Let’s talk about standing out in a sea of competitors. I’ve learned over the course of building my own business, and coaching thousands of women
Leverage Your Differentiation
Become “untouchable” in your industry by differentiating your business and offerings so much that clients stay for years because they get results that (and feel what) they can’t elsewhere.
WHY IS IT that some businesses seem to have virtually no competitors? Why do some companies stand out far ahead of others? What’s their magic touch?...
WHY IS IT that some businesses seem to have virtually no competitors? Why do some companies stand out far ahead of others? What’s their magic touch? What makes them so unique that they break the mold of their industry and turn everything on its head? That’s the point of this Activator, to make you and your business an industry change agent.
Let’s examine how one business transformed its industry and eliminated virtually all competition and see what we can learn for your own business.
If you have a chance to go to Amazon.com and search for a “girl doll,” you may notice that there are many to choose from in the search results. There are the Melissa & Doug brand dolls (around $26), the Alexander Doll (around $40) and the American Girl dolls (for as much as $225).
When initially comparing these dolls online, it may seem that they have many things in common and that very few things differentiate the three dolls. In fact, at first glance, it’s difficult to determine what makes them at all different. But then, we look at the price point for each doll and wonder how one of them, the American Girl doll, can cost ten times more than the others.
Upon looking beyond first appearances into the American Girl doll phenomenon, and it is indeed a phenomenon among a subset of young girls, we realize that there is actually a world of difference between this eighteen-inch doll and all the others available for purchase. Beyond the actual product (the commodity or the tangible doll) lies an experience, a lifestyle, a sense of belonging for every girl that purchases it.
What isn’t clear at first sight if you’re not familiar with American Girl is that there are extras that come with the doll that go way beyond even the book that accompanies the purchase. The customer has the option to purchase a customized doll that looks like her, with options including skin color, hair texture, hair length, eye color, and eye shape.
There are also a variety of clothing options to buy for the doll (a whole wardrobe can be purchased separately, with many different out- fits, one for every occasion). Additionally, one has the ability to purchase outfits for the young customer that will match what her doll is wearing. Then, there is a choice of innumerable options for accessories, such as a pet and all the required accessories for said pet, a travel suitcase, ticket, passport, sports equipment, a wheelchair and crutches, a bunk bed for twin dolls, a salon chair and hair tools, strollers, school desks, a camping set with a doll sized tent, an armoire for the wardrobe, etc., all for the doll in question.
That’s just what can be purchased. But there are many other differentiators that make the American Girl doll “untouchable” by its competitors.
There are American Girl stores in major cities that will rival your grandest department store, a restaurant within the store where you can not only dine with your girlfriends and their dolls, but also celebrate your birthday with everyone attending expected to bring along their own American Girl doll to the party; a “hospital” for fixing your doll; a beauty salon to have a hairstyle added or an ear piercing for your doll; online games, a line of books for girls on everything from how to deal with bullying, puberty or becoming better at math.
In short, there are few aspects of an eight- to eleven-year-old girl’s life that American Girl hasn’t thought of, including the building of a girl’s character.
The American Girl website explains, “We believe in creating girls of strong character. Facing fears, running into roadblocks, and learning from mistakes? That’s life. Responding with optimism and resilience? That’s character—the kind we build in girls everywhere, every day through stories and experiences both timely and timeless.”
A store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, a restaurant, a salon, a “hospital,” an extensive clothing line for both the doll and her “big sister.” No, this is no longer a child’s toy. American Girl has succeeded in becoming a way of life, to permeate every aspect of a child’s existence if she lets it. There is a mission, a movement, an identity woven into every aspect, every customer experience.
Owning an American Girl doll is decidedly a lifestyle.
Now admittedly, it is easy to judge the unapologetic consumerism that is the American Girl “way of life.” I have heard from many parents and relatives that it is indeed difficult to step into the store without the thought of spending way more than originally intended (especially with the prompting of a ten year old).
That being said, does American Girl as a company have any real competitors? No, not really.
American Girl has turned an industry on its head. What could you learn from this particular company about becoming a change agent in your own industry? Could modeling this way of doing business help differentiate yours and transform it into one that has virtually no competitors and keeps its clients for years to come?
Let’s find out.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” —Maya Angelou...
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” —Maya Angelou
Your clients’ experience makes your company untouchable (not necessarily you). When you first started your business, you likely focused on getting that first new client or customer, delivering the service or product as stated and you hoped that they were happy with the results or product. Maybe you even hoped that they’d send a referral your way at some point or buy again down the line. But it usually stops there.
After some time, many business owners focus on how to make their product or service a bit better, based on client feedback and the hope that clients will stay longer. They focus primarily on making the tangible product or service, well, better.
What many don’t think about is about crafting a customer or cli- ent experience that becomes a way of life. You see, at this stage of your business, now that many of the foundational pieces are in place, it is not solely what you produce that matters as much as how you make someone feel when they are experiencing your goods and services.
It comes down to an experience or a feeling that they cannot get anywhere else.
Businesses that stage experiences or involve emotion (as American Girl does) are not only able to increase the price of their offerings, but also the lifetime value of that client. The reason for this is that clients value experiences with “feelings” more highly and when they do, they want more of them.
That being said, if we would like to turn your business into one that is a differentiated, industry-transforming business (or at least one that keeps its clients for many years) we must look at the non-core areas of your business. (In the case of American Girl, the doll itself would be considered the core area of the business, but that’s not the thing that makes the experience. It’s the intangible character building and the feeling of belonging that makes owning this particular doll an experience unlike any other.)
Even though it may seem counterintuitive, these intangible aspects of your business are what impress your clients the most and make them stay longer.
