BONUS: Refining How I Offer Business Support Over The Long-Term

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Hey, it’s Tara McMullin, and this is a special bonus episode of What Works, the show that gives you a behind-the-scenes look at how small business owners take decisive action to build a stronger business.

This is the third and final episode in a series on how I’ve approached creating and delivering value through the products and services I’ve offered over the years.

In the first episode of the series, I shared how my most recent offer, a live program called The Commitment Blueprint, started as a personal life change, grew into a free webinar, and then transformed twice into a paid product.

In the second episode, I gave you a closer look at my other company, YellowHouse.Media, and shared how and why we’ve taken on the productized service model.

And now, as I close out the series, I want to share how The What Works Network has grown out of a long line of products and services that package small business support in different ways.

Earlier this week, I spoke with Michelle Markwart Deveaux about how she refined her voice coaching offer from a pay-for-service model into a value-pricing model, and what that did for how she packaged, sold, and delivered the value she was creating. Just repackaging the same offer in a new way made her business more enjoyable to run and more profitable too. It also gave her students a whole new perspective on what she was offering and how it benefited them.

Refining, repackaging and re-messaging the way I offer support for small business owners over the last 10 years has given me the chance to build a stronger business model and find more valuable, more aligned, and more customer-centric ways of creating value.

Now, to be clear, it would be easy to say the different offers I’ve made over the years are truly different products or services, but I see them as one long lineage of refining and repackaging, and that’s the key take-away I want you to have from what I’m about to share.

Building a stronger business doesn’t mean throwing in the towel on what you’ve already built.

It’s a process of building on what’s working, making guesses about what could work better, and finding ways to experiment your way to a more sustainable, profitable and effective model for everyone involved.

Let’s, as they say, start at the very beginning.

So first, did you know I used to design websites? It’s true.

I used to run my blog during the day in between taking care of my new baby, and then I would build websites either really late at night or very early in the morning. And building websites was a really easy concrete way to create and exchange value. In other words, it was an easy way to make money when that was something that was super important, just figuring out how can I make money.

But what I found was that what people really got out of the work that we did together was a better idea of how to structure their business. In the process of building a website, writing an about page, figuring out what needs to go where on that site, we’d have a lot of conversations about their business, the products or services that they were offering, who their customer was.

In hindsight, what I was really doing that whole time was a version of business coaching.

It just happened to all get wrapped up in a decent-looking website in the end. And while that website was ultimately what I was selling, the real value behind what I was offering was often that small-business support.

So that led me to business coaching.

I got the message pretty quickly that what I was offering was in fact business coaching and not just a website design. And I realized that I could actually get paid more to do business coaching than I was getting paid to build websites. And once I started to make that realization, I realized, “Oh, that actually means I don’t have to do the hard part of the process.” The business coaching was the easy part, at least for me, and so switching to just offering business coaching seemed like a no-brainer.

Early on, I actually did a lot of coaching for free. I wanted to figure out, okay, what is the real value here? What am I doing with clients? How are clients going to find me?

And what I found was that offering my services for free upfront, whether it was in a three-day sprint of business coaching sessions, which I did at one point, or whether it was live free business coaching for people in front of an audience, those were all ways that people could get a taste of what I was offering and the support that I was providing and the kinds of problems that I could help solve.

That helped me put a stronger container, a stronger set of packaging, around the business coaching offer. So over time, people would come to me with a particular challenge. They would recognize that what I offered could help them solve that challenge, and then we’d work through it.

Now I did this type of business coaching for a few years up until I really couldn’t ignore any more that there were patterns that would come up over and over again. I’d run into the same challenges. I would notice the same issues. People would have the same goals or the same questions.

I realized that those patterns could be the foundation for taking my one-on-one business coaching and offering it to groups. So I put those patterns into a massive mind-map.

Then, I turned that mind-map into an outline of my first business coaching program.

That very first business coaching program was called 10ThousandFeet. That name came from the idea that part of the program was getting you out of the weeds of your business and up to a 10,000-foot view so you could take a higher-level look at how your business was working or how it wasn’t working and what you could do differently instead to build a stronger business.

Now, the first program, the very first time I ran it, was just about 12 or so people, and I built the program as we went so that it would be responsive to their needs. But that program was still based on the outline I had created from the patterns I spotted doing one-on one-coaching.

From there, I was able to refine and make the program better and over time be able to share it with more and more people. So little bit by little bit, we would run small group cohorts through this program and support them in figuring out the overall strategy and next steps for building their businesses.

Once I’d run that program a number of times, we decided to take a big step up in how we were delivering it, what the branding behind the program would look like and feel like.

And that next big iteration was when I adopted the Quiet Power Strategy branding. So the Quiet Power Strategy program and the 10ThousandFeet program were exactly the same thing, except the Quiet Power Strategy was a sexier repackaging and refinement of what that original experiment of a group business coaching program was.

Now around the same time, I actually started working with aspiring business strategists to share the program with them and help them use the system with their own clients. So yet again, I was repackaging the program and I was also refining it as I went, because there is nothing like doing a train-the-trainer to show you where there are holes and there’s questions and there are still problems, and to just teach you more about your own methodology.

So offering that Quiet Power Strategy strategist training program taught me a lot about that offer and how we could make it even better. It also had the benefit of training people who could then work with me in our core Quiet Power Strategy group coaching program, and therefore be able to dramatically increase the number of small business owners we could support with that same hands-on, personalized coaching.

Now, at the same time, I was also offering a membership site that eventually we called Quiet Power Strategy: The Lab. It had originally started as a way to deliver smaller, more tactical courses to business owners for a subscription fee. It just made it really easy to deliver little bite-sized trainings and answer questions and offer support, but without a ton of regular time invested in it.

