Overcoming fundamental flaws within a business, with Stephen Woessner

Episode 917

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Good Morning Onward Nation — I’m Stephen Woessner, CEO of Predictive ROI and your host. And holy bananas — it’s a New Year and a brand new DECADE!

This time of year is special…maybe it’s because how much I love Christmas…or maybe it’s the second chance to get things right that each New Year represents.

Between Thanksgiving and New Years — I intentionally take time to reflect back on what was accomplished in the previous year — and — consciously direct my attention toward the year ahead.

I map out strategies, action steps, draw out illustrations in my journal of how it will all coming together — and when it’s done — I feel at peace with what is about to be put into place.

Then with each passing day — as we get closer to January 1st — the excitement builds and I can’t wait for the starting line to get here!!!

Because that line was just a few day ago — I elected to focus today’s solocast on two topics that will be helpful to you and your team if your goal for 2020 is to Double Down!

And for covering the two topics — I’m going to take you behind the curtain to shine a light on some of the biggest obstacles to building and scaling that we experienced during the early days of Predictive ROI.

I decided to share these lessons with you in full transparency — although embarrassing — because getting them right was a key to stabilizing and then growing Predictive. And — I wanted to share tangible examples with you…not marketing hyperbole or theory.

I also decided to share these lessons in the hopes that if I can help you avoid some of the mistakes, missed opportunity, or gain traction faster than we did…well…that’s rock solid awesome!

So buckle in — here we go…

The early years of Predictive ROI started over a decade ago.

I wrote my first book — The Small Business Owner’s Handbook to Search Engine Optimization — back in 2009. Shortly after it was published — I started getting offers to do side work projects for companies.

At the time — I was part of faculty and academic staff at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse and happy with my position within the College of Business. I was teaching at UW-La Crosse and several other UW campuses include the School of Business at UW-Madison.

I was also involved in on-campus research, publishing, and serving our community through board seats and committee work.

I loved being on campus and my plate was full.

For a while — I just declined the side work that came as a result of my book. I said “thank you but no” because I didn’t want there to be any conflict of interest with the university.

But then I did some research — determined that it would be fine to say yes here and there — did a project — and holy bananas…it was a lot of fun.

The side work grew to the point that I had to make a difficult decision. Was I going to stay at the university — or — take on the challenge of trying to build a company?

I couldn’t say no to the challenge — so I resigned from the university and most of the people who knew me thought I was making a mistake.

Not going to sugar coat it for you — the first 5 years of Predictive ROI felt like an impossible grind. There were exceptionally long hours, we aimlessly wandered through wins, losses, and tried to figure out our identity.

On the personal side — my wife and I invested everything we had into the company — and we racked up personal debt.

We were beyond “all in.”

Now that we’re on the other side of it — Praise God — I can see that we struggled because of several fundamental flaws within the business.

One — we lacked clarity around a vision for Predictive.

Two — we had zero idea of what an ideal client or prospect looked like.

And Three — because of points One and Two…we said “yes” to every project and every client, which cost us time and money each and every time but we were too blind to see it.

But thankfully — with the help of incredible mentors and lessons learned from our generous Onward Nation guests — we began to see that in order to be excellent at points 2 and 3 — we had to get our vision for the business down on paper and begin living by it.

So we dug in. And when we did — we learned that “vision” actually meant three things:

1) defining our core values

2) getting clear on our purpose

3) constructing a mission that embodied a bold and audacious goal for Predictive

We didn’t have any of these in the early years.

Because here’s the reality. We were working hard just to survive and we didn’t give ourselves the time to think strategically about the direction of the business.

Candidly — I would have rolled my eyes at the notion of taking the time to work on it. I likely would have said, “Yeah, that’s all well and good — but I have sales to make.”

It’s really hard to think about vision when the pressure of making payroll is upon you.

Sound familiar?

Ever heard the expression, “Running a business feels a lot like fixing the plane while flying it”. Whoever came up with that line was so spot on.