Here’s another example of an industry change-agent.
Paddy Lund, a dentist in Australia with a referral-only, cash-only, no-advertising, no-sign-on-the-door dental practice has a vastly differ- ent take on business growth. He believes that goods and services (the tangible aspect of a business) are no longer enough to have a full practice and keep clients for years.
Instead of focusing on the technical, “core” parts of your business, the dental procedures themselves, Paddy Lund’s philosophy steers you instead to focusing on the “critical non-essentials,” those things on which your customers judge you that aren’t evident.
Instead of putting a focus on updating the x-ray machines every year, Lund’s dental practice is known for serving tea in Royal Doulton china, and going through a whole tea ceremony for each guest. There are sugar-free “dental buns” and a state-of-the-art espresso machine. The waiting room is called the “relaxation room.” The business cards are “referral cards.”
The staff is treated like family and their primary focus is to make you feel like family when you visit the practice, so that you feel happy. Happy going to the dentist? Yes! Going to the dentist is now a pleasant experience patients actually look forward to. All team members go to great lengths to make this a reality. And that’s why Dr. Lund never needs to advertise and why patients who enter the practice never want to leave.
By focusing on creating an unforgettable experience, this dental practice became untouchable. It has transformed the way dentistry is done and, essentially, it has no true competitors, at least not in the immediate area. A client is usually a client for life and refers many others. And it’s never for the dentistry itself.
It is, as Paddy would say, a happiness-centered business and the clients come back again and again for a feeling of warmth and caring, and even a “show,” looking forward to the elaborate tea experience.
Notice that these critical non-essentials are what they come back for, not for the cleaning or cavity-filling itself. It’s the attention-to-detail touches, done repeatedly and with painstaking care, that make the ordinary run-of-the-mill aspects of this business something extraordinary and inspire many clients to refer friends and family.
When companies begin to leverage a few of these “little things” into key experiences for their clients and customers, they experience a state of differentiation (and find loyalty) they’ve never achieved previously. And when fewer clients leave and, instead, stay for years, while many more referrals begin to flow in, these businesses experience unprecedented growth.
A “little thing” may be a hug that each team member gives your clients, or the fresh flowers and dark chocolate that are always available. It may be the sign-on gift, the picture you send in the mail after each time they visit you, the brownies or birthday gift they receive from you each year. It may be the healthy food, the shoreline views, the feeling of “home” that you provide.
These may initially not seem as important as the way you do the technical part of your work, the thing they actually signed up for. They are likely the things that everyone else in your industry thinks are too small (or costly) to be important, but they are actually the very details that clients and customers really remember and stay for.
Clients initially come for the technical part of your business, but they will stay for the feeling.
You can absolutely be high-touch in a high-tech world. Right now, your clients feel good because YOU make them feel good, by your presence, your energy, your gestures, the way you get them results in a personalized way, and the way you talk to them. But if we want to increase the number of customers you work with now by a factor of two, five, or ten (to get to Seven Figures), things will need to be systematized, as you wouldn’t be able to personalize the experience for so many people.
Now, admittedly, for many business owners who have been person- ally responsible for making each client feel special, there can be resistance around using systems for making people feel special. It seems like an impersonal approach to them. The good news is, your systems can actually feel warm, rather than mechanical.
As we move your business model to one that is more leveraged, perhaps eventually (but not necessarily) taking you out of the picture over time, we don’t want to lose that connection they feel to you now, especially if it’s part of your culture or your brand’s essence. The key for continuing that deep connection clients and customers feel with you now is to create systems and procedures that make people feel super special, without you being the one to generate them yourself.
For example, we have been known to send a special “welcome to the program!” treat in the mail to all new program members. It is tied to our message and our tribal language. Hundreds and hundreds of these baked goods have been sent out each year, but I (obviously) was not baking them myself. Nor was a team member of mine spending days in the kitchen baking. No, the orders were generated automatically by our in-house customer relationship management system, and then sent by a fulfillment house specialized in these gifts.
Even though it’s a system, the effect is still very much high-touch. Many who receive these love-filled packages send in a picture of their gift box with a thank you note exclaiming just how very touched and special they felt as a result, and how tasty the treat was.
It’s both high-tech and high-touch. It’s different than what others in our industry are doing. And it’s something you too can be doing.
This process (among others) can be automated so that each and every client has what we call a Yummy Client Experience, even if you aren’t there in person to deliver this experience or high-touch gesture.
Your business is an experience, a theater of sorts. To move from a simple transaction to providing a feeling of “wow” for your clients and customers, look at how your business can create an unexpected experience they’ll love. Let the goal be that, each time a client interacts with your business, their senses are engaged or they feel either loved or entertained. Go beyond traditional (boring) transactions and begin to deliver choreographed (meaning, planned ahead of time) experiences focused on moving the clients’ emotions.
The objective is that the people will remember that moment and want to experience more of them. When your business feels personal, entertaining, memorable or deeply enjoyable, when it can produce a feeling that your clients can’t or don’t experience anywhere else, they will stay longer and come back often.
Here’s an example worth noting: When was the last time you cried in an expensive restaurant and your kids asked (begged) you to take them back soon?
Enter Bel Canto restaurant in Paris. The food is pretty good (at €85 minimum per person, not including beverages) but it is not the reason why people come or why the two seatings per evening are full virtually every night, in every season of the year.
Dining at Bel Canto is an experience that mixes opera and haute cuisine.
A review on Tripadvisor reads, “A quartet of lyric singers accompanied by a piano supports the ballet of waiters. Every fifteen minutes or so, one, two or four of them will perform parts of renowned tunes from Carmen, Don Giovanni, Tosca, The Magic Flute, or La Bohème. The surprise, the joy, and the proximity with the singers create a real emotion. The food is always good but the wait staff make the experience so much better than any other!! I have been back a few times and will definitely be coming back many times more!!”
