some informal mingling, Carol handed out cards to fill out so we could write down something we could give to our fellow entrepreneurs. None of us knew each other when we got there, but by the end, people were referring business to one another like mad. I spent most of my time giving advice about additional ways these entrepreneurs could turn their passions into profits.

Carol very wisely invited her hair stylist who also very wisely gave some gift certificates as door prizes. Starting a new restaurant, catering, gourmet cookie business? Hair stylists are great people to help you get the word out about a business, because they spend their days chatting with clients. Show up on a busy Saturday at the hottest salon in town with a tray of food. Yes, you’ll be giving it away, but the buzz will be well worth it.

I built what is now a very lucrative speaking business by initially offering to speak at conferences for free. I gave my audience lot of great information and, in exchange, I got tons of exposure which led to speaking gigs with companies like Intel and American Women in Radio and Television.

Engage in Random Acts of Giving

Have you figured out what the magic four letter word that is the secret to business success? It’s g-i-v-e. Give to your future clients or customers, to your students, and to other entrepreneurs. What I love most are random acts of giving – the kind no one expects. For example, last month I blew away the people who have taken my Outside the Job Box Career Coach Course with a surprise gift.

It all started when Ryan Lee invited me to be on a panel at the big Continuity Summit he’s putting on May 16-18 in Stamford, Connecticut. The summit is going to teach people how to set up recurring income streams from membership sites and other continuous revenue models. And since having a predictable cash flow is attractive to all business owners, I’ll be totally surprised if he doesn’t sell out.

Anyway, I happen to know Ryan and the story of how he went from teaching physical education in the Bronx to making over a million dollars a year running fitness member sites on the Internet. So when I saw he was putting on a this huge marketing training event that’s expected to draw 1,000 people, I knew there had to be a way to give something valuable to my people and to give something to Ryan’s attendees as well.

Here’s the actual email I sent Ryan:

Hey Ryan,

So here’s an intriguing thought…

I have a large group of people who I have trained to run “monetizing your interests/turning passions into profits” sessions with clients.

If you want I can invite some of them to attend and you can position them as a specially trained team of on-site of roving brainstormers. They can wear badges that say “Idea Jogger” or “Pick my brain” and people can pull them aside to do some on-site brainstorming.

All they would want is to be your guests for the seminar.

I find so many people pass on membership sites and product launch formula etc because they lack an idea. Such an easily solvable problem! Let me know what you think….

Here’s Ryan’s reply:

Valerie — I love it!!! That would really add a lot of value to the event. 

Just send me a list of their names and we’ll put them on the list. Can you bring pins or buttons to give them?

I’ll make sure to announce them throughout the event.

Best,
Ryan

Not only will I be bringing my own name tags – but they’ll be flashing name tags that scream Idea Jogger!

This is a great example of a win-win. These consultants get the opportunity to learn from dozens of online business experts all about how membership sites and other continuous income business models can transform not only their businesses, but their client’s businesses as well. And, it’s also a HUGE opportunity for these coaches to get some major exposure for themselves and their businesses.

Giving Starts With Yourself

Sometimes we are so busy giving to others that we forget to give to ourselves. The reason I’m able to give so much to the people who have taken my course, is that for the last three years I’ve given myself (and my business) the gift of self-education.

I started out buying information products covering different aspects of marketing and creating a profitable business. I still have my very first purchase from 1994. It was set of three audio cassettes on how to publish a profitable newsletter that I saw advertised in the back of a magazine.

Every year, I attend at least two high-ticket business-building seminars. The reason I’m willing to shell out $2,000-$3,000 for a seminar is because I always get so much back. If I only apply two or three ideas, I know I’m going to make several times my original investment. And I’ve paid five figure fees to be in small “Mastermind” coaching and networking groups with some of top marketing gurus around.

Perhaps the biggest reason I give myself the gift of self-education is what I get out of being surrounded by knowledgeable, successful, and contagiously positive entrepreneurs who are all too eager to share what they know. I’ve made lots of remarkable connections with some major “mover and shakers” in the information marketing, online business, and real estate investing worlds. You may or may not know their names – but their followers, students, and readers sure do….

