Ep. #61: The Intolerably High Cost of a Bad Offer

“Expect to fail” is the advice we generally get when we’re out there marketing something new. This is horrible advice. No marketing message is guaranteed to succeed, but it’s only the ill-considered messages that we should expect to fail, and the cost of distributing an ill-considered message is intolerably high. Listen to this episode to find out exactly what this cost is, and how you can avoid it.


Welcome to Rich & Thin™ Radio, the only podcast that helps you achieve the true freedom that comes from earning more and weighing less. I’m Kelly Hollingsworth and if you’re feeling too weighed down to earn what you want, live where you want, do what you want, and ultimately live the life that you want, then you’re in the right place. This is the show for you.

Today we’re going to talk about the intolerably high cost of making ineffective offers. This is the flip side to last week’s episode. Last week we talked about how your life is far less than what it could be when you aren’t making effective offers. The opportunity cost of not making effective offers is high, not just in terms of money but also your health and the quality of your entire life.

And this causes many people to rush their offer—that’s what we’re going to talk about this week. We’re going to talk about the damage that occurs when you get out there and start making offers before you have the clarity to do so and before the offer will be effective. The reason I want to talk about this today is because an ineffective offer is a lot more damaging than most of us have been led to believe. But before we dive into that, I want to share with you a recent success story, of a client who made just one effective offer and how that is the tipping point into a wealthier life.

Good things start to happen when you make just one effective offer

How does a business grow? It ripples out from you.

So this client I’ve been working with is a whip-smart, high-achieving woman who’s been slogging it out at one of those jobs that just doesn’t pay. At first glance, the salary isn’t all that bad, but when you add up all of the overtime and all of the headaches and all of the nonsense, it was pretty bad. The compensation was pretty low, and this job ate up her evenings and spilled over into her weekends and so the opportunity costs were high, not just in cash terms, but also with her health.

She was desperately unhappy, but for the longest time, she didn’t even realize that there were other options. She didn’t even see that there was a different way to live. She knew that what she had going on didn’t feel good at all, but the thought of changing it never even occurred to her. And we started coaching together, and eventually she was able to make an effective offer and start doing work for one client outside of her employment. And with this one offer, with this one client, she was able to see that she could earn so much more money in very little time relative to the hours her job required. This is where it starts, my friends. By managing her mind, shifting her thinking, and making that offer, she was able to stop seeing employment as a source of safety, and to begin seeing it for what it really was: a giant drain on her energy, her resources, and her bank account. To paraphrase Ross Perot, that job created a giant sucking sound in her life as it drained everything out of her, and now she’s beginning to see that it is so easy to earn the money she needs to live on, in far less than the 60 hours per week she was putting in at her job.

Once you see something like this, something this important, everything begins to shift, because then it becomes very clear exactly what every hour that a sub- standard rate of pay is costing you. It costs you time, money, your health, your LIFE. And as soon as you begin making effective offers, even just one effective offer, you see that there is someone who is willing to pay you what your services are worth, and that’s when you start leveling up across the board, and getting your life back. As soon as a single effective offer gives you a taste of what your hours are truly worth, then you want to make more of them, and pretty soon you’re getting paid market rate for all of your hours. That one little piece of information that comes from making a single effective offer is the tipping where everything begins to shift.

So I hope you see that making effective offers is the place where freedom begins, and here I’m not just talking about money, but earning your money in a way that you actually enjoy and in a way that doesn’t cost you your health. You have to make effective offers if you want that life, but the effective part is key. You can’t just make any old offer, because people who make offers that are ineffective burn bridges—potentially very valuable bridges—and that is no way to build wealth.

And the reason I want to talk about this today is not to scare you but rather to highlight to you that there is a lot of bad advice out there. So many of you who come to me through the podcast are saying, “I know I need to get out there and make offers, and I know it’s going to be uncomfortable and horrible, but I just have to do it anyway.”

And to this, all I can say is no. N-O. If it’s uncomfortable, you’re doing it wrong. You either have a poor message or a money-killing mindset or both, and you don’t start getting money until you marry an effective mindset with an effective message. That’s when offers begin paying off. Then and only then does it happen.

