Concentric Circles: A Wholesome Alternative to Sales Funnels
Here’s the business model that I use, and recommend for all clients to consider.
It’s an alternative to sales funnels (which often feel unethical to me).
This concentric circles model is meant for those who earn a living as solopreneurs (simpler business with less overhead) by sharing their life’s experiences via coaching, mentoring, facilitation, or healing.
Notice that there are boundaries to each of the levels in the diagram. The key to making it work is to set clear boundaries of access at each level, for your personal sustainability and for your clients’ clarity about what support is available at each level.
It starts with you at the center of your business: your knowledge, your creativity, your presence. These are the core assets from which your services and products are developed.
Your energy signature and your work radiate out into the world to add value, doing your part to move humanity forward.
To be personally sustainable in doing your work and to fulfill your potential, it is important to continually learn and deepen your joyful productivity: the more you practice, the more personally sustainable and successful your business will be.
1-1 clients are your inner circle. They get the most access to your time and energy.
Of course, we can never be fully responsible for the results of our clients, since it largely depends on their own actions and life circumstances. However, compared to the other levels (group program, online courses, etc.), you do have more responsibility for your clients at this level. Also, they pay you at a higher rate than other levels.
You can only allow a few 1-1 clients at a time. If your full-time income depends completely on 1-1 clients, the maximum I’ve seen from businesses is 22-25 hour-long appointments per week. More sustainable is about 15 per week or less.
The success factors of your 1-1 appointments include how effective you are in sessions with clients, and your system for following-up with them.
Ideally, you could supplement your 1-1 work with services/products from other parts of this business model. This brings us to the next level up: working with groups.
A group coaching or mentoring program may have anywhere from a few people to a few dozen.
My authentic business mentoring group has 80 members, which is large enough to provide a diversity and dynamism that benefits everyone, and yet small enough that I can still track and support every individual throughout the program.
Take a look at the link above. You’re welcome to borrow any aspects of my group program to structure your own.
Each of your group members has less access to you than your 1-1 clients. This means you have less responsibility for the results of each group member. Of course, they also pay less than 1-1 clients.
The success factor of your group program will depend on your ability to bring together people of similar values and energy, and your systems for tracking each member’s progress.
Some group programs, such as mine, include access to various online courses that the teacher has created, or will create during the program. These online courses could also be sold to those outside the group program.
Whereas a group program must have a limited number of people, online courses are totally scalable. Whether 10 people or 100 people buy your course, it doesn’t really take you more work.
If thousands bought your courses, you’ll certainly have more student questions to answer, but it’s still much less work to have one additional student, compared to one additional group member or one additional client. This is what scalability means.
Compared to having clients or group members, you have less responsibility for each student’s results since they have even less access to you, and are paying you less than a group member would.
It’s important to set clear boundaries of access to you in your business so that you can remain a healthy solopreneur.
For example, my students (George Kao’s Authentic Business Courses) are limited to asking me targeted questions inside the private course platform. Or, they can come to the George Kao Q&A Call once a month. If their question in the course platform is more than I can concisely answer, I ask them to attend the monthly call. This is how I maintain healthy boundaries, while providing enough of my presence to still help my students and provide the value they paid for.
Books (e-books, printed books, audiobooks) are even more scalable than online courses. Millions of people can buy your books, and readers don’t expect that the author will necessarily answer their questions.
If you’ve read any of my books (George Kao’s Books) you know that I offer a link at the end of each chapter that brings them to a place they can comment publicly. This has been a sustainable way for me to provide some light support to my book readers.
Compared to all previous levels (clients, group, courses) you should feel even less responsibility for your readers’ results -- you can’t make anyone read, nor implement, your book’s advice… much less implement it in the right way.
Yet, you can serve many more people with your books (since they cost less) compared to your online courses or other services.
Finally, the outermost level, where you can reach the most people, is with free content -- articles (blog posts), videos, podcasts, images.
It doesn’t cost you anything to have millions of people view your Youtube video or Instagram post. And, if any of your posts go viral and get lots of views, people don’t expect that you’ll be able to respond to every comment.
At the level of free content, you have the least responsibility for any one person’s transformation, and they also expect the least access to you (since it’s free). Yet, you can reach the whole world.
Should you start with 1-1 or with books? If you are needing to make income quickly, getting clients 1-1 is what I would recommend. If you’re not in a hurry to earn income but are building this in your spare time, for the long-term, then I’d recommend going from free content, moving gradually inward towards 1-1 clients if you wish.
As you study this business model and implement it according to your energy level, you'll figure out, over time, how many people you can allow in at each level, and therefore how much you need to charge for each product or service.
Unlike a sales funnel, you welcome people in this model to freely enter/exit any level without pressure to enroll in any other level.
Although I recommend making invitations/announcements of your offers consistently, I hope you'll do it in a gentle way, allowing people to know about something yet being unattached to whether they sign up: truly authentic marketing.
This creates a great deal of trust that makes your marketing easier and easier over the years.
May this simple model help you plan your business going forward!
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For more than 10 years, George Kao has been training and mentoring entrepreneurs to build authentic businesses that bring fulfillment, freedom, and genuine contribution.