The only costumes the Bel Canto artists wear are their
waiters’ uniforms. All the wait staff are new opera professionals and students in the music academy. Their role, other than serving you your meal, is to bring the show to the dining room.
It feels as though you are having dinner on stage. The serving of the dishes is orchestrated around the opera singing, and every aspect of each service seems to be intended to stir emotion and create unique sensations.
As a family, we enjoyed the opera and then were invited to sing along too as eventually, all diners joined in to sing opera together. Everyone in the restaurant sipped a toast together (juice for the kids, Prosecco for the adults) as if we were longtime friends and family.
I must admit that my eyes welled up in tears at this feeling of connection. It was such a feeling of home, of belonging, of something bigger than just a night out in a restaurant. This shared moment with strangers who temporarily became family doesn’t happen every day.
My children loved it. And while there are many restaurants in the world that I may never remember or wish to visit ever again, my husband and I agreed to come back to experience this one again.
Notice that I didn’t talk about the food itself, what we would normally call the commodity or transaction. I am referring to the non-essentials, the theater aspect of the experience.
When applied to your business, a focus on creating a sensorial experience and generating emotions has the capability to turn the usual into something far beyond a one-time transaction and into more of something memorable, a tradition for someone’s family, a monopoly they gladly gift you without you having to ask.
The intention is that of “business as entertainment” or as a way to generate a feeling that people can’t find elsewhere. Doing so gives those you serve an opportunity to get away from it all, to experience an aesthetic appeal that stays with them. This is about focusing on leveraging your differentiation in the marketplace.
To leverage your business even further, elevate your clients’ experience way above and beyond what they would normally expect from others (think ridiculously different). Is what you offer currently “transactional”? How could you expand it to turn it into more of a wow experience they will rave about?
“As an entrepreneur, you’re in a unique position to create value that makes you indispensable to your clients. By integrating your passions, experience, wisdom, and capabilities into creating...
“As an entrepreneur, you’re in a unique position to create value that makes you indispensable to your clients. By integrating your passions, experience, wisdom, and capabilities into creating
situations and processes that help others, you’ll find yourself with a much bigger future than your competitors—financially, creatively, and personally.” —Dan Sullivan
Make yourself so unique that you become indispensable to your clients. What is the missing piece between “Thanks a lot for everything, I got what I needed. I’m off now” and, “I’m here for life because this is my home”?
I believe that clients come to us first because they have a problem we can solve. They want a result and will pay for that result when they believe the value is there. But beyond that, I also believe that clients and customers stay for years when you provide this result while also making them feel what they can’t feel anywhere else.
Here’s what I’ve witnessed in working with thousands of people each year for close to twenty years:
- Everyone on the planet wants to feel loved.
- Everyone on the planet wants to feel significant.
- Everyone on the planet wants to feel heard.
- Everyone on the planet wants to feel understood.
- Everyone on the planet wants to feel like they matter to someone.
- Everyone on the planet wants to feel like they’re a part of some- thing bigger than themselves.
That said, not everyone feels loved enough, even at home, even by their spouse or their children. Few people ever really feel like they are appreciated by others, or that they matter.
I also believe that people go where they are loved.
People go back again and again to the places where they feel significant and appreciated, where they feel special.
When your business fills a human need for love and connection, for significance, and for consistency or reliability, beyond what a client originally wanted out of the transaction you present in your business, something magical happens. When you make people feel what they don’t feel, even at home or elsewhere in their life, they will automatically be drawn to you and will want to stay, without being able to logically explain why.
This is where I invite you to be unique in your industry about filling the unexpressed needs of your clients and customers. Think of significance, love, and connection. You can’t go wrong here. This makes your business indispensable to some.
What clients want is not necessarily the only thing they need. Yes, a client usually knows exactly what kind of results they want. They’re painfully aware of what’s missing in their life. But often, they are also completely unaware of what they need. And the two aren’t usually the same.
I’ll give you an example. If a business owner says they want more clients, or they want to get to 10K a month consistently, they may realize that they need marketing help. We’ll call this “what they want.”
But underneath the surface, this same business owner may have felt like the black sheep in their family for their entire life. Perhaps they have never fit in, always feeling they didn’t belong, like something was wrong with them. Maybe they were bullied as a child and have always felt a bit different than the rest of society—“too much this” or “not enough that.”
That feeling of isolation and inadequacy has been with them all their life, even though they can’t quite verbalize it. They aren’t aware that growing their business without unconditional support is keeping them stuck at their current level of business. They don’t realize that they need a tribe of other advancing entrepreneurs who won’t judge them and who will accept them as is.
They know they want new results, but they don’t realize that they need unconditional love and support. (This is one of the ways the Leveraged Business program is differentiated in the “business coaching or training” marketplace, among other ways.)
Their “want” is marketing or training on business growth.
Their “need” is a community of like-minded people, a tribe of other black sheep that will make them feel at home for the first time in their life.
Do you see the difference? They are conscious of what they want, but not of what they unconsciously need. So, differentiating yourself in the marketplace requires that you discern what your clients want (the conscious result they seek and will pay for) and what they need (the unconscious feeling of belonging and unconditional love that they can’t seem to get elsewhere, for example).
And then, provide both.
And thereafter, market both. Lead with that differentiator.
Going beyond just providing what clients want (solutions) but also giving them what they need (a sense of community and belong- ing) immediately differentiates you from anyone else in your industry. Clients become raving fans. They feel a sense of identity when they’re with you. They begin telling others about you. They happily make the decision to work with you year after year and make it a non-negotiable.
