To sustain well-being in any area of life requires discipline (or persistent practice). Specific actions, done consistently, allow you to thrive.
In physical health, good practices include eating nutritiously, exercising adequately, sleeping enough, and caring relationships.
When it comes to authentic business, there are 8 important practices that I recommend.
I'll describe each of these.
1. Joyful Productivity
Here is the foundation for any thriving business: the ability to consistently work in a focused and joyful way. Balancing rest and action, with a spirit of playfulness throughout.
Joyful productivity is a suite of practices that fuel one’s sense of well-being when working.
At the core of the idea is how we approach every moment of work. Are we just trying to “get it done”? Or can we see this very moment as being somehow connected to our deeper purpose?
Can we bring a bit more joy, diligence, and love to this moment?
It is about practicing our ability to master our energy, every day at work.
For example, the energy reboot: intentional breathing for 30 seconds, multiple times every working hour, to bring you back to the remembrance of a higher purpose in the moment.
Another activity that I encourage for all my clients, and that I do myself, is to journal at least once a week about Celebrations (what progress to appreciate in your business activities) and Learnings (what “aha!” moments, new tools, and very importantly any “mistakes/failures” that you can reframe as beneficial lessons learned.) This dual practice of Celebration & Learning keeps us moving forward effectively and joyfully.
For more, read my best posts about Joyful Productivity
2. Healthy Money Habits
Without healthy money thoughts and habits, we may feel insecure, and prone to making poor decisions in business, such as doing marketing with desperation, or taking on misaligned clients, or investing in get-rich-quick schemes.
It is important to become aware of our inner relationship to money (our thoughts and emotions) and our persistent behaviors with regards to money.
I have a series of blog posts about healthy money.
To dive deeper, check out the Conscious Money Flow Course.
3. Authentic Content Creation
I often teach the importance of creating authentic content. You can do this in the form of writing articles (blog posts), making videos, or recording podcasts.
Essentially, the habit of creating content will help you to keep exploring your core message and strengthening your authentic voice.
And it's the resonance of your voice and message that attract your true fans and keep them coming back.
Without a true fan base, there’s no authentic business. With enough true fans, you’ll never be in want.
Start creating authentic content today, and aim to do it consistently.
4. Paid Content Distribution
There’s the fantasy that if you just build it, they will show up. If you just create content, people will find you.
Truthfully, it almost never works. Most of us -- including me -- need to use paid content distribution to grow an audience. This is why I often talk about this.
As one of my readers Suzanna Stinnett wrote, "Paid distribution = wings."
Isn’t it reasonable to expect that you need to spend money to advertise your business? Paid ads to distribute your content is one of the best ways to spend your business-building dollars.
This is why I’ve included this as one of the 8 practices. If you’re not using paid ads of some kind, you are holding yourself back from reaching the thousands of people who need your message and voice.
My favorite method of content distribution is Facebook Ads. (I teach an online course on Facebook ads.)
I wouldn’t recommend Twitter or Linkedin Ads at this time. In my experience they are expensive and difficult to get any results.
Besides Facebook Ads, I also recommend Instagram ads (carousel images or 1-minute videos), Youtube ads (shorter videos), or Google ads for your blog posts and website.
These disciplines are so important that even in the few times I'm recovering from an illness, and paring work down to the minimum, I still make sure I do these first 4 practices.
When I started my business, nobody in my industry knew me. I had no audience nor email list, yet I grew my business to full-time in my first year.
The main outreach method I used was collaborations or JV's (joint ventures).
In recent years, I've learned to do paid ads (as mentioned above) which is very efficient for growing an audience, but I still regularly seek out collaborations because it’s a good way to grow an aligned audience. For businesses either new or mature, good collaborations create a lot more benefit than the effort takes.
This is why I recommend to all my clients that they should be doing at least 1 collaboration per month.
Read more: How Simple Collaborations Grow Your Business
6. Audience Research
Imagine selling water next to a filtered water fountain… versus doing it in a desert.
When you have a product that is well-matched to someone’s wants, the thing almost sells itself.
If you’ve been practicing the 5 disciplines above, you now have engagement on your content and therefore, you can start doing some audience research to discover their wants -- so that you can create (or curate) offerings that are well-matched for them!
If you neglect this ongoing rhythm of audience research, you may well be building the wrong audience. Each month, try to connect personally with at least 1 audience member, while also quickly studying a few of your commenters’ profiles.
Even if you’re building the right audience, without 1-1 conversations, you won’t get intimate enough with their wants to know what you should be offering in your products/services, or how to frame your marketing.
These 1-1 audience research conversations are where you ask what they’ve bought (related to your niche), what’s working for them in terms of products/services, what’s not working, and what they’re still looking for. (When I was trying to figure out my offers, I was doing at least one of these conversations per week.)
To go deep into audience research and creating aligned offers, consider the Create Better Offers Course.
7. Rhythm of Gentle Launches
With content creation, paid distribution, and collaboration, you build an audience. With audience research, you get clearer about what products/services you should create or sell.
Once you get into the above practices, it’s important to start a routine of “making offers”, in other words, letting your audience know about your products and services.
I call this a gentle “launch” because I simply make a few social media posts, and send 2 emails per month to specifically promote my product/service of the month. When you’ve grown a true audience, using the practices above, then gentle launches are all that’s needed.
My recommendation is that you make 1 offer or call-to-action for every 5-10 pieces of content. You can bend those numbers a bit, but overall it’s a good ratio.
Your offer or "call to action" could be:
I also recommend that you separate your content from your selling.
For example, on the George Kao Facebook Page, you’ll see that each week I post 7 pieces of content and one of them is an offer or call to action (it’s every Wednesday). During my course launches, I may post an extra call-to-action that week (on Sunday).
Keep this rhythm of gentle launches consistent, and your audience will learn to expect. They may even look forward to these announcements.
8. Mastery of Your Craft
You’re probably committed to becoming excellent in your craft. You might be taking workshops and courses and reading books and journaling about your growth.
That’s all helpful. But what’s the most grounded way to excel in one’s work? I think it’s to notice the impact your work is making on your clients, and then make adjustments based on those observations. To continually gather data to improve your work’s impact on your ideal clients.
In other words, you need to create a feedback loop of your product/service delivery.
What’s working well about your products/services, according to your customers? What can be improved?
Create an ongoing practice of seeking feedback (both positive and constructive) from your customers about your offerings. You’ll sometimes get glowing testimonials, which encourage you to keep going, and help your marketing.
Sometimes, you’ll get honest feedback about how your products/services can be better. Those are important to take note, especially if more than one customer gives you the same piece of feedback!
You can automate some of this feedback-getting. For example, I use AcuityScheduling which can automatically send a follow-up email after each appointment. In that email I ask: what went well in our session, and what can I improve on?
I also have a recurring reminder for myself to post a feedback request, occasionally, to my group coaching participants. The responses help me to keep improving the program year after year.
These 8 disciplines or practices create a very effective engine of vitality and authentic business growth.
I encourage you to re-read this post carefully. Write down the doable steps for you. Take one step at a time.
George Kao is a Marketing Coach for small business owners, especially solopreneurs such as Coaches and Mentors. He focuses on ethical & effective ways to grow one's platform and build true livelihood.
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