The reason most new businesses fail is not because business is that complicated. It’s because so many of you have been advised, in podcasts for entrepreneurs, in business books, in very high-cost business coaching groups, that you just have to get out there and start talking to people about the thing you want to do, make offers and see how it lands, put some stuff up on social media, throw some stuff at a wall, expect to fail, just keep talking and talking and talking, in-person or online, until eventually you get it right and people start listening. Before that, expect to fail and expect it to feel terrible but do it anyway because this is the way business works so it’s okay.

To this, all I can say is that this is not okay. This horrifying advice is predicated on two pieces of business-killing fiction. The first is that although this process feels horrible, it’s necessary. If you want to get clarity that eventually results in an effective offer, you must do it in public, no matter how bad that feels. The second lie is that there’s no cost to doing this, to putting crap out there, to just throwing some stuff at a wall and seeing what sticks, because all it costs you is some negative emotion, and we’ve all heard that negative emotion and the willingness to feel it is the currency for your dreams, so just get out there and start yammering before you really have any clarity on what you’re talking about and eventually you’ll get some clarity and everything will be alright then. Your message will start resonating with people and then everything will be okay.

Nothing could be further from the truth. All of this is a lie, and today I want to break down exactly why it is a lie and exactly how much it hurts you to power through intense discomfort while you “just get out there with the willingness to fail” and deliver an ineffective message that alienates people rather than connects with them.

How does a business grow? It ripples out from you.

To unravel this lie, the first thing we have to know is, how does a business grow? It ripples out from you. Taking the plunge into a new business is like tossing a stone into still water. The point of impact where the rock enters the water is you, that part is the plunge, and your business should ripple out from there. The first wave from the epicenter, the ripple closest to you, is the people you know. Your friends, your family, your existing business associates, whether these folks are in-person or you know them through social media.

Whether the business ripples out in waves that emanate further and further away from you, or it sinks like a stone and ends with you, depends on the quality of your message. If your message is well-received, the business grows. If it isn’t, the whole thing ends with you. There are no ripples. All your business consists of is a stone that sinks right to the bottom. How many of us know what this feels like? You started your business, but nothing is happening except you sitting there in a confused haze of stinky pond scum. If you are in this spot, that means you don’t have an effective message yet. And I want to be very clear, I’m not criticizing you at all. My issue is with the advice. The idea that everyone should just take stinky pond scum and post it on social media is what I’m criticizing here.

What every business owner wants is the opposite of stinky pond scum. They want, when they start their businesses, to tell people about it, and have the message be clear and effective so they can get immediate business and that word-of-mouth buzz that every new business owner wants. Why do you want this? A big reason these days is you don’t want to have to pay through the nose for Facebook ads. I don’t know about you, but as between Mark Zuckerberg and me, I’d rather that my money stay with me. From what I can discern, he already has plenty of money.

Plus, who wants to pay for advertising if you don’t have to? And on this topic, is anyone tired of hearing about how “So and so made 7-figures last year”? In the online marketing world especially, people are always talking about the revenue, the amount collected before you  deduct your business expenses. What I want to know is, how much did you keep? How much did you pay taxes on? A “million-dollar business” that spends $900 grand on Facebook ads and therefore pays taxes on only $100,000 isn’t a 7-figure business. It’s a 6-figure business that could easily turn into a losing business at the slightest shift in the Facebook landscape.

An ineffective, ill-considered message stops the ripple effect

But in any case, wherever you’re talking about your business, whether it’s on Facebook or in a field, if you’ve been told to go out there and just start making offers with an ineffective message, if you have a message of such dubious quality that its distribution requires you to force yourself to muster that “just put yourself out there” energy,  no matter how uncomfortable that makes you, and “be willing to fail” and to expect to fail, what do you get? You get scorched earth, because the kind of message that generates those feelings is the kind of message that burns bridges. Business isn’t that hard to figure out, my friends. If the message is so bad that you’re sitting there thinking, this is crap, and you have to force yourself to put it out there, how do you think other people will receive it? How many times in your life have you thought that something was complete garbage and other people around you perked up when they saw it and came over and kissed you on both cheeks and rewarded you with praise because they thought it was amazing? That never happens, right? If you think it’s garbage, that’s exactly what it is.

So that this advice of “just put it out there” is running so rampant continues to astound me, because if you follow this advice, then what happens? You don’t get word-of-mouth buzz. You get the opposite. In an Amish community, you’d get what they call a “shunning.” No one talks to you, and people look away.

