Judith: Well, it was one that you’ve left up last week, I think. I’m not sure whether you brought it up during the show or after the show – you said, “We should talk about how can you tell as soon as possible whether or not your business – your new business – is a goer, and conversely, how do you know when you’re flogging a dead horse?”
Nicola: Ooh. Well, that’s a good topic, isn’t it? Even if I didn’t know. It was prompted by, everyone talks about The Dip – the book by Seth Godin.
Nicola: Pretty sure it’s Seth Godin, and I’ll check anyway…
Judith: It is. Yes, it is.
Nicola: I read it, and I thought, “There’s no bloody use for information at this at all – about whether to tell whether you’re flogging a dead horse or not.” You must’ve had clients that come to you with an idea and you think, “Oh that’s never going to work, or make them any money.” I don’t get that quite so much because, they’re usually a bit more techy, and they’ve done some keyword research at least. What do you do, how do you tell them, how can you get – what do you do with them to tell if it’s going to make money.
Nicola: All that stuff.
Judith: Okay. I don’t see many ideas that I don’t think will float. I do see some, they’re quite rare, to be honest; and I’ll tell you why I think they’re rare. It’s because in my niche – it’s the same as yours, but in a different way – you’re often looking at how many units of say a book—or of something—does an automated system need to sell to make it make sense. I’m sort of doing the same thing. So with my clients – if I know what they need to make a month, and I know what they’re selling and at what price, we can work out how many units of those do you need to sell, and it’s usually quite a modest number.
Nicola: And usually it often involves physical or an overhead to produce it, doesn’t it? You’ve got quite a lot of people who make physical products.
Judith: Uh, can you think of an example? I can’t think of an example off the top of my head, but yes. I mean that whatever we sell, there are costs of sale, as it were. But I think that for my typical client – a solopreneur, working on their own – the number of say, even coaching clients, or I think actually the hardest number perhaps is books. You know, if you’re either on Amazon or selling your own book; you need to sell an awful lot of those to pay your bills every month; but almost everything else is quite a modest number. I probably only need 50 clients a year, and there’s 8 billion people in the world and half of them are in self-employment, so it isn’t that hard, I think.
I tell you what I see – and actually you and I have got a good example – which was, you know, we closed The Money Gym at the end of 2010 because of the credit crunch. It wasn’t a time to be teaching people about money. And you know, what my clients tend to do; the reason why they might stop vlogging what they perceive to be a dead horse. If they changed their mind about their project, it seems like less of a good idea or they’ve gone off it. I’m thinking about Susie Banks (who I told you about before Christmas) who had twins, and her business was called Maternity Leave; but 3 years later, she wasn’t interested in Maternity Leave anymore, so she switched over to copywriting – which was a skill that’s she’d learned in those 3 years, it was much more engaged by. So it wasn’t – the first one was a dead horse, it was more of a – she was killing the horse off as it were, so I think. This morning there’s a dilemma in my inbox where somebody doesn’t really know what their business is yet, and the horse feels a bit dead to them because they have been flogging something – I don’t mean that product or a service. They’ve been flogging themselves for 12 months without much of an outcome, but I don’t think I’ve seen many stories in my life where somebody comes up with an idea and I go, “I don’t really get that at all.” I do see it once or twice a year, but probably I would say to the client, “I don’t really get that,” and we wouldn’t work together because obviously, they need a coach that believes in their idea. It’s rare, Nicola, in my world. What about yours?
Nicola: Umm, there are two people who I can think of in the last 3 years who’ve come to me with a business that I’ve felt had plenty of potential, no reason why it shouldn’t work at all. They were both interesting coaching businesses, but both people had very, very good credentials. They were niching, they were doing everything right; but it just didn’t seem—both of them just didn’t seem to take off, and I’m not sure if it wasn’t because they were flogging a dead horse or whether it was just they were gently stroking it occasionally. I think, perhaps they think they’re doing everything to make it work, but something deep inside them was holding them back from doing…
Nicola: …whatever it takes to make it work.