My team and I did a lot of “fixing while flying” and we knitted the early years of the business together.

Then — we got a little breathing room. Then a little bit more. We paid off several chunks of debt and began to see the sun through the clouds.

But as nice as the breathing room was — we also felt some obstacles to going further. We could see ahead but also felt stuck.

Then it clicked — we had taken Predictive as far as we could without putting a proper foundation into place.

Thanks to lessons from our mentors (Drew McLellan and Brett Gilliland if you’re reading this…THANK YOU!), and the hard work put in by my leadership team — and all of our teammates — we now have a foundation (vision) for Predictive that include values, purpose, and mission.

You can find our core values on PredictiveROI.com here.

And funny thing…

As we were going down the path of doing our vision work — I was also interviewing successful business owners for Onward Nation episodes — and I kept hearing our guests talk about the importance of vision, values, purpose, and mission and how completely that work made a huge difference in the trajectory of their companies.

Quick aside for a second…

Have you ever bought what you think is a unique car? And then “all of a sudden” as you’re driving along — you see versions of your new car driving down the road?

The cars were of course there all the time but you didn’t see them because of the “reticular activating system” — or RAS — inside your brain.

Your brain was literally blocking your ability to see the other cars. But your RAS let them in once there was commonality and that data point became relevant to you.

Weird how our brains work, right?

The lessons around vision were always there in front of me — either from mentors or Onward Nation guests — but my brain blocked the knowledge until I was ready to receive it.

So I’m hopeful that if your goal is to DOUBLE DOWN in 2020 — you’ll be open to what I’m sharing with you.

Getting your vision down on paper, building the right team around your vision, and having a structure in place to measure progress is critical if you’re going to scale to an 8-figure business and reach $10 million+ in annual revenue.

I’m going to share two resources that will be helpful as you do your visioning work.

First — I recommend reading some of Jim Collins’ earlier work. You may be familiar with Jim as the author of “Good to Great”, which is a rock solid awesome book to be sure.

But in my opinion — Jim’s earlier and a lesser-known book, “Beyond Entrepreneurship” is better because of the deep dive around vision, values, purpose, and mission.

You can find Jim’s book on Amazon here.

Second — I encourage you to attend the free training that I’m co-hosting tomorrow (January 9th) with Brett Gilliland, CEO of Elite Entrepreneurs. As I mention earlier — Brett is one of my mentors and he’s also a 2-time alum of Onward Nation.

Before founding Elite Entrepreneurs, Brett was one of the key executives at Infusionsoft that helped grow the company from $10 million in annual sales to over $100 million. He now teaches his Elite members the principles he and the team at Infusionsoft used to build, scale, and dominate their industry.

Because I felt the tremendous impact of working through vision alongside Brett and his team — I asked if he would be open to sharing his expertise in a free training session so you could learn directly from him, too.

He graciously agreed. The free training is TOMORROW, January 9th at 1:00 Eastern. This is a private training — just for you and other business owners in our community.

You can find the details here. If you can’t make it live — still register so you get the recorded replay.

Okay — just a couple more insights around the visioning work we did at Predictive.

One — it doesn’t have to take you and your team years to get the work done. I wish we put ours on paper WAY BEFORE year 8 in our journey. Good grief.

Learn the framework from Brett on January 9th, study Jim’s book, and get your vision down on paper…quickly.

If you do that — you will be YEARS ahead of your competition as you step into 2020. Most of them are aimlessly wandering through the wilderness — but you won’t be and that’s a powerful advantage.

And Two — no matter what you put down on paper…just recognize it will evolve over time.

As you bring more people onto your team — they will make it better by pushing against it in new ways. And they will add things to it that you would have never thought of and likely help make it even more audacious. Awesome.

Stop waiting. Push the fear to the curb — take an afternoon. It won’t kill your business if you step away for a few hours (you just think it will — trust me — been there).

Promise yourself that you’ll get it done.


Okay — I look forward to hearing more about your 2020 plan with your newly defined — or updated — vision. Drop me a line at [email protected] — would love to hear from you.