When you continually give them what they want as well as what they need, this prompts your clients to grant you an unsolicited monopoly. And when what you offer cannot be found anywhere else, you become untouchable, in a good way, by your industry colleagues. Your competitors will scratch their heads, wondering what you’re putting in the water that makes clients choose you over them every time.
(By the way, this is true for your team members as well. Beyond providing your staff a job to do and a good paycheck, the right people will stay with you for years and devote themselves to your mis- sion when they feel like they’re a part of a family where they are loved and truly appreciated while they get to do good work in the world.)
“Because she competes with no one, no one can compete with her.” —Lao Tzu...
“Because she competes with no one, no one can compete with her.” —Lao Tzu
Information is not implementation, and distraction is the enemy. Another reason that clients will stay longer with (and spread the word about) you over someone else in your field is that they feel they are getting better results with you than with anything else they’ve tried.
That makes it a good value for the money. Providing good value, even unprecedented value, is an industry differentiator. It makes the competition pale in comparison to what you offer.
(Just a note to clarify that I don’t see anyone in my industry as a “competitor,” per se, but rather a colleague, and yet for the purposes of this book, as the word “competition” is a common word, I’m using it here.)
How can you compete in a crowd of people or companies that pro- vide similar offerings to yours?
You differentiate yourself by how many results your clients actually experience in working with you. And a big part of that is getting your clients to actually use your service or product, as it was intended and to the fullest of their capacity. Left to their own devices, many clients won’t actually apply your solutions to the fullest extent, which means that they won’t get the results they had hoped for or that they’re capable of.
You can have the best proprietary system or methodology the world has to offer, but if your clients or customers don’t get results, they won’t stay, they won’t buy more, they won’t write raving fan reviews or refer their friends and family in droves.
In a world where there are innumerable communications and media competing for your client’s attention span each minute, there is a ton of distraction.
The thing is, a distracted client doesn’t get results. So, naturally, the way to help your customers get better results (and differentiate yourself as the “best” in your industry) is to get them to engage and consume your offerings as they were intended.
Here’s how I see the formula going:
Help clients engage and consume => they get better results => they realize that your offerings work better than anyone else’s in your marketplace => you are immediately differentiated from anyone else in your industry => any competition becomes irrelevant.
Before you assume that I use the word “consume” to mean “buy more,” that’s not what I mean to say. Increasing client consumption in this case means that, as a strategy, we want a lot of the focus in your business to switch to making sure your clients are actually using your resources.
The more they use your resources as intended, the bigger the results they will get, and the more valuable your service will be to your clients. This is about value creation and the more value you provide, the higher in demand you will be.
In more than 20 years of mentoring thousands of women business owners, I have personally found that “getting clients to actually do the work” involves three separate elements, each important in their own right:
Content + Context + Culture
I’ll explain each element so you can understand it better. First, the Content:
Content is the “what.” This is the methodology, the framework, the step-by-step formula that creates results. It is the “meat” of what you offer, the how-to or the product. When used fully by your client, it provides consistent and predictable results. It is the proprietary system we spoke about earlier, for example, the The Leveraged Business System®.
To create Content or a methodology that produces predictable results, it is important that we reverse-engineer how clients will get said results. In the case of the Leveraged Business program, I asked myself how specifically I had gotten to Seven Figures in my own business while keeping my freedom (no longer working evenings and weekends, taking two months off a year, many vacations, etc.)
It became clear that there was indeed a process, which was eventually turned into a methodology:
- I had leveraged my team.
- I had leveraged my systems.
- I had leveraged my time.
- I had leveraged my business model.
- I had leveraged my marketing.
- I had leveraged my accountability.
- I had leveraged my differentiation.
- I had leveraged my lifestyle.
There were Eight Activators to getting to a million. It was a step-by- step methodology. I knew in my heart that, when applied fully, this pro- cess would predictably get any business to a million in revenues without the business owner losing their freedom or their sanity.
So, reverse engineering how to provide a very specific end result is key to the Content piece. Nothing enters any process or methodology unless it helps you get to that specific end result. And that’s what we’ll refer to as the Content going forward.
Now, onto the Context.
Context refers to how your Content or methodology is delivered and organized. It points to how user-friendly your offerings are and whether or not everything is structured so that your audience is compelled to engage with it and implement it. It is about the environment in which it lives.
How we’ve implemented the concept of Context over time is by realizing how specifically our ideal clients (women and heart-centered men) are wired to show up in their business. Here’s what I mean:
Solo entrepreneurs are typically high idea-generators, but not always motivated to take things to completion. They love to start new things, but get distracted easily by other bright shiny objects (or other matters at home). They often need structure and lots of accountability to engage or get things done.
They are also (especially women and heart-centered men) circular thinkers, rather than always linear in how they look at life. They need regular check-ins, real time feedback, and time to talk things out.
They are often busy with children at home or other priorities, even if they work outside of the home. They don’t have time to reinvent the wheel. They need a trusted source of guidance (what to do, in what order, and how to do it exactly, as well as the ability to follow examples that already work), with large blocks of uninterrupted time in which to implement.
Additionally, many female solo entrepreneurs are often feeling-type people, craving connection and collaboration. They sometimes lose traction when they spend too much time alone. They need kinship and regular contact with others also on the path to stay excited about the journey.
In thinking of these needs, we’ve crafted an environment that includes the structure, the monthly board of directors calls, the large blocks of time to implement as a group, the weekly check-ins, the daily accountability, the loving community, etc.
Let me explain some more, this time, by example.