Judith: Yes. I agree.
Nicola: You often see that with people who’ve got more than one thing on the go and when I think back to my first coach – Rachel Turner who was an extraordinary coach – but really was fighting with an entrepreneur who had 4 things on the go – bless her.
Nicola: Trying to get me to focus on any one of them and all of them were okay, but I think all of them would’ve been better with a single focus. That is definitely something I’ve come to believe now, is that if you only have 1 thing on the go and you focus into 100% on it. If you hold back from focusing 100% on it, it means you don’t believe it’s going to work or you don’t really want to do it long-term. So think about that, because if you can focus on 1 thing, then you’re going to do everything you can to make it work; and every obstacle that comes up – in fact, funnily enough, I’m just about to be interviewed on obstacles – every obstacle that comes up, you will find a way to get over it, under it, around it, through it. But if you’ve got 4 things on the go, what happens is when you come up to an obstacle, you tend to go off and work on something else.
Nicola: So you lose momentum.
Judith: I do think that – I’m thinking back now to my accounting days. When I started that, which was late 70s early 80s, the world was a very different place. It was before the internet, and I can think of quite a lot of people who had very nice businesses going that the internet killed off. And one of – a couple of them would do things like, be a professional photographer. Because newspapers would fly them all over the world to take a photograph, and nowadays might use a library shot instead.
Nicola: Absolutely, and also there’s lots of people on Instagram taking photographs that…
Judith: Right, yeah. So there are things that you could be doing where, if you fail to see the writing on the wall about how the world is changing, I do think that your business becomes a dead horse and that might have nothing to do with you at all.
Nicola: Yeah, I was thinking – as you were talking about professional photographers, my mind turned to wedding photographers who are still very successful wedding photographers because there’s nothing like having someone there on the day. Okay, so all your mates are going to be taking photos and you can collect those photos up, you might get a good one. But if you definitely want some awesome pictures of your wedding, you definitely need to hire a wedding photographer. And the other one is portrait photography – that works for book covers and business people who want professional headshots and things. That’s not getting killed off by the internet yet, is it?
Judith: No, no – it’s not, and I think in the first half of our question, the opposite side of the flogging the dead horse and how can you tell as soon as possible your business is a goer. I think the answer is when you get that first PayPal notice isn’t it – if one person will buy it, then quite a lot of people will buy it.
Nicola: I think you could tell even earlier than that by even not without a website. If you put up a Facebook page and you start adding great content to it on your topic. If you get likes and engagement, and those start coming and you know – okay, so it’s getting harder to reach people organically on Facebook, but if you run, say a £2 or £3 a day likes campaign and lots of people sign up, you know, and then you target your likes campaign to people who are actually already proven to be interested in the kind of things that your page is about. You’re going to be able to tell very, very quickly whether there’s any engagement or uptake on that.
Judith: Yes. That’s a good idea. And I was thinking when – not the sort of businesses that I would run myself, but sort of having an awareness of what’s selling right now – you see great little websites who do things like brownies by post and people who sell cupcakes around, and things like that. It’s quite a good idea to keep an eye on what’s on the moment, I think, and have a feeling for what people are buying, what people are spending money on.
Nicola: How would you do that? Is there a Etsy one of those? I’ve never been to Etsy but is that one of the…
Judith: Uh, well, I’ve had lots of clients who’ve tried Etsy and not really made any money at it. Well, I think I have an awareness. Everything I look at, I look through sort of profit spectacles as it were, and I just see nice businesses that are all the types of business and you just gotta have your radar. I don’t know, I’m using mixing metaphors here and saying your radar to the ground – but just have your “ohm-meter” on, ringing out and about then see what people are spending on. Look at cinema – which is one of my great hobbies and was one of my mother’s (Greta). Iit had a “hey” day back when in my mother’s youth, and then it went all a bit boring and tedious, didn’t it? In our youth and now, it’s sexy and glamorous again.