Now that the foundation of a vision has been set in your business — let’s work through how to go about building a sales funnel to ensure you have enough opportunity flowing into your business…so there’s enough cash to fund all of the things you need to get done in order to DOUBLE DOWN in 2020.

And let’s start off with setting some expectations and some definitions around what sales funnels are — and — what sales funnels are not.

I’m starting us here because there is so much marketing hyperbole around sales funnels that I can barely spend time on Facebook any more.

If I have to see one more Facebook ad from “business coach” claiming that all I need to do in order to build my business is to download his or her 7-figure email swipe file…I think I might scream.

Most of those ads are gimmicks and are being promoted by coaches who don’t really have an actual business. They have built a revenue stream by selling you a thing that will show you have to build a similar revenue stream by selling the same thing to other people just like you.

Do you remember back in the day the classified ads…mail in $7.00 and you will get this thing that will show you how to place classified ads and you will make a ton of money?

Same game — it’s just now being played on Facebook.

That’s not a business. And that’s not a sales funnel that will help you build a 7-figure or 8-figure business delivering real value to your clients.

And here’s another reality check about those 7-figure business coaches we see and hear on Facebook.

Did you know that…

According to the US Department of Labor — only 4% of the 28 million businesses in this country ever…like ever…reach over 1 million in annual sales.

And I’m pretty sure that the majority of coaches and quasi-experts making the 7-figure claim haven’t truly reached a million dollars in their business, they haven’t owned an actual business, or they’ve never built and scaled a company like what you and I are building.

So our discussion around how to build a sales funnel is going to be much different.

You and I are going to focus on the content you need to create to establish yourself as THE AUTHORITY in your market — and — how to structure your service offering into a VALUE LADDER that actually works for filling the sales pipeline in your business.

No gimmicks. But instead — it will take time and effort but you will have something in the end that is actually helpful to your business.


The speed at which you build and scale your business will largely depend on two things:

1) your ability to teach and share your expertise to build and nurture your audience through consistent cornerstone content…

And 2) how well you construct your value ladder.

Okay — let’s tackle each of these.

How do you build and nurture your audience?

You do that by creating “Cornerstone Content” and sharing it with your audience.

So what is cornerstone content?

Drew McLellan, CEO of Agency Management Institute and host of the Build a Better Agency Podcast, and I recently finished writing a book entitled, Sell with Authority. So here’s how Drew defines Cornerstone Content…it’s content that’s:

  • Meaty enough to produce lost of smaller pieces
  • Significiant enough to serve as the epicenter of your promotion, activity, and eventual fame within your circle of influence
  • Consistent in how often you create content and how much you stay focused on one topic or area of subject matter
  • Sales-free. This is about teaching and helping. Stop. Period. End of story.
  • It’s always about your audience. That should be your primary goal.
  • It’s a long term play. No one’s going to recognize you as an Authority after three months.

Now do you see why I think the 7-figure email swipe file sounds ridiculous? Argh.

Cornerstone Content is meaty, dense content that gives you plenty of opportunities to slice and dice into what Drew and I call, smaller “Cobblestones.”

Depending on the channel you choose for your cornerstone content, you might only need to create it once a year — like a research study — or in the case of a video or podcast series…it should be once per week.

As you and your team talk through how, what, where, why that you should be creating cornerstone content for your 2020 content strategy — I encourage you to go back to Episode 676 of Onward Nation…because I break it all down.

I think it will be helpful to you and your team.

And it is through consistent cornerstone content that you will build and nurture your audience.

Drew and I are often asked, “But…how long will it take?” And as you may have guessed — the answer is…it depends and there are several factors…

First — the consistency of your content creation. Are you disciplined with a weekly schedule?

Second — the quality of your content. Are you saying something fresh or just repeating old news?

Third — the amount of time and effort you spend promoting and sharing your content.

Fourth — the hunger of your audience. Some of them are starving and will gobble up everything you share. Others may only consume the tastiest of offers.