Over time, the membership site actually started to morph into a way that we could really support our Quiet Power Strategy clients as they continued to do the work of growing their businesses.

So we started to see The Lab as a necessary bundle, a necessary package with the overall Quiet Power Strategy program. They really worked hand in hand and allowed us to create an immense amount of value and just trust and loyalty with the people who went through that program.

Now, everything I’ve mentioned thus far was an effort to support small business owners as they built stronger businesses.

The container changed quite a bit over time, but the underlying goal really was the same. Now at the same time that the container was changing, I was also changing.

I learned more, I became more skilled and I had a wider range of experience that I could use to support small business owners. I also learned a lot more about how I wanted to deliver the small business support that we were offering and how it could be most effective.

Over time, I learned that one of the most effective things I could do for small business owners was to connect them to each other one business owner would learn from the problem of another. Another business owner would realize a solution because someone asked a question they hadn’t thought about before. The dynamic of getting people together and having them work together to build stronger businesses, that’s what I really wanted to be cultivating.

I didn’t necessarily want to be the person saying, “Oh, do this, do that, do this other thing.” I wanted to make sure that we were working together to build stronger businesses and learning from each other at the same time.

As I was getting clearer and clearer about the value of small business owners working together, the model we were delivering our programs and had shifted to put more and more focus on me as the expert. Part of me loved this because it made me feel good about what I’d accomplished and how I could help people. Another part of me loved it because it gave me a sense of control over the results that I was supposed to be delivering. And yet another part of me loved it because selling me was pretty easy.

But it didn’t take long to realize that “selling me” was really an untenable model.

Selling me and my expertise was just not what I wanted to be doing.

I didn’t want to be the solution to anyone’s problem. I firmly believed that everyone I was working with just needed a core focus, a solid structure for action and the support of people who are working on similar things. And it just wasn’t happening the way I wanted it to in the last iteration of the Quiet Power Strategy program.

So I got rid of it, and that’s when The What Works Network was born.

Now that makes it sound like I really ripped the bandaid off, and that’s not entirely how it went, but the transition was actually pretty sudden. We switched from what has now become a pretty ubiquitous group coaching model into the community-based model that we have today.

The What Works Network has been through its own evolution, of course, as we figured out how people got the most out of it and how we could support people best. And it’s also evolved as I’ve better understood my own role in the community.

Early on, my goal was to not at all be an expert, to not at all be the reason that people joined the community.

Over time, I realized that my role as a facilitator and even more my role as a leader, someone who can provide structure direction, focus, is a valuable part of what we’ve built. And so while I did really over-correct in one direction, I’ve now taken a more nuanced view of what my role is and how I can best contribute to the community that we’ve built and are continuing to build to today.

The What Works Network is the continuation of my journey to figure out the best way to support small business owners as they build stronger businesses.

It’s just the latest iteration of how I’ve refined my own offers in over 10 years of coaching, teaching, facilitating and leading.

This month, we’ve taken things a step further and we’ve actually leveled up how we’re supporting small business owners inside the network with a stronger focus, stronger set of structures and stronger support. It’s not new, and I’m not even sure that I’d call it all that different from what we were doing before, but it is more refined. Our goal is to help each member of The What Works Network take consistent action toward building a stronger business every month.

And just like here on the podcast, we’re focusing on a particular aspect of business building. This month that’s creating value, next month it’s making the sale. In October, we’re talking about speaking up and honing your communication.

We start out the month by asking each member to commit to a project, process or principle to apply to their business through consistent action throughout the month. And then they plan out what they’re going to do specifically in our action planning kit.

Then, throughout the month, we structure and support their execution through a series of weekly progress check-ins, both live and in our on-demand support platform. We also support them through our monthly events, including a Q&A session with me, a hot-seat coaching session and our flash masterminds. Then we bring it all to a close by debriefing together at the end of the month to see what’s worked and what didn’t.

Now along with updating the external structure of the offer, we’re also refining the logistics behind it.

New onboarding, a chance for every new member to meet with our community advocate Shannon, and new messaging too. And yes, we’re also rolling out a new price point along with it. So we’re finding your offer isn’t just about what you put out in terms of marketing or how you package the thing up. It’s often a multilayer project and this development with The What Works Network is no exception.

So in short, The What Works Network has become the best of all the different ways I’ve sought to support small business owners over the years.

And of course, even as I say that, I know that we still have an opportunity to refine it further, to make the packaging better, to refine the value proposition and message, to examine how we might be even more effective in supporting the small business owners who gather inside the network. But we’re confident in how far we’ve come and what we’re offering today.

There’s a very good chance that you are in a similar position.

Maybe you’ve been looking for where to take your business next and wondering if you need to build something new to make it happen.

Today, even if it is just a thought experiment, I’d love to challenge you to consider how what you’ve already built is the key to building a stronger business. How could your offer evolve? How could you refine the way it’s packaged or the message that you used to sell it? How could you change things up to use the value you’re already creating, but deliver it in a new way? And what would the greater impact on your business be?

Now, again, it might be a thought experiment, or it could be the key to building a stronger business.

If you’re ready for the focus, structure and support you need to make your bold vision for your business a reality, I want to invite you to join us inside The What Works Network.

We’re opening the virtual doors to the network on Tuesday August 25th. It’ll be your final chance to lock in our current pricing of $499 for the year or 12 payments of $49. When we open the doors again in September, the price will double. To make sure you get your invitation to join the network, go to and enter your email address.

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Read More

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