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The show-me-the-money mindset
Think. Write. Lead. - Issue #42
Welcome to this episode of Think.Write.Lead. where I talk about the mindset of a solo thought leader with regards to money and profit and give you some practical tips on how to monetize your content.
You will notice that this issue is longer and goes more in-depth into the topic -- and there's a reason for it, which I'll tell you at the end.
"Show me the money!" is the famous Jerry McGuire quote that defined a generation.
Well, that might be an exaggeration, but it really is the battle cry of every solopreneur.
Without money, there's no business.
Maybe a hobby.
For us people with an entrepreneurial mind, show me the money is a natural instinct, it's second nature.
But not so for everybody.
In my career as an author and now as a thought leadership evangelist, I've encountered many people who lack this show-me-the-money mindset.
Authors who write out of love for the art and glorify the legend of the starving writer who only cares about words.
Thought leaders who have zero inclinations towards monetizing their knowledge.
This became evident when I invited a well-known marketing leader who also talks about thought leadership, to take my Thought Leadership Scorecard.
In her opinion, pure thought leaders don't need to be business savvy or have a personal brand (see comment below).
"Pure thought leadership" seems to be simply an academic exercise or a job function and has nothing to do with profit (although universities and companies still make money out of the thought leaders they hire).
That's why I created a new category: The Solo Thought Leader.
A solo thought leader can be:
A solopreneur or business owner who grows their business through thought leadership.
A content creator or writer who becomes an authorpreneur with a unique point of view.
When you are considered the go-to expert in your niche (a.k.a. solo thought leader) and you are a published author, you can actually charge premium prices and get high-ticket clients.
But if you don't have the right mindset (the show-me-the-money mindset), you are going to give everything away for free or at a very cheap price.
Then you'll be struggling financially or burning out because you have to work more hours to compensate for how little you charge.
"But, Diego, I'm just starting out, so I have to give value for free for at least a year or something."
If you are just learning to write or don't have a good enough product, by all means, test it with free samples and improve it with the feedback from your users.
But if you are creating products based on years of expertise and you can prove/guarantee results, please don't give your stuff away for pennies.
Value yourself more. You are worthy.
Here are my five top tips for monetizing your thought leadership content.
1. Charge for at least one product from the start
Yeah, I know some people advocate for building an audience first, earning trust, and then launching a product.
But I wonder if they'd do the same with a more traditional business. Would they start a restaurant and give food away for free during a year before starting to charge their customers?
Of course not! The ingredients, the assets, the staff... they all cost money.
And you know what? So does the time you invest in creating your content.
I began posting on LinkedIn a year ago. And less than 2 months later, I launched an online course.
Guess what? People bought it. I made over a thousand dollars in a few weeks.
Maybe you won't get tons of sales because your audience is small, but if your content is good and you are solving a problem people have today, why wait a year to offer them the solution?
There are people out there ready to buy that product you are thinking about launching, but if you don't do it, they'll just buy it from someone else.
2. Charge as much as the market is willing to pay
It's easier to lower prices than it is to raise them. If you price your course at $29 and then jump to $199, people are going to react negatively.
The way to test how much the market is willing to pay is to start with a high price and reduce it gradually if you don't have any sales, until you find the sweet spot.
My first course was priced at $500 for the cohort and $350 for the on-demand. My first few sales where for the cohort version.
Later, I decided to just offer the on-demand course for the sake of time, but noticed that it wasn't selling. So I reduced the price to$250. No sales.
Then I went down to $150. Just a few sales.
So I tried $97. Bingo!
The sad thing is that many solo content creators start selling $20-$30 courses and never find out if people are willing to pay more than that. They're leaving money on the table.
3. Don't offer seasonal discounts, ever
Years ago, when I had a solo marketing agency, one of my clients owned an exclusive women's clothing boutique that carried brands not available anywhere else in town.
She paid me to send out promotional emails to her list 5 or 6 times per year with the latest promotion: from Valentine's to Spring, Summer, Fall and Christmas specials with impressive markdowns of 30% off or more.
Unintentionally, she trained her clients to wait for the next promotion, so they would rarely pay full price for her products. She eventually had to close her boutique.
I almost never offer discounts. I've done it a couple of times and it wasn't worth it.
If you want to incentivize people to buy, instead of giving out a discount (subtracting value from your product), offer a bonus (adding value to your product).
For instance, many authors give their book away for free or at a deep discount for a couple of days during launch. But when launching my book, The Solo Thought Leader, I offered free access to exclusive interview videos to those who bought the book on launch date.