Fifth — the level of competiton and how narrow you decide to go. If you’re writing about general healthcare marketing, for example, it’s going to be a long haul. If you’re writing about marketing to women over 50 with breast cancer…you’ll have much quicker adoption.

And sixth — those luckly-strike moments like having someone else with a similar audience share your content in their world.

But as I said earlier — building a nurturing your audience is not a get rich quick scheme. Drew and I will often say that you should count on taking six months to a year before you reap any significant benefit from your efforts. By year two, you should be dancing a jig at how well it’s working, and by year three, you should be well-established as the authority you are.

If you go back to Episode 864 of Onward Nation — I walk through the pros of going narrow…and how going narrow is the secret to monetizing faster.

Now that you have a framework for your 2020 content strategy — we can turn our attention to how your content ought to be structured in a sales funnel that will act as a pipeline to grow your business. In order to do that…you need to think of your audience in four different categories.

You have a MACRO audience…a MICRO audience…a NANO audience…and an EXISTING audience.

Let’s break each of these down.

When someone is part of your MACRO audience — they engage with your cornerstone content from the sidelines…at a distance. They consume…they may even subscribe to your podcast via iTunes or your YouTube series…but they are not addressable. Meaning — they yet haven’t stepped forward and shared their email address with you in exchange for a downloadable thing or some other resource.

Website visitors, most social media traffic, and podcast subscribers are all part of your MACRO audience.

For example, iTunes doesn’t allow you to download an email list of your podcast subscribers. You also can’t download an email list of everyone who visits your website on a daily basis.

Yes, your website visitors can be retargeted through paid ads — but even then — they’re still not addressable one-to-one via email.

So your goal is to grow your MACRO audience while remaining focused on your niche. You don’t need a million downloads of your podcast episodes if you’re focused on serving a small, super profitable niche.

Now for MICRO…

Once someone decides to share their email address with you in exchange for a piece of content like an eBook or some other resource…they become part of your “addressable” MICRO audience.

They have moved to the second stage of your sales funnel. MACRO is stage one — and MICRO is stage two. They have raised their hand and said — “Okay — you have earned enough of my trust that I am willing to give you my email address to get access to X resource.”

Yes, one could argue that social media followers are addressable because you could send a direct or a private message to a specific follower.

Or…you could download the email addresses of all your LinkedIn connections and send them an email campaign.

All true.

But — in reality — you have a business to run and will not likely have the time to do much one-to-one messaging on social — and — GDPR made downloading the email list of a LinkedIn connections and hitting “send” — pretty risky.

So — in thinking about what’s realistic — MICRO for you is most likely when someone opts in for your e-newsletter or downloads a helpful resource from your website.

Before we move on to NANO — I want to share another lesson from Drew that had a significant impact on me…and my guess is…it will be helpful to you, too.

And that is that someone may stay in your MICRO audience for a day or a decade. All you can do is be helpful over that period of time. Provide them with helpful resources, great recommendations they can take and apply, and be patient.

When someone in your MICRO audience feels comfortable — and you have delivered the best of what you’ve got — and have done that for years — and have always put their interest ahead of your own — some of them will be ready to move on to stage three…or NANO.

NANO is where the monetization happens.

A whole lot of trust needs to be built before someone moved to NANO.

For example, if one of the podcast guests who happens to be a member of your “Dream 25 Prospect List” decides to engage you and team for a project…or a guest books you teach a workshop, deliver keynote at their conference…or you offer a course to your MICRO audience and it sells…these are all examples of monetizing at the NANO level.

But — and this ties directly into the next chunk of what I wanted to share with you during this solocast. It will be difficult for you to monetize at NANO — or to build a consistent sales pipeline for your business if you haven’t taken the time to build out a value ladder.

Your value ladder provides new and existing clients with defined ways to begin or continue doing business with you. It starts with a low price point and limited scope of work…and progressively increases in price and scope.

When you have your value ladder fully built out — it might include 3, 5, or 8 different rungs that go from free all the way up to your highest priced, and most valuable service level.