Nicola: Yes. Yes, it is. Yes, the 70s were not a great time for cinema greats`.
Judith: No, cinema are all cinemas – quite a lot of those old ones shut down, didn’t they, and then smaller multiplexes opened up – I don’t know who had that idea, but you know, it’s all that kind of thing isn’t it? Things change.
Judith: I wish I could come up with an idea, I wish I could spot an opportunity where the ka-ching is. It’s in things that people must buy all the time.
Nicola: Yes, like the shovels for the gold rush.
Judith: Yes, and like – now that we all use an electric toothbrush, you’ve got to keep replacing the heads, you’ve got to keep getting a haircut, you know, consumables. What is it that we have to get in stock that we have to keep buying? I wish there was something simple like that, that just sold by the units. Iit could either be an Amazon thing, or an eBay thing where just people had to buy it all the time. And it just sold in units, it’s quite dull actually, and you just count the money. I don’t – I mean that wouldn’t be what I would want to do for expressing my creativity through my business, but to have that on the side, I think would be lovely.
Nicola: I’ve got 2 marvelous examples of that; one is you can get your shaving stuff sent through the post, so…
Judith: Oh, yes. That’s come from that book, are you reading The Automatic Customer?
Nicola: I haven’t, I’ve got it though – it just arrived last week.
Judith: Yeah, that’s in that book.
Nicola: I’ve got a better example, you know how fashionable blokes with beards are now, especially ginger beards. That you could actually get beard oil, beard and mustache grooming products delivered to your house regularly. Isn’t that enormous?
Judith: Yes. It is. But you wait until you get into that book, there’s lots of examples of that in there.
Nicola: I do wish I did…
Judith: I had a sense that the things that I’m talking about are actually quite dull.
Nicola: Well probably our creative clients wouldn’t be interested in them but they are—that is the way to make money, isn’t it? I do wish I didn’t know you’d get brownies delivered to the house though.
Judith: Uh, yeah – brownies by post and you know, almost everything can be delivered tomorrow, Nicola.
Nicola: Oh God,. Do you need some new toothbrush heads though? So you’ve sorted me out with another toleration.
Judith: No, I have.
Nicola: Again. I know.
Judith: Yeah, Amazon’s your place for that, they’d be delivered tomorrow.
Nicola: Yes, there are – what we’re saying, I think in conclusion before we go off into the delights about things you could get delivered to the house.
Nicola: Did I tell you about the bloke who knocked on my door – I did, didn’t I? We must share it with…
Judith: Did you say you bought a – what did you say you bought at the door? I can’t remember.
Nicola: Well, I’m going to repeat the story for all listeners because it’s so funny. But basically, this bloke knocked on the door. He said he was collecting for the producer’s trust. I didn’t believe him at all. But he was quite twinkly, you know, in that sort of roguish kind of way, so I let him go through his patter which he did at top speed. And I looked in his basket – which didn’t have an awful lot in it – but he said he picked on the most expensive. I said, “What have you got for a 100 tenner?” He said he picked on the most expensive thing for a 100 tenner, bless him – it was drain cleaner – and we do often need to clean drains here. So I said, “I’ll have that then.” I said, “Have you got 7 quid?” He said, “Oh yeah, go on then.” So I thought, I’ve got a something I didn’t even mean to buy 5 minutes ago.And then, at the end of his patter, he said – after I give him the money, I said, “Oh we were talking about people like you with a friend of mine the other day about how brave you are to go door to door.” And he said, “I’m not good-looking enough to be a gigolo, right?” “Actually young man, I beg to differ.”II shut the door quietly before he could get the idea.
Judith: You’re becoming a cougar at your front door, Nicola.
Nicola: Knock here at your peril – I’d probably get on some sort of blacklist… Don’t go to 22, she’s rompy as anything.