Many years ago, I ran masterminds for groups of fourteen business owners. I would teach them how to grow their businesses over the course of a year. They would get coaching from me, live retreats, Q&A calls and step-by-step instruction, along with a Facebook group to be able to connect with each other in between our time together.
At the end of our initial year together, I would ask everyone to go around the virtual classroom and answer, “What did you love most about this first year together? What is it that helped you get the results you experienced?” and the answer was invariably, “the Community!”
My ego would bristle a bit and I couldn’t help but think to myself: “The Community? What about the hours of coaching, the days I took to create the methodology and Content, the teaching from the front of the room, the hotseats, the strategy and Q&A time? Did they somehow forget about all of that?”
They hadn’t forgotten all of that, but invariably, “the Community” was the answer from just about every person. They craved kinship on their entrepreneurial journey, and my need for significance initially felt a bit crushed.
What I didn’t realize back then is that, without the Context of “Community” and the accountability that came from within the loving tribe that had been created for them, the lifelong friendships with other like-minded people also on the journey to big things, there would have been no significant implementation or results, or at least not the results they had actually received because they had the community.
The friendships, mindset shifts and accountability weren’t part of the actual curriculum (Content), but as a whole, they were just as import- ant. These were part of the experience and environment that fuelled their results. This was no longer an accident, but a predictable, repeatable asset to the program. It was the Context to their learning and growing.
Seeing the immense value that these provided in terms of getting results for the members, we formally built them into the program and these Context elements are now very much a non-negotiable part of why the members get such incredible results in the program. In addition to the Content, our Context offerings look like this:
- Personalized Map: your customized action plan for each year, tailored to your needs
- Step-by-Step Directions: trainings on exactly what to do, in what order, with examples to follow
- Daily Accountability: finally, someone to lovingly and firmly keep you focused and accountable
- Implementation Time: facilitated blocks of uninterrupted time each month to implement as a tribe
- Monthly Masterminding: your personal “board-of-directors” to help you brainstorm and prioritize
- Just-in-Time Support: Weekly live support for your burning questions, troubleshooting and clarity
- Supportive Community: the friendship and unconditional love you’ve been looking for your whole life
- Retreats: electrifying sessions for deep learning, mindset shifts, best practices and transformation
The important thing to realize about these is that they are not what people join for initially. Members are actually sometimes surprised to see how well these Context elements work to get them results. But they are a large part of what creates the outcomes, as well as the reason why they now stay.
Does anyone else offer these? Perhaps, although I haven’t seen it, and not the way we boldly do. And this is what differentiates us in our business coaching marketplace.
And finally, the third element is Culture.
Culture refers to the “experience” that the clients, well, experience when working with you. It’s the sense of belonging that only a strong Community can provide, the love and friendship, the deep sharing about personal and professional things, a focus on positivity and mental strength, and the tribal language, among many other tangible things.
It’s the combination of all the things intended to make clients feel something (such as belonging or a sense of home) that makes up the Culture aspect, which then makes them want to implement what you say, or use your product.
How does melding all three of these elements (Content, Context and Culture) actually make a difference? Allow me to illustrate it further for purposes of clarity using the program as our example.
Everyday solo entrepreneurs who perhaps had never thought they would reach a million a year in revenues, reach these results (usually within three to five years, sometimes less) because we have created a very specific formula using the three elements we’re talking about, using Content, Context and Culture.
Here’s how Jen Hickle actually demonstrated the combination of the three C’s and how each had a role in helping her get to Seven Figures in just two years [the brackets are my additions]:
“Before joining the Leveraged Business program, I had a good business. It was pretty solid, I had just convinced my husband to quit his job. We were bringing home about $100,000 a year, and our business was bringing in $500,000 a year.
“My business was achieving a goal that I wanted, and I knew that I wanted to do more . . . but I had no idea how to do it.
[CONTENT] I did not know how to go to the next level. I had done other coaching programs, but the feminine aspect was always missing. [CULTURE] I homeschool, I have four kids, and doing this program was a leap of faith. I told my husband, ‘I know I can do this. I can work the program, I know I will.’
“I am so happy to say at the end of the first year, I showed him the business numbers and said ‘This is because I invested in this program.’ Two years later, we are now netting $300,000 take-home pay and we have a million-dollar company.
“So much of getting to a million-dollar business was about the community believing in me [CULTURE], getting over self doubt and resistance, participating in the masterminds [CONTEXT] and creating time away from my daily routines to think about the business [CONTEXT].
“I love the lessons and strategy [CONTENT], but the people are what I love the most [CULTURE]. I can’t live without them! You can’t find people like this, in this dense amount, anywhere else. They are warm and encouraging from the first moment they meet you, and they just love you. [CULTURE] I don’t know that I loved myself before I met them! They would reflect my gifts to me, and I had to step up to match that.
“My husband is thrilled about the investment now, he keeps thanking me for taking this risk and taking him along for the ride! He got to quit his job, we have a house and life we love, we get to travel—and now he’s looking at the numbers and he sees the proof. If I can do it, you can do it.”
Do you see how Jen (intuitively) broke down the three elements of the program (not communicated openly to the public) and how each element separately helped her get to a million dollars in two years?
The point I’m making is that, if you wish to leverage your differentiation, you must create exceptional results for clients. To do that, I recommend the use of Content (a methodology), combined with Context (the environment in which the Content is delivered so that it prompts implementation), as well as the Culture (the experience or feeling that the customer can’t get anywhere else). This trifecta will produce predict- able results toward the desired outcome.
I believe that implementing this eventually makes your business untouchable and the competition irrelevant within your niche because your clients really implement, engage with, and consume your work, which means they get results they wouldn’t get anywhere else.