But for the ease of discussion and getting started…I want you to think of just three rungs on your ladder…and then you can build it from there and make it more sophisticated over time.

The price point on the first rung on your ladder is FREE. So if you’ve completed the MICRO stage in the sales funnel…you’ve already got the first rung of your value ladder built.

But don’t stop with just one downloadable eBook, guide, or tip sheet. Because if you offer up one thing…it will appeal to a segment of your MACRO audience…but of course…not everyone.

So I encourage you to build out a Resource Library where you are offering your MACRO audience many FREE resources that can be helpful to them across a number of different situations or scenarios.

The Resources Library on PredictiveROI.com could be a helpful example as you and your team build out your own.

Okay — the second rung on your value ladder should be a service offering that you can provide a client priced at about 10-15% of your desired gross profit. Gross Profit is your revenue less any cost of goods sold.

So let’s say your ideal client represents annual gross profit of $50,000 to $200,000 for your company…then the second rung on your value ladder would be scope of work that you could price anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000 in gross profit.

The goal of the second rung is for your prospect client to step into a relationship with you. To evaluate what it’s like to work with you and your team. To see if you can deliver what you promise for a $5,000 project before they commit to a $50,000 spend with you.

So maybe that’s you and your team building out a strategic plan for them. Doing some research with defined scope. Maybe delivering a training program on-site for their team that they can take and apply internally for the remainder of the year.

You decide how you want to knit it together — but the second rung on the ladder is your foot in the door — and your opportunity to demonstrate the smarts of your team in action.

With that said — will some clients step into a larger relationship with you right away and essentially by-pass rung two?

Yes, it will happen and has likely already happened with you.

But you also know — that it doesn’t always happen that way, and my guess is, if your sales strategy is to only present your full scope of work at the maximum price point…you have lost more opportunity than you have won.

So if rung one is free…and rung two is 10-15% of your ideal client spend…then rung three is 50-100% of the ideal clients spend.

Or in this example…$50,000 to $200,000 in annual revenue.

This is where your team is delivering everything. Putting all of their smarts to work in order to solve a client’s business challenges. You’re delivering the best of what you have to offer at rung three — and — this is where you are establishing what will hopefully turn into a long-term relationship with your new client because you and your team have demonstrated how you can deliver significant value.

So let’s sum up a few points before we close out and say goodbye.

Building a scaling a business is hard — I know you don’t need me to tell you that — but sometimes having someone from the outside acknowledge the struggle and the super courageous thing you are doing…well, quite frankly…it feels good.

Next — get your vision down on paper. Read Jim Collin’s book Beyond Entrepreneurship and attend tomorrow’s webinar with Brett Gilliland.

After that — build your strategy for cornerstone content.

Then take that content strategy and map it against the MACRO, MICRO, and NANO sales funnel.

And lastly — build your value ladder so it’s as easy as possible for a prospective client to move from MICRO into the NANO stage and begin a relationship with you and your team.

Okay — with that said – I’m over the moon excited for you as you step into 2020.

This is the start of more than just the New Year. It’s the start of a new decade…and my bold prediction is…if you take and apply even just slices of what you and I reviewed during this solocast…you and your team will Double Down in some key areas in 2020.

That’s darn exciting and I’m grateful to you for giving me this opportunity to walk alongside you on the path.

And one last thing before we close out and say goodbye, Onward Nation — I want to give you a very big thank you…in fact…let’s call it a virtual hug.

There’s absolutely no way we’d be approaching 1,000 episodes — and — there’s no way we’d have this opportunity to serve business owners in 120 countries without your support, your encouragement, and your feedback.

Here’s the reality — you help us get better every day, Onward Nation.

To have you here means a lot — so THANK YOU!

I look forward to being back with you again next week – until then – Double Down – and move Onward with Gusto into 2020!

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The Sell with Authority Podcast is for agency owners, business coaches, and strategic consultants who are looking to grow a thriving, profitable business that can weather the constant change that seems to be our world’s reality.

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