People like Yanik Silver, Carrie Wilkerson, Jeff Walker, Mike Filsaime, Barry Dunlap, Matt Smith, Perry Belcher, Andrew Locke, Craig Ballantyne, Bernadette Doyle, Mike Hill, Marni Smith, Stephen and Kerry Beck, Fabienne Frederickson, Vick Johnson, Mike Dillard, Tim Kerber, Ryan Lee, Ron Romano, Latif Thomas, Pat Beith, Gerald Romine, Terry Wygal, Sherman Ragland, Frank McKinney, and many more.

I thought you might enjoy a few fun snapshots from just this last year…

(And yes, that’s ABC’sGood Morning America co-host Robin Roberts. And no, we are not pals… yet! We chatted for a long time at her book signing. In the spirit of thinking big, once my book is published I’m looking forward to chatting again… only this time on camera about my book!)

It’s been really great meeting and learning from these can-do entrepreneurs, many of whom have also become friends. But as Carol’s networking event demonstrated, the whole point of making connections is that it can’t be all about you. You have to remember to give as well.

Take Jeff Walker. Jeff is famous in the online world for pulling in tens of millions of dollars in sales in a matter of days. He’s also the guy I credit with showing me how regular people in all kinds of small niche businesses can generate four, five, and even six-figure sales in a week. I guess I was somewhat of a “star pupil” because a couple of years ago Jeff gave me the chance to attend his $5000 seminar as a Guest Expert. On a purely personal note, he’s also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever want to meet.

When I met up with Jeff again at Yanik’s 2007 Underground Online Marketing Seminar and he asked share my marketing success story on video, I was only too happy to oblige. To date, my video “case study” has gotten over 2,500 views…

Like I said, when you go out of your way to help other people, the natural instinct is to want to somehow give back. So, at the 2009 Underground Online Marketing Seminar I turned the tables and got Jeff on camera talking about me…

Give A Little Corner of Your Mind Space

Jeff runs his business the way I run mine – continually looking for ways to connect people he knows, likes, and respects with resources, information, and connections. In a word – to give.

In reality, though, when you have as many balls in the air as Jeff and I do, and with so many people wanting you and your time, there is only so much you can give. But one thing that is easy to give is mind space. It’s actually something I learned from Jeff. One reason I signed up to be in his (gulp) $10,000 Mastermind group is I knew that once he got to know me and my business that I would be on his mental radar screen.

What does that mean? Well, when someone is very actively on your mental radar screen – it could be a local contractor or caterer or chiropractor – then you’re always on the lookout for ways you can help them. The people in my Outside the Job Box Career Expert program are on my radar screen in a big way.

If you were in my course, I’d tell you that getting on my radar screen means when I’m out walking the dog or driving to the airport, I’m thinking about you and your business and how to help you make money…. it means when I’m at conferences, workshops, or other networking events, I’m always looking for ways to promote you… it means when I see an opportunity for you to get some media exposure, I pass it along… it means when I see an article or a Web site I think you might benefit from, I share it with you…

In other words, this is not some situation where I deposit your money, you take my course, and I wish you good luck and walk away. On the contrary – I am fiercely committed to your success.

And it’s not just about making connections. For example, the second time I ran the Outside the Job Box training course, I produced a series of 10 client case study CDs. I knew my year one students could really benefit from hearing me conduct actual client consultations with real people. So, at my own expense, I had an extra 250 CDs made up and shipped to previous grads as a surprise gift.

In subsequent years, I’ve invited all my previous grads to attend, again as my guest, my big Work at What You Love workshop. I wanted them to have the chance to meet and network with one another, with prospective clients, and with Barbara Winter – whom they adore. These personal connections have led to some close friendships and even a few profitable collaborations.

You don’t have to attend a live event to benefit from connecting and collaborating with others. There are lots of forums both on and offline where people can give to one another. For example, www.Meetup.org is a great way to find or start a local networking group on all kinds of special interest topics.

If the people you need to connect with are geographically spread out, you can tap into – or even set up – a social networking site of your own. Two easy-to-use social networking software programs are Ning.com and CollectiveX.com. Ning is a little stronger in the social networking side but CollectiveX is better from a collaboration side. With either one, you can create a public network at no charge.

