The first thing I do when I take on a new client (or on board someone into one of my mastermind groups) is to have a conversation with them that begins with:
“Where were you…where are you now…and where would you like to go?”
Since the people I like working with the most are always up to something bigger and better, the “where would you like to go” part always seems to include something about “exponential growth” or at least “significant growth.”
And no one answers that question of where they want to go with “staying where I am now.”
But it’s the next set of questions and the inquiry that follows that is most interesting since almost everyone I have worked with assumes that to create huge growth it’s always about inventing something new or doing something completely different than what they have done in the past…with completely new people, assets and resources.
And it might be.
But I maintain that is never the starting point.
Where I would start:
Your next big idea might be right under your nose…or in a drawer somewhere…or filed away in something called a file cabinet…or simply sitting on your hard drive.
The alternate subject line for this post is, “Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got” (which happens to be the title of one of my favorite books by one of my mentors, Jay Abraham).
The premise: When brainstorming with yourself (or others) about that next big idea, think deeply and initially about assets you already own and control before thinking about trying to attain new assets.
I think the biggest reason I am a “mastermind junkie” is that I love to surround myself all the time with people smarter than me and to have others I trust and admire tell me things I can’t see (and will never see) about my life and my business.
I talked about this in last week’s post, “Give me the bad news first.”
I think this is true for most people who join masterminds—they actually look for, and love to receive, the most candid feedback.
But there’s another element—in addition to what I discussed last week–when I emphasized the importance of others telling you about your blind spots or giving you “bad news” that can help you.
Today’s angle: Having others making you aware of your existing, overlooked assets from the outside looking in–and pushing you to go deep with what you have already rather than covet anything new and shiny–is another reason to surround yourself with smart people who will tell you the truth.
Having sat on many “hot seats” in masterminds over the years (and participated in the audience for hundreds more), helping myself and others seek the “wisdom of the room,” it’s often shocking how obvious the answer becomes when someone else asks the right probing questions.
A problem or opportunity that seemed so daunting at the outset usually becomes clearer and manageable to solve when someone else forces you to focus on resources that are right at your fingertips.
I have taken Jay’s lessons, and the lessons learned from those hot seats, and incorporated them into my thinking whenever I am trying to help someone else… or trying to help myself.
Again, the first step is to go deep on “assessing your assets.”
Start by asking:
“What are all of the things you have access to or own which have already been created, written, developed, curated—and probably with a sunk cost?”
Of course we should all think big and look beyond where we have been and where we are presently and I am by no means suggesting that exponential growth is only the result of re-hashing, recycling and never buying something new and shiny.
What I am suggesting is that you cannot ignore everything you have built, created and achieved just because you see it as the “past”…and in fact, it is all of that material in all forms that can propel you even further in the future.
I guarantee that there will be more than enough time for you to explore the new and exciting (and unknown)–but looking at what is already there is where I recommend you begin.
I know this sounds stupidly simple.
Hopefully it will be helpful to you if we focus on three areas and some questions you can ask yourself regarding the inventory you own before you go shopping for new inventory:
How many active or previous customers do you have on a list somewhere/anywhere?
How many people can you reach who know you, your products, or your service who have not bought from you in the past but still might “take your call” (e.g. open an email from you because it’s from you)?
Your first step is to take inventory of all the lists you already own.
And that includes groups of people not in some sort of automated database either (e.g. your Facebook friends, your Linked In contacts, or your email contacts all count).
I can’t tell you how many times someone tells me about their next big idea and the first thing they do is talk about extravagant marketing plans which include promoting to HUGE audiences who have no idea who they are and know nothing about their history or track record.
I know you are well aware that “warm traffic” is more responsive than “cold traffic”…but you would be amazed how many people go after the shiny object (e.g. “cold traffic from the millions on Facebook”) before the “boring” previous buyers and prospects who might know and love them already.
Or even talk to their Facebook friends before they buy ads on Facebook.
The reason most people justify going outside before looking inside is usually a version of this:
“I have 3,000 people who know me and love me (and some have even sent me a check)…but I want this new product to be BIG!”
I maintain that you will get bigger faster (and prove any concept with more confidence) by going a mile deep with those “3,000” first rather than going a mile wide in another medium.
Whether you sell business-to-consumer like I did for the company I helped build (which sold millions of subscriptions and books “$39 at a time”) or whether you sell business-to-business at much higher prices, the philosophy is the same.
Mining your “house list” first in as many ways you can think of (e.g. different offers to different segments, special copy based on interest areas etc.) will be the foundation of your business; and after you prove the new idea with those folks, there will be more than enough time (with a lot less risk) to go after the millions of new people who can’t wait to hear from you too.
But take care of those who love you the most first.
And by “love” I mean anyone you might have touched in the past whether they bought from you or not.
Also, always look at the economics of being big in a smaller, niche market you are already a hero to (and who will probably spend more with you) vs. being small in a larger, broad market who has never heard of you.
It’s worth doing the math.
What content do you own or have the ability to use on an unlimited basis?
What products do you own or have access to that have relevance (or once had relevance)?
This is a resource we all take for granted…and it’s so easy to think that once it’s been printed or sent in an email you can’t use it again.
The term “repurposing content” has nothing to do with “selling/distributing the same stuff over and over again to people who can’t remember if they bought it or consumed it.”
It has everything to do with “good material is always worth repeating”…and updating…and thereby transforming previously used information into new information.
Simply put, before creating anything new from scratch, see what you have already that can be repurposed powerfully.
And truth be told, this blog post today is not a 100% new but it is another spin on something I have written about in the past because I believe it is so important.
What previous winners do you have in your swipe file that have been retired?
What previous “almost winners” or winners in a different medium than a medium you are looking at using currently are sitting in that same swipe file?
And what losers do you have that you were surprised when they lost but you never went back to try to turn them around?
Everything you have done in the past with your marketing efforts is an archive of educational materials, not just sales letters, order pages and copy platforms that are “one and done.”
Furthermore, anything that has worked well in the past for you or someone else should never die; and even anything that was a total dog (i.e. didn’t work well at all) for you or someone else is a building block for future promotions.
While I had very little luck in my career simply taking a huge winner from years past and just reusing it after simply giving it a rest, I have had winner after winner by repeating copy platforms, headline structures and some previously used promotion copy…most often with new and re-structured offers too.
I recently talked about the power of swipe files and why every successful copywriter and marketer has elaborate systems to catalog anything and everything they can build upon for their own future promotions.
Short version on the power of assembling a swipe file: You can look at winners from others and “steal smart” (i.e. adapt winning formulas to whatever you might be working on yourself).
I say this often but it is worth repeating here: “Stealing is a felony…stealing smart is an art.”
I know you have probably been taught the lesson of “being grateful for what you have” and its kissing cousin that “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.”
The beauty of marketing today is that nothing you have done (or do) will ever be gone.
Plus–we have more media choices than ever before, more content available than ever before and access to more successful promotions to study in an instant than ever before.
And please look first at the media, content and promotions you own first.
There is a dark side to the fact that nothing you’ve done in the past is ever gone…just ask the kid who put a picture of himself on Facebook at a frat party 5 years ago in a drunken stupor hoping the person interviewing him for a job today doesn’t see it.
On the other hand, every person you have ever had a previous relationship with, everything you have ever written and every sales approach you have ever used is also around forever…and it’s all far more usable (and less embarrassing) than pictures at a frat party.