An Ill-considered, ineffective message burns your network

The damage from this cannot be quantified. I once worked with a hedge fund manager who sold his business and sort of disappeared for a while, and the next thing anyone heard from him was a series of voice mail messages he left on the phones of everyone he knew. He was selling some kind of diet shake or nutrition supplement or something, and the voice mail messages he left for his entire contact list was basically, “Hey, Kelly, it’s me. Do you still need to lose weight? If so, I have this great thing that can help you. Give me a call.”

How well do you think that went over? This is a person with a professional network that was potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and he burned it to the ground in a single day.

This is the trouble with “Just put it out there.” If the message is bad enough, often you don’t get a chance to correct your message and have a do-over. Once a bridge is burned, once you’re standing in a circle of scorched earth because you’ve burned your entire network, it can take a long time for that land around you to become productive again.

The scorched earth I’m asking you to envision is a form of modern-day shunning. No one wants to talk about it, but it’s real, and it’s difficult to avoid it if your message is poor.

It’s also difficult to avoid a poor message. Very few people are going to exert the time and energy that it takes to clean up an ineffective message. And this is why, if you ask for feedback on something before you put it out there, there are about a handful of people on the planet who will tell you if it’s crap. Everyone else, they will cheer you on or they will simply not look you in the eye, but either way, if it’s crap, they’re all secretly thinking it’s crap. But they’re smiling and nodding, and no one’s saying a word.

What is the cost of this? Is it a little embarrassment? Is it a few thoughts that you have to manage and then it’s over? No. That’s the tip of the iceberg. I see this with everyone from life coaches to long-short equity managers—a bad message burns your network, and people who could become your customers instead become, at best, confused, and more often than not, they become critical and contemptuous.

This is why I want to warn you about the typical business advice of, “Just put it out there. You’re going to be uncomfortable, get over it.” What happens if you are someone with a fairly high profile, you have a network, a hard-won reputation, you’ve achieved some level of professional success, perhaps notable professional success, and then you want to try something new but you don’t yet know how to effectively describe it, and you follow the advice and put a poor message out there anyway?

What happens is you infect your very valuable, hard-won network with a virus. People who know, like, and trust you, people who could become clients, instead become, at best, confused. More often, they become critical.

This is not to say that you can’t sell out of your hedge fund and take up a sales career in diet shakes and fitness supplements, or make whatever kind of change you’re thinking of making. And I’m not saying that you can’t take a risk and explore something or that everything has to be perfect for everyone and every single person has to applaud what you do. There are people who are not going to like what you do, whatever it is, and that’s okay. Not everyone likes pineapple, and the pineapples aren’t bothered by that, because plenty of people do like pineapple.

But the point here is that there’s an enormous difference between a few people who just don’t get it, it’s just not for them, vs. most of the people you know scratching their heads and wondering what the heck you are up to, and that latter response is what happens with a lot of budding business owners who go just go out there and throw stuff at a wall. If you follow the advice to do that, there is no ripple effect. Nobody wants your pineapple, not because they don’t like pineapple but because the message you’re distributing reeks of bad pineapple. which means that there are no immediate sales. There is no word of mouth, and every time you want a customer, you have to go out and pay Mark Zuckerberg more money to try and get one.

What’s the solution to this problem? Get clarity before you communicate. This means clarity in your mind, and clarity in your message. This is where you spend your money. Not on fancy websites and graphic design. I once wrote a rather mediocre novel and paid a famous book stylist $5,000 for a designer cover. If I’d taken the $5,000 I spent on the cover, and instead put it towards the quality of the content, I’m sure the reception for that novel would have been very different because I could have gotten some objective and highly-skilled advice to help me tighten it up the story. To help me tighten up the message.

Tightening up your own message is very difficult, no matter how skilled you are at mindset or messaging or both, because we’re all too close to our own stuff. None of us are objective, so if you’re wallowing in mental and messaging confusion that feels like stinky pond scum in your business, get in touch. kelly@richandthin.com. I can help you clean up your thinking and clean up your message so that you can make offers that make you money. And please join me on Thursday for our body episode, where we’re going to talk about the intolerably high cost of poor messaging as far as your body is concerned.

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