Instead of being a “one-trick pony,” provide a “lifestyle” journey. In the very early stages of my coaching business, I helped one of my clients start her business from scratch and, within one year, fill her practice. Then, just when I was ready to continue working with her for another year to get to the next level, she announced to me that she was moving on to work with someone else, a colleague of mine.
I was surprised. My ego was hurt. I blushed. I kept thinking to myself, “Why would she move on when we have done such great work together? There’s so much more to work on.” Well, apparently, she hadn’t realized that.
In fact, when I asked her why she was moving on instead of continuing to work with me, she told me that he (the colleague in question) was “more advanced” than I was, that I only offered help on ABC. Conversely, according to my client, he didn’t just provide client-attraction coaching, but he went beyond ABC and offered teachings on DEF, all the way through to XYZ (such as creating group programs, selling from the stage, generating passive income, etc.).
She essentially told me that she was leaving (albeit happy from our work together) because she saw me as a one-trick pony. Ouch.
I realized that she might have been right, and that I was:
- not providing enough variety
- not providing any way to ascend (or continue) working with me
- not being innovative enough.
In looking back, many of my clients had been sad to leave and they told me so. They got great value from our work, they liked me a lot, they trusted me, we had built a good relationship and working style, but I had set up my work in the early days to be more transactional. One and done.
Knowing that they ideally wanted to stay longer, and I wanted to continue working with them longer, I started thinking about how I would remedy that so that I could continue providing value to my clients and stop them from leaving once our initial work was done.
I decided to extend my offerings and transform my work to be more of a journey on which many of them start and want to continue the whole way. With integrity, authenticity, and love, I decided to make it a working relationship they didn’t want to leave.
My plan was to keep increasing the value beyond their expectations, anticipating and then meeting their every need on their entrepreneurial journey. This was very well received. In fact, the clients were relieved that I could provide them the next steps (in anticipation of their new- found needs at their new level of business), and grateful not to have to think about finding someone else to work with.
And this is why so many of them stay for five, six, even ten years. Providing this “lifetime journey” to your clients can be the differentiating factor in your marketplace too, one that very few people offer. And this is what I’d like you to think about for your own business.
I call this establishing an Ascension model for clients. Most of our members begin in a program we offer to those who wish to get to 10K a month consistently. Once they’ve reached the six-figure-a-year mile- stone, usually within twenty-four months but sometimes much sooner, they enter the Leveraged Business program (which as you know is about going from Six Figures to Seven Figures and gaining your freedom back).
After twenty-four months of the Leveraged Business program, they ascend to the Masters program (focused on creating a self-managing business that can run entirely without them if they choose). All of this is voluntary, of course. What the members have shared with us repeatedly over the years is that, now that this feels like ‘home’, they are delighted to stay year after year, not feeling the need to go look elsewhere.
If they do leave after their initial program is over, to look at what else is available elsewhere, it is not unusual for them to come back to us and they stay indefinitely.
The most important thing to focus on is the process of setting up a client journey based on their needs. It’s about caring enough to trans- form your offerings from one-time-only to the whole package. It shows you know them, and it shows you care.
How could you move your offerings away from the idea of a simple transaction or “one and done” and, instead, provide a lifestyle journey? How could you offer ascension or variety from the beginning?
If you’ve ever heard of Cirque du Soleil or attended one of its shows around the world, you know that the shows provide “a striking, dramatic mix of circus arts (without animals) and street performance that features wild, outrageous costumes, magical lighting, and original music,” according to the company.
It isn’t just one show, though. There are so many to choose from (Amaluna, Toruk, La Nouba, Alegria, etc.) with new ones coming out regularly and being performed across the world.
The idea for each show is the same, to invoke the imagination, provoke the senses and evoke the emotions of people who attend the performances around the world. That said, each show is different, providing variety. And so, many people (including me) have seen more than one show, in more than one location around the world, whereby I or they perhaps would not have attended the same show more than one time.
Providing variety breeds loyalty.
A few years ago, we created a brand called Boldheart to house many of our different projects and courses. This included being able to move past just offering business coaching, and into programs such as Boldheart Life (becoming unshakably confident and creating a life you love), and Boldheart Woman (the unapologetic pursuit of pleasure and fulfillment).
It also left room for eventually rolling out future projects such as Boldheart Youth, Boldheart Camps, Boldheart Vacations (which clients have asked for), Boldheart Man, Boldheart Relationships, Boldheart Parenting, Boldheart Publishing, Boldheart Giving, etc.
Whether all of these will come to pass is still unknown. But the reason I’m sharing this with you is to stretch your thinking of how your brand could differentiate itself in the marketplace by offering more than what it is currently offering, so that it becomes a lifestyle. Like American Girl, this is an example of what’s possible when you are committed to a certain vision or intention of providing many solutions for a person’s life, so they do not have to unnecessarily go elsewhere to find solutions.
If there isn’t a lifestyle component to what you offer, then it could be a journey of variety whereby you keep the same format but keep refresh- ing your offerings so that they keep coming back, like a restaurant with a new menu fresh from the market every day (no set menu, just daily menus inspired by what’s in season, such as Husk restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina offers) or the variety of different programs offered by Cirque du Soleil.
That being said, leveraging your business means that you may want to make it wonderfully impossible for some clients to want to leave, through ascension, variety, and providing a fresh journey to which you continually add.
This is true differentiation.
“Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself- and thus make yourself indispensable.”
“Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself- and thus make yourself indispensable.”
Get clear on your X factor. In the first few years of my client attraction coaching business, I taught my clients the marketing, the whole market- ing and nothing but the marketing. It’s what they’d hired me for and so that’s what I was going to give them.
