Ep 216: There’s No “Right” Way To Grow Your Audience

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All this month, we’ve been talking about building an audience here on the podcast—and we’ve been asking members of The What Works Network, well, what’s working for them when it comes to audience-building and marketing their businesses.

Some people have told us that keeping it simple and focusing on just one technique has paid a lot more dividends than trying to be everywhere and do everything.

Others have told us that video, like showing up on Instagram Stories, Facebook Live, or YouTube, has helped them reach new people.

Plenty of folks told us that the most important thing they do to build their audiences is reaching out to new contacts one at a time.

Still others told us Facebook groups, guest teaching, virtual coffee dates, in-person events, or asking for referrals and recommendations are their sweet spot.

Clearly, there is no right way to build an audience today.

That can be comforting for sure.

Those of us who are naturally questioners, rebels, and skeptics don’t have to mold ourselves into something we’re not or fit our businesses into someone else’s formula to get ahead.

And… at the same time, all of that open-ended possibility can be daunting.

As much as we want to do things our own way, it would be nice if there was a clear, well-maintained trail for our hike to the top of the audience-building mountain.

Make no mistake: I’m not suggesting that we all need to blaze our own trails when it comes to marketing our businesses.

Far from it.

But we do need to decide on a plan and stick to it.

“How?” you ask.

Earlier this month, friend of the pod Bonnie Gillespie shared 5 things that have worked for her over the last 20 years of building her Self-Management For Actors audience with What Works Network members. I want to focus on the first three for the sake of brevity:

Time. Trust in the long-haul.

Consistency. Never stop showing up.

Treating everything I do as if it’s the only thing they’ll ever see. And being sure my links roll deep for those who’d like to follow ’em to other things I’ve created from there.

I can’t agree more with these points.

Plus, I think they’re useful constraints for finding the audience-building plan that’s going to work for you.

Consider each of these points as questions:

  • What can you stick with for the long haul? What could you do week in and week out for the next 10, 15, or 20 years?
  • What can you deliver on consistently so that your traction grows and grows?
  • What can you work towards mastery of? What are you willing to get better at every single day?

The answers to these questions might not be as sexy as a technique promising to be the secret to finding 10,000 true fans in 10 days. But, in my experience, these answers will serve you much better.

Like the small business owners you’ll hear from today, my own audience-building strategy has evolved over time. And like Bonnie, it’s required trust in the long haul, leaning towards mastery, and—as Dr. Michelle Mazur calls it—radical consistency.

Ever since I stopped thinking of myself as a blogger and started thinking of myself as a podcaster, I’ve been working to realize the potential of this medium for connecting with the right people—that’s you—and telling the kind of stories that will help you realize the potential of your own business.

It’s been over 4 years since we got to work on this show and I can count the number of Tuesdays we’ve gone without a new episode on one hand.

Over the last year, we’ve worked to make this show not just good—but great. We’ve tailored the episode format to help you get the most of each interview. I’ve started telling more of my own stories and sharing my own ups & downs with you.

We’ve introduced more diverse voices and businesses into the mix. We’ve created longer story arcs and put more intention behind our programming.

We’ve created new formats for episodes and started releasing episodes most Thursdays in addition to our Tuesday interviews.

And all of this has added up to making this podcast a truly effective tool for our business and for you.

We never phone it in. We never say “good enough.” We work towards longevity, consistency, and mastery with every episode.

And it works.

While that might sound exhausting to some, it’s important to keep in mind that this is the main thing we do. It’s not just another project on a pile of marketing projects. Our whole business—never mind our whole marketing strategy—revolves around the stories we share here.

Giving this show everything I’ve got, week in and week out, is the least I can do. And while my commitment to it might be overwhelming—in the best possible way—the workload is never unmanageable.

It’s what works for me.

In this episode, you’ll hear 5 more stories of what’s working for small business owners as they’re building their audiences. Keep listening to learn what’s working for Strength In Words founder Ayelet Marinovich, business coach and co-founder of Twin Tracks Expeditions Heather Thorkelson, The Fussy Baby Site creator Holly Klaassen, licensed professional counselor and coach Nancy Jane Smith, and Kimberly Bennett, a lawyer and the founder of Modern Legal Collective.