The result? I sold dozens of copies at full price that day.
4. Grow your business with an ascending ladder of products
The worst mistake you can make is to sell OOPS (Only One Product or Service).
Things like 1:1 career coaching, fitness training, financial planning ... and that's it.
The problem with an OOPS system is that:
It's not scalable
There’s no pipeline
It's time consuming
It makes you vulnerable
What you need is a product ecosystem that will generate:
Attention and leads (free content and products)
Interest and sales (low cost, low risk products)
Revenue (your core offering)
Recurring revenue (upsells, memberships, services)
The products in the ecosystem follow an ascending ladder, with each step being more valuable (hence, more expensive) than the previous one.
You don't need to build the whole ecosystem from day one, but you can start working towards it. That's what I've been doing for the past year, while building in public.
Here's an example of the paid products in my ecosystem, from my website:
The three products above do not include the free resources I offer to generate attention (blog, podcast, social media, book) and capture leads (scorecards, newsletter).
BTW, one of the best lead generation assets is a quiz or scorecard, because you can provide lots of value while getting insights from your audience. I have created two scorecards, The Author IQ Test and The Thought Leadership Scorecard, using Scoreapp.com. Use this invitation link and get a 30-day free trial. The 30 days should be enough to test it and get a few leads.
In this video, I show you behind the scenes of my most popular scorecard.
5. Build a tribe of true fans
True fans are those who buy every single thing you release. They read your posts and articles, they listen to your podcasts and subscribe to your newsletter. And they do free marketing for you, telling everyone about you, bringing new fans to the tribe.
You can have a profitable business with a tribe of true fans plus the occasional purchases from people who stumble into you. So identify your fans and communicate with them, delight them, make them feel part of your creation process.
That, in my opinion, is more valuable than going after virality and obsessing about increasing the number of followers.
Yes, there's that option as well: focus on big followings that bring tons of traffic to your site and try to convert them (the average conversion rate is 2-3%). The problem with this approach is that you are constantly looking for growth hacks and new techniques to call attention to yourself, which causes two additional problems:
You focus on the short term and won't develop thought leadership (which requires long term planning and thinking).
You focus on gaining new followers at the expense of your existing fans.
And as every good business person knows, it is 5x easier to sell something to an existing customer than to get a new one.
In fact, in a product ecosystem, most of the profit is made on the backend, with the recurring revenue of your existing clients.
And because the proof is in the pudding, here’s what I’m doing (remember I told you there was a reason that this issue is longer?):
I'm releasing a paid version of Think.Write.Lead. (at $7/month), so people can join the tribe, we can have deeper conversations and I can provide more value to them.
There's also going to be a free version of the newsletter, where you can get weekly writing tips and thought leadership insights, just as you have been getting them so far. If you just want to get the free version, you don't have to take any action.
Now, paid members will also get these benefits:
Subscriber-only posts and full archive.
Exclusive templates, worksheets, and videos (notice the videos and templates in this issue, for example).
The ability to post comments and join the community.
And for a limited time, there is a Founding Membership option, where you can get all paid subscriber benefits, plus free access to my book writing course (Write your First Business Book in 90 Days), and a digital copy of The Solo Thought Leader (a $107 value).
This week, every subscriber is getting the paid version of the newsletter (the one you are reading right now) as a preview. If you want to keep receiving the full version, join the community.
Do you have a show-me-the-money mindset or do you feel you can't charge too much for your products or services?
Are you creating tons of free content and not monetizing it?
Are you relying on discounts to sell your products or are you communicating the real value of your products?
Are you chasing volume or creating a tribe of true fans?
Do you have enough assets to create a product ecosystem?
Brainstorm 10 different ways to monetize your content (examples: publish blog posts in Medium, start a paid newsletter, create a paid community, sell ebooks, sell templates, start a merch store, etc.)
Outline your product ecosystem, using this template:
Create a strategic plan for your business for the next year. This is the template I use:
Access the template by clicking the button above, then watch the tutorial video:
"Show me the money" is not the motto of a greedy bastard. It's one of the three components of a successful business.
Your business should give you three things: money, time, and significance.
Enough money to support your ideal lifestyle.
Enough free time to enjoy that lifestyle.
And significance so you know you're making a difference and you'd feel fulfilled.
My business mentor used to say that until you master those three things, you're not a real business owner, you're just self-employed.
That's why one of the steps of the solo thought leadership framework is The Solo Business Owner.
You must take care of the business side as well as the thought leadership side to become a solo thought leader.
Are you ready?