At one point though, in addition to working on my usual market- ing tactics, I began to grow my own business by leaps and bounds by working on my personal growth (strengthening my mindset and wealth consciousness), understanding the Law of Attraction (the magnetic power of thoughts that draws to you what you think about), and increasing my faith. When applied to my business, these principles helped me take more action in spite of fear.
The results were outstanding, but I didn’t initially share these new approaches with my clients. I was afraid that 1) they wouldn’t think it was “professional” enough for a business coach to talk about spirituality and personal growth and, 2) it wasn’t what they were paying me for.
But when they’d congratulate me on the leaps in my business result- ing from what they perceived to be solely my marketing work, I felt like a fraud not sharing these new processes with them.
One day, upon hearing about these mixed feelings I was having, a friend challenged me to host a free teleclass about the Law of Attraction techniques and success mindset principles I was using to attract clients and increase my income with great success, without one mention of marketing. I accepted the challenge and called it “How to manifest all the clients you need.”
I was nervous to host it, but it was a surprising success. My existing clients who attended the teleclass eagerly asked me for additional coach- ing around the Law of Attraction and success mindset, even though it’s not what they would have paid for originally.
Over time, I started weaving in the personal-growth work, and the spiritual development (not explicitly in the modules, but as a bonus to our existing work) and it is this focus on mindset that now allows what we offer to stand out from all the other solutions available for business owners looking to leverage their existing business.
Little did I know in the beginning that adding this mindset aspect to my coaching would eventually become the secret ingredient that has helped thousands of our members go beyond their current internal limitations stopping them from multiplying their impact and income. With our added mindset methodology, they now produce results they had never experienced before.
Lorry Leigh Belhumeur is one person who is changing the world by virtue of having worked on her mindset. Her goal in life is to eliminate suicide worldwide. She runs a non-profit that heals over 15,000 children and 55,000 family members and teachers per year. What she hadn’t realized is how much she was being held back in expanding her work by her existing mindset.
She has been a member of the Leveraged Business program for more than five years and shared her story with me on just how much mindset affected her own work.
Because of a proprietary system we created for her, which is scalable and duplicatable, she can scale her process to make a big impact on teen suicide globally. The nonprofit she runs is now making millions more each year—but that isn’t what matters most to Lorry. It is the impact she can have by leveraging her differentiation that matters. Her story in her own words is at the end of this chapter.
To add another few million to a non-profit’s revenues just by helping a client upgrade her mindset has been a significant sign. Mindset and working on one’s confidence have become our X factor. Yes, I’m clear that it’s not what makes someone commit to working with us, but for many, it’s what differentiates us and is a reason why clients get results.
I’m okay with that.
Mindset is my Fairy Dust. What’s yours?
Deliver to them what they paid for, and then gift them what they really need or want, for free. Silk Road Palace, a Chinese restaurant in New York City, had apparently figured out the secret to restaurant success, uncontested market space, and making the competition irrelevant.
Imagine a snowy Saturday night on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Most restaurants on the block have fewer than the usual number of customers they have on a busy night, and the other Chinese restaurants on the block are completely empty.
Silk Road Palace, however, has a long line of people waiting patiently outside, smiling, laughing and eager to be seated, fully aware that they will continue to wait another thirty minutes in the cold. The expectation was that it would be crowded and loud, the service would be brusque and the food would be decent, at best.
Imagine me in my late twenties, happily and eagerly waiting on that same line with my group of also-not-making-enough-money-to-live- extravagantly-in-Manhattan friends. How does this make sense in a city known for some of the best food experiences in the world?
The secret to Silk Road Palace’s uncontested success, its Fairy Dust, was:
Free boxed wine.
Cheap white wine.
From a box.
Served ice cold.
In unlimited quantities.
Obsessively replenished without you asking. Refilled before your carafe was ever empty.
Yes, the wait was ridiculous, and there were many downsides, but customers kept coming back and crowding this hole-in-the-wall restaurant because the owners made up for it by handing you a glass of white wine as soon as you arrived and put your name down (even if you were waiting outside) and kept refilling it until you paid your check and headed out the door.
And the food cost the same as other Chinese restaurants on the block.
Here are some reviews on Yelp.com, to help you get the full picture:
“All you can drink wine. Free. They were serving the house special Franzia and opening the box with elbow strikes. Pure awesomeness. I dare you to try and finish a carafe before the ninja waiters refill it.”
“They will not let your carafes of wine sit empty for more than five to fifteen seconds.”
“Yes, free flowing wine during dinner & while waiting to be seated. They don’t let the carafe ever get empty. Did I mention the Lobster! For a modest $15 you get a huge platter of lobster (probably about two whole lobster per platter).”
“It’s not overpriced . . . they don’t charge more for their food . . . every- thing’s standard ($10 or so dishes). They also give you free rice (saves a few more dollars) . . . and yes . . . it’s boxed wine . . . but you are paying $12 for dinner and drinks . . . what else can you expect?”
“I went to Silk Road expecting to be disappointed. Free wine? It must be too good to be true; there must be some catch, blah blah. It was everything I thought it would be and more!! I went on a Friday, so it was completely packed. We waited for forty-five minutes and were pushed and shoved, but I couldn’t complain that much because they give you wine while you wait. The food was surprisingly good too! Well, I’m pretty sure it was good, by the time I ate I was pretty drunk. Most importantly though, they NEVER let those wine carafes get empty!! Someone is constantly refilling them, even if they’re still half full (half empty, however you want to see it). This is a great place if you want to have some cheap food and cheap wine.”
“The food here was sub-par, but it was always packed with a line out the door. The decor was drab, but the crowd inside was always jovial.”