You’ll hear how careful scrutiny, reassessment, and evolution have led to stronger strategies. You’ll also hear how unexpected techniques can be game changers. But, most importantly, you’ll hear how building an audience isn’t a formula or a blueprint—but a highly personal process.

So what’s working for you when it comes to building your audience and connecting with the right people? Could you stick with it for the next 10 years? Can you deliver consistently, week in and week out? Are you leaning towards mastery and making sure everything you do represents your business in exactly the way you want it to?

I’d love to hear your story. Find me on Instagram and let me know what’s working for you. I’m @tara_mcmullin and I’d love to get a message from you!

Cover of What Works book by Tara McMullin

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EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

This week, I’ve got 4 more stories to share with you from small business owners who have intentionally done things their own way when it comes to sales and selling. They’ve found what truly works for them–even if it bucks the prevailing wisdom or would make a bro marketing expert role his or her eyes.

These stories come from business coach Ashley Gartland, marketing expert Amy Lippmann, designer Mel Richards, and work reinvention coach Lydia Lee.

Listen for how they incorporated these same considerations into finding their own unique sales systems. They designed their systems with personal values, strong relationships, reduced anxiety, and agency in mind.

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

This show is called What Works for a reason.

Sometimes it’s a declaration: this is what worked for this small business. And often, it’s a question, “What works?”

Today’s episode is very much a question, many questions, really:

What works when it comes to selling when you want to avoid manipulative or exploitative practices?

What works when your values conflict with many of the best practices of selling online but you still want people to buy your stuff?

What works when it comes to sales in a business that is actively anti-racist and anti-capitalist?

And even more bluntly: Can you even sell things without causing harm or perpetuating harmful systems?

My friend Kate Strathmann is the founder of Wanderwell, a bookkeeping and consulting firm that grows thriving businesses while investigating new models for being in business.

Recently, Kate took a bit of a detour from how she’s used to building her business, which is 90% referral based and fueled by deep relationship- and community-building. She decided to offer a small group program called the Equitable Business Incubator as a way of exploring anti-capitalist business practices and how they apply to the small businesses we’re building.

To fill the program, Kate need to sell differently.

Which led her to asking the question: Can you even sell things as a anti-capitalist?

While that might not be your specific question, I have a feeling that you too have wondering how you can effectively sell your offers without causing harm, perpetuating harmful systems, or damaging relationships. And that’s why I knew Kate and I needed to explore this topic on the show.

This is a conversation about what a kinder, less harmful sales process could look like—and it probably contains more questions than answers. But I’m confident those questions can help you find the answers that are right for you and the sales system that you want to build to make your business stronger.

We start out by defining what we’re really talking about when we talk about capitalism and anti-capitalism. Then, Kate shares how the Equitable Business Incubator came to be and how she ended up selling it. And then we dig into what makes many of the sales formulas and best practices being taught today problematic—and how to think differently to create your own alternative practices.

Now, let’s take a look at what works for creating less harmful sales systems!

EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

Today’s guest is Katie Hunt—who is a member of the former group and serves the latter group.

Katie is the founder of Proof To Product, which helps creative entrepreneurs run and grow thriving product-based businesses. She works with designers, illustrators, and artists to help them develop in-demand product lines and get them sold in stores all over the world.

Not long after the pandemic threw her business and the industry she serves for a major loop, Katie and her team launched Proof To Product Labs to provide a completely digital, ongoing support opportunity for business owners when they needed it most.

And that launch was a smash.

Katie and I get into all of the nuts and bolts of how she adjusted the offer to meet the moment and how she warmed up her audience before the campaign, as well as the exact mix of emails, podcast ads, and social media content she used to sell the offer when it went live. We also talk about how she sees the sales system evolving in the future and how the offer has been received now that people are using it!

What Works offers in-depth, well-researched content that strips away the hype of the 21st-century economy. Whether you love the podcast, the articles, or the Instagram content, we’d love your support