First Steps Aren’t Always Easy—Take Them Anyway!
From time to time, I’m going to share a bit of one of my success stories with you. Some might call this a case study—and you can if you’d like—but I like telling stories. Since I just shared high-level details about my 5-A Framework in my last blog, I think this is the perfect time to tell you a bit of my client’s story, and how the 5-A Framework can work.
Meet Heather Carlyle
When I met “Heather Carlyle,” she was like so many other agency owners. Her business was an unpredictable rollercoaster, and she survived on the goodwill of referrals and word of mouth.
Her agency was very successful, but it had just hit quite a snag—her team was finishing up their last project, and of the two possible projects in the pipeline, one was just delayed and the other fell through. She was in a pickle and needed leads—fast!
While attending a networking event, she discovered that an old friend of hers, also an agency owner, was the keynote speaker. His presentation surprised her, as it seemed that he’d taken a new, niched approach to his business. They caught up afterward, and he gave her the business card of the guy who helped him turn his failing agency around…yep, me.
And as you might expect, after running into her old friend, having one project delayed, and watching another fall through, Heather was ready to make a change.
Our Initial Meeting
Heather told me that, one night after her team went home, she sat down and ran some numbers. She realized that if she didn’t get a new lead for her business fast, she’d not only have to downsize her team—but take a pay cut herself.
“Maybe you don’t understand,” she told me. “This is an emergency. Will you be able to help me find leads, or what?”
With Heather’s permission, I took her notebook and pen. At the top of a blank page, I wrote, “The 5 A’s.” Then down the page, I wrote five large capital A’s. I handed Heather back the pen and book.
I said, “I’d like you to do a little exercise for me. We’re going to fill in some things beside those A’s.
“The first A stands for ‘Audience.’ Now, the most recent blog post on your website is titled, ‘5 Reasons Why Your Website Needs to be Responsive.’ Who is the audience for that piece of content?”
Heather thought for a minute, then told me it was for businesses whose websites weren’t responsive. After all, the post was literally five reasons why companies needed to move away from non-responsive sites.
I replied, “Okay, so for the first A on your page, write that down. As I explain each A, I’d like you to think about how it relates to both this single blog post and your broader strategy.
“The second A stands for ‘Awareness.’ How are you making this audience aware of you?” Heather told me that she guessed this audience would become aware by searching for “responsive web design” on search engines like Google—but that she actually had no idea if the page ranked for this term.
“Okay,” I said, “so that’s our awareness. Google—write that down.
“Now, in your blog post, you reference a client of yours, a business coach named Amy. And you show her project as a before-and-after example of what a responsive website project can do.
I’m curious—is that how you found Amy? Did she Google ‘responsive web design’ or some other term to find you?”
Heather chuckled and replied with a sheepish grin. “No, she wouldn’t have known that term. Her focus is on being a business coach and growing her community of business coaches using her methods. I’ve known Amy since college, and she came to me because she was frustrated that her website ‘looked funny’ on mobile phones.”
I nodded and moved on to the fourth A, Authority. “You do have a before-and-after image, which is great, but you could be doing a better job to establish trust with your readers. We can come back to that, though. For now, write down ‘before-and-after image’ for ‘Authority.’”
“Heather, the fifth A is how you intend to ‘Acquire’ the interest of what we typically regard as a lead. Sure, a visitor to your blog post could choose to voluntarily click the ‘contact us’ page on your website. However, you’re not offering anything of value to give people a clear and compelling reason to contact you. Maybe that’s a resource download or a free consultation. For the purposes of this exercise, write down ‘contact us’ as your fifth A,” which she did.
“So, Heather, I’d like you to look at your whole blog with this new lens. Take a look at the content on your website, too. How does it stand up when you think about the 5 A’s?”
Heather took a moment to look over her 5 A’s. Then she sighed and said, “I don’t think this blog post will help me find more people like Amy.” I slid my laptop over to her side of the table, with her website open in my browser. She dutifully clicked and scanned through page after page, but I could see that this new way of thinking was making Heather uncomfortable in her chair.
After a few minutes, she slumped. “I guess I’m not committed to a single audience. Everything is pretty generalized. It feels disconnected and messy, and I’m sure I’d find that each blog post has a different set of 5 A’s.”
The 5-A Exercise – Part 2
I gave Heather another moment to think as she continued to scan her website. Then she looked back at her notebook with a sigh as if she were resigning herself to the shape her business was in. I wanted to make her feel better, but I had to tell her something important.
“Heather, what I’d like to have you do next is rethink your 5 A’s with me right now. Then I’m going to ask you to invest in one small marketing activity using the 5 A’s and your intuition as a guide.”
Over the next few minutes, we built a simple strategy using the 5 A’s. Here is what it looked like:
Audience: business coaches
Awareness: Heather’s friend Amy’s blog about being a business coach, Amy’s email list, and her private Facebook group for coaches
Attract: how to launch an online course to make passive income, a guide specifically written for coaches
Authority: her stories and examples of doing this work for past clients
Acquire: a simple scheduler offering a sixty-minute “online course strategy building session”
With this basic strategy written down, I challenged Heather to one last task.
I told her to take out her phone and message her friend Amy to offer to create this “ultimate guide to building an online course for business coaches” as a guest post on Amy’s blog. I gave Heather a simple script for her message, which she sent reluctantly.
“Amy is going to say no. I’m sure she already has other people creating content for her site and won’t want anything from me. If she did, she would have asked me by now.
“Besides, I already told you—I can’t see myself building websites and doing marketing for just business coaches.”
I nodded, paused, and started to pack up my things. “Heather, I appreciate your taking the time to meet with me today, but I don’t have a silver-bullet solution for you. Working with me would be hard. You’d have to make big choices about where your business was headed and why you were doing what you were doing.
“At times, it would feel like you were taking three steps back for every step forward. So I understand—owning your market isn’t for everyone, and it’s okay if it’s just not for you. If you change your mind, you know how to find me.”
Understandably, Heather was shocked at my abrupt end to our meeting. But I shook her hand, thanked her for her time, and walked out of her office. In the parking lot, I was starting my car when Heather rushed up and knocked on my window. “Amy got back to me. She said, ‘Hell yeah’ to the guide. What’s next?”
Well, you’ll have to stay with me to find out what Heather’s “next” was. More on her story after I share more helpful insights on the 5 A’s. Your next step is to decide if you’d like a free strategy session similar to Heather’s. If you think you’re ready, you can apply for the free session here. And be sure to join me next time as we dive into the deep end of the first A—Audience. You won’t want to miss it.