Give What You Can

I know when you’re just starting out and trying to make money, it’s easy to focus on getting everything you can whether that’s ideas or clients or free information. But, as I look back at the origins of my own business, it has always been the giving that has made the biggest difference. More than a decade later, I am proud to donate a portion of my profits to people who need it the most via www.TrickleUp.org. Even if you only give $10 a month – it is the practice of giving that is important.

Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” See if you can come up with at least five ways you could give something to your current or prospective customers or clients. It doesn’t have to be big. But it does need to be from the heart.

P.S. If you are planning to attend Ryan Lee’s Big Continuity Summit and you need some help coming up with money-making ideas here’s a list of the Outside the Job Box Experts who will be on hand as on-site Idea Joggers:

Ann Ronan, San Juan Capistrano, California
Barb van Wickland, Old Lyme, Connecticut
Cheryl Young, Dorset, Vermont
Carrie Jeffries, North Smithfield, Rhode Island
Diane Kobrynowicz, Austin, Texas
Elizabeth Klein, Plano, Texas
Glenna Bailey, Chandler, Arizona
Janice Bennett, Middleton, Nova Scotia
Jennifer Manlowe, Bainbridge Island, Washington
Joan McAndrews, Pt Washington, New York
Karen Winkelman, Phoenix, Arizona
Karen Heck, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Kate Fessler, Seattle, Washington
Kathleen Baer, Sandy Springs, Georgia
Laurie Cauthen, Barnesville, Georgia
Lisa Tarrant, Chicopee, Massachusetts
Lynn Burkholder, Guelph, Ontario
Mary Ann Nalbandian, Worcester, Massachusetts
Michelle Harmon, Richmond Hill, New York
Michèle Meagher, Arlington, Massachusetts
Nancy Ward, Sherman Oaks, California
Patricia Robertson, Wyncote, Pennsylvania
Rosalyn Lang, Durham, North Carolina
Sally Evans, Centennial, Colorado
Sue Newell, Waterloo, Ontario
Susan Kuhn Frost, Springfield, Virginia
Wendy Heilig, Cabot, Vermont

To learn more about how you can become an Outside the Job Box Career Expert – and get on my radar screen – go to http://OutsideTheJobBox.com. If you share this link with others, please be sure to let them know that time is running out and the registration doors will be closing soon. Thanks.

There are 7 comments. Add yours.

  1. Vanessa

    Thank you Valerie this is such an inspiring article – I love it! In my opinion we cannot be reminded too often of the power (and fun!) of giving, and here you have addressed the concept from a perspective that I really appreciate and can relate to. Thanks also for the link to Trickle Up. ~ Vanessa

  2. Kim

    While excellent ideas, they all require an outlay of cash, and not just a few dollars.

    Just saying.

  3. susan kuhn frost

    Valerie, as someone on this list — I am blown away by your generosity! This is the spirit that will beat the recession and thank you so much for your commitment to spreading it so widely!

  4. Glad you all liked the article. To Kim’s point about all of the ideas requiring an outlay of cash I would say that there are ways to give that require little to no cash. There are conferences happening in all size communities where you can speak for free. If you really are too far away from a location where a speaking opportunity might be available then write and submit free tips either online or to local or even non-local publications. When I first started out I sent small articles to a now defunct business newspaper on Cape Cod. Then I contacted CareerBuilder.com to see if they wanted some articles. I gave away a ton of free advice with little return. That is until one day my article appeared on the MSN home page after they partnered with CareerBuilder. Then all that giving paid off. If you don’t have money you have to be more creative. But often I find the people who have the least give the most. Hope this helps. Valerie

  5. Excellent article! I can relate to every sentence in this newsletter. I never realized that buying and using Info products is like giving to myself. You are right.

    In my opinion, investing in Info product will not give the results immediately. We may have to listen to CDs several times OR we may not have the courage to implement the ideas immediately. Persistance pays.

  6. Bonnie Pond

    Wonderful article on the value of giving, connecting, and eventually receiving in return. Thanks for the helpful suggestions and links.

  7. Thepolkfishwrap.com

    Hey there! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any problems with hackers?
    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing
    a few months of hard work due to no backup.
    Do you have any solutions to protect against hackers?

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A New Direction

I decided to take the Work @ What You Love Workshop and also work one-on-one with Valerie. The workshop explored so many unusual and unexpected solutions to my specific questions. I made so many new connections to what clearly works for me in crea...

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Curvology Studio

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