Silk Road is long gone, but I remember it fondly and learned so much from this restaurant for my own business.
What is the Leverage takeaway here? Why does this anecdote belong in our conversation about taking your business to a million per year?
Because Silk Road Palace knew how to differentiate itself. And it leveraged its differentiation to great success.
Instead of competing head-on with your competitors, find out what your customers really want that no one is giving them (and that you haven’t given them yet) and then give it to them in a way that’s affordable for them, or for free.
They’ll continue to come back, tell their friends and grant you that unsolicited monopoly, as my friends and I did with Silk Road Palace. You’ll keep clients for a long time and they’ll do all the marketing for you.
Even though it’s just a little Fairy Dust, it’s how some business owners get to a million within three to five years, by understanding what true differentiation means for them, as American Girl does, and then implementing it fully.
What is it that your clients get from you (your Fairy Dust or “free boxed wine”) that they love and will come back or stay for, year after year? Lead with that in everything you do. This is when you can safely take yourself to a place of non-competition.
Bringing all of who you are to your offerings sets you apart, even if it doesn’t “make sense” at first. Being different means to be “unlike in nature, form, or quality,” to be distinct and separate from others.
Whereby many companies look sideways to see what others are doing so that they can perhaps model them, differentiation requires you, by all means possible, to be separate and unlike anyone else.
Part of that is your company culture, your way of conducting business and how your employees act.
A member told me recently that she has no plans of ever leaving our program because we are unlike any other organization offering business support. While that may or may not be true in reality, she shared that it is my essence or personality that oozes from every aspect of the organization that makes her feel at home here, even when I’m not teaching a particular program.
This is how I see that we differentiate ourselves in the marketplace, if it helps you to have an example to work from:
- We teach marketing with an emphasis on authenticity, integrity and love.
- We’re logical and systems-focused, but we are also passionate.
- We hug our clients, appreciate them and provide a loving environment that encourages them to be who they really are, without fear of judgment.
- We sometimes dance.
- We enjoy good food and wine together.
- There are beautiful bouquets of flowers on the table while we work.
- We believe in the power of dark chocolate and always have brownies on hand.
- We send members unexpected gifts throughout the year.
- We laugh often.
- We talk about personal growth and spiritual development.
- And the list goes on.
This is simply the case because, well, this is who I am and what I enjoy in my own life. I love all of the things listed above. I bring the essence of “me” into every aspect of the organization and I invite you to do the same, as it will help differentiate you from others in your marketplace.
For some, this sort of focus on enjoying life and having fun while diligently working to make our businesses have more meaningful impact in the world is not what they are looking for in a typical business training environment. That’s fine. They’re probably not “our people.” But for the ones who do love having fun and enjoying life while we work together to create epic things in the world, there is a sense that they’ve arrived home and don’t want to leave. In fact, when welcoming new members, some existing members even say, “Nice to meet you. Welcome home.” (They started it, I didn’t.)
Now it’s your turn. Let’s weave some elements of you into your business to make it different. How do you know what to include? It’s actually very simple.
Look in the mirror.
What are the different facets of you? For example, if you are a multi- faceted person who is equally inspired by systems, mindset, community, and loving kindness, then weave those into the culture and core offerings of your business.
What makes you unique and wonderful? Are you someone who believes strongly in non-judgment, inclusivity, and being proud of your “black sheep” identity? Then weave those into the culture and core offerings of your business.
What do you like to do? If you love to dance, are spiritual, love fine wine, adore travel, relish in good food, love hugs and laughter, then by all means, weave those into the culture and core offerings of your business.
When you, the business owner and founder, are passionate about and weave in the things that you love, you will do business with gusto and full enjoyment. You will be happy. Your joy will permeate the organization. Your zest for life will inspire others. These passions of yours will become part of your brand and company culture. You will begin to attract team members and clients who passionately enjoy the same things you enjoy, and have the same values you do.
You, and your business, will become irresistible to those who also like the same things.
Yes, weaving these things into your business means more layers of thought and strategy, more time than your competitors are putting into their own clients and customers. And yet this is the kind of unapologetic attention to detail, based on what you’re already passionate about and what clients and customers like receiving, that permanently differentiates you from others.
No longer are you a commodity.
Your clients willingly choose to make your business their home.
What’s the impact of applying the Differentiation Activator in your business? Lorry explains it to you in her own words:
“I help heal children that have had adverse childhood experiences and give them hope for a future that they never imagined would be possible.
“Before I met Fabienne, I’d been looking for a business coach and was introduced to her from a Leveraged Business member. Fabienne was speaking at her Mindset Retreat and when I walked in the room, she was standing there hugging everyone. Before I made eye contact with her, I just knew that I was going to work with her. There was no question.
“At that time, I was successfully running a large non-profit business. I got by on that, but my mindset still had a lot of baggage. I, myself, was a child with a lot of adversity, so I carried that with me. I went to the
Mindset Retreat and had an amazing, unbelievable breakthrough. It was a tipping point, really.
“I went back to the office and immediately started putting things into action. I did exactly what Fabienne said from that point on.
“Our revenue was in the low Eight Figures when I came in and, again, it was successful, but there was gunk in the way. My business was stable even during the 2008 recession. We didn’t lose income, but we were just kind of hovering for many, many years. In the last five years, I can document that we’ve grown exponentially since then. Five years ago, we were serving about 5,000 kids. Now, we’re serving over 15,000.
“It’s so amazing and I can’t stress enough that, for me, it was about feeling deserving. It was feeling like I am enough. It was feeling that I deserved the highest amount of support possible. All of those things that I had never dreamt of before.” —Lorry Leigh Belhumeur