We all want to stand out from the crowd. We’re not interested in being average. Average for business is scraping by, hitting up a bunch of networking events hoping that this time something interesting will happen that will help our business break out.
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Avoiding this trap of blandness is exactly what Badass Your Brand by Pia Silva is about. Badass Your Brand tells the story of how Silva took her marketing company from one she hated to run, one that didn’t stand out, one that had huge debt, and turned it into a company she loved to run.
To understand where the book is going, you first need to understand Silva’s definition of a Badass Brand.
We define Badass Brands as those that command a premium price and attract ideal clients. They are able to do this because they are noticeable, memorable, and shareable.
These are business that stand out. They aren’t more of the same. They’re the leaders in the field. Far from the “easy” road that many of us assume happened, they worked hard to get where they are.
Building a business is hard work no matter what. Why would you put all that effort into doing something you don’t even like that much? Why would you bust your butt finding projects that put you to sleep?
As Ryan Holiday says in Perennial Seller: “Deep down, we all harbor a fantasy: We do creative work, throw it in the mail — someone else sends us a contract and doesn’t bother us again. No one gets to tell us what do to; our art remains pure and untouched.”
That ideal world is a fantasy world. If you expect that’s what’s going to make your business, just shut it down now. You’re going to have to work hard to get any semblance of the success you dream of.
Silva also calls business to specialize as a way to stand out. She says that you can quickly become an expert if you specialize. Where your competition builds expert status slowly by scattering their effort around between many fields, you build it quickly by being known for the one thing you do best.
The beauty of specializing on a process for a focused market is that you can create these processes. The more yo do the same kind of project, the more proficient you become. And while doing the same thing over and over may sound boring, I find that’s quite the opposite. You can always improve your skills and what you do.
Silva also says that the best way to earn more is to find that thing you love to do that brings the most profit to your business. This is usually something that is repeatable, that you can standardize.
Whenever your favorite thing to do is also your most profitable, you have a huge opportunity. When you focus on selling only the thing you love to do — the thing that also makes the most money — your entire business will become more profitable.
Because it’s repeatable, you can continue to refine your process and make the work even more profitable. Because you love it, you are energized as you do awesome work.
I know you’re sitting there wondering how you’re going to find that thing you love most and that is the most profitable. Well Silva doesn’t leave you high and dry. One of the extra resources she provides is a workbook that is available to download in trade for your email address. It offers a bunch of great questions that you can use to help find that profitable thing in your business. I’ll talk more about that booklet in the recommendation section at the end.
While this topic covers a few chapters, they have a bunch of overlap so I’ll cover them in one shot.
First we need to identify that you’re in the business of marketing yourself. If you’re not telling people about your services, then no one is.
If you create value in the world, it’s your job to market yourself well enough to ensure your people have access to the valuable services they need. If you fail at communicating your value, your clients will lose when they end up hiring a less valuable competitor because they didn’t understand why you are better.
This prospect becomes easier when we narrow our focus. A narrow focus allows us to centralize all the language we use to speak to our customers. We don’t need to try and hit “all the people that could possibly purchase from us”. That language ends up being bland and corporate and nothing that regular people will resonate with.
Inside this marketing idea Silva says that we need to be ourselves. We need to show our warts and own up to the things we believe. While this may put some people off working with us, it will also build fans. The fans will love our attitude and tell everyone about us.
Most solopreneurs are too scared to be themselves. Because they need business, they are always trying to do what they think they need to do to get business.
This has born out for me. I regularly have coaching clients tell me that they heard about me on a podcast, or read a blog post. What stood out to them was that I said screw the hustle. You’ve got kids and a spouse to be with, so work hard and then hang out with them. Or maybe they loved that I only check email 25 minutes a week usually.
They loved that about me and trusted me enough to learn a bit more and make a purchase.
Again, Silva doesn’t just leave you with the thought that you need to be yourself, she gives you 4 angles to look at to help make your brand badass. She contends that you need at least two of them to stand out from the crowd.
For your target market to count, it must be specific enough that your ideal clients would hear about your business and self-identify as your perfect client.
This is where lots of development agencies die. They say they do WordPress work, or Angular...and that’s it. If your ideal client can’t see themselves in your marketing copy, then you don’t have a tight enough target market.
But for your brand personality to count as one of your four angles, it must meet this requirement: It must somehow be contrary or in contrast to the prevailing personality n your industry.
For me this is me only checking email 25 minutes a week, or not working more than 35 hours a week. This is when I say screw the hustle because the hustle substitutes effective prioritized work for more hours in the chair.
I think you produce less work of quality, which doesn’t stand out when you hustle.
Now if everyone says screw the hustle, I no longer stand out.
What do you stand against in your industry? How do you show people that you stand against it?
This is cutting the upfront “free” work. No more many phone calls for scoping or free pitching. You have a lead product that gives the client something they can walk away with of value.
...lead products demonstrate that your time and expertise are valuable, even during the evaluation phase.
My development projects start with an evaluation phase. I review the client’s membership site and make a bunch of recommendations they can use to build a better site.
I don’t do free pitching or RFP’s. That’s a waste of my time and my money.
This takes it up a notch and your client will have already looked at your lead product. In my coaching business that is going from BootCamp to one of my coaching products.
As time goes on, your refined process elevates you higher and higher above the competition. Meanwhile your competitors are spending their time customizing their process to each client, thereby taking the long road to expert. They too learn from every project, but because each one is so different, it takes a lot longer to get clear on what works and what doesn’t.
By sticking to the same process for your Bull’s Eye product you can continue to get better at it with less effort. You can provide more value to your customer’s because you know their industry so much better as you work with many people in it.
We value freedom over our time above all else. We work for ourselves because we don’t want a boss — and that includes being a slave to our clients.
Silva has a novel approach to your pricing as well. It’s not value based, or hourly. She suggests that you spend 50% of your time in a month on client work. 25% on brand building and 25% on whatever you want.
In a standard four weeks that would be two weeks on client work. A week on branding and marketing and then a week doing whatever the hell you want. Now you can change that up, say by skipping the week off and building it into a few months off at the end of the year travelling without work hanging over your head.
With her model you price your services so that if you fill those two weeks with work you don’t need to worry about the other weeks. If you need to make $10k a month and can do one project a week, you price your work at $5k.
Silva finishes off the book by talking about my favourite word...NO. Instead of taking every project and opportunity that comes your way, you decide the type of things you want to do and stick with them.
By accepting everything that came our way, we were keeping our agency generic and stifling our ability to grow our brand’s reputation.
Instead of spreading out your influence, you build it up quickly by working in one field. You become known for that single thing you do best. As you become more known, you only say yes to those clients that meet an ever narrowing set of rules.
There are plenty of service based businesses in need of our Brandups, and we know we can crush it every time. The value of what we are selling is highest for those types of clients, so that’s all we want to do.
And that’s the main point of saying no in the first place: to create time for the clients that you love — to work with the client for whom you can do your best.
If you’re working with the clients that allow you to do your best work, then you can provide them the most value. If you can provide them with the most value, you can also charge them the most for your services.
When I give similar advice to people they now ask how they pay the bills as they build momentum. There is going to be a lull for a bit, and Silva acknowledges this giving you three variables that affect the length of the lull.
The length of the lull depends on (1) the effort you put into educating the world on your niche, (2) your prices, and (3) your confidence level. Passively hoping clients will find you is not productive.
If you put little effort into educating your niche about your services, no one will know you exist and hire you.
If you price way outside of your niche expectations to start, it’s going to be a slow build.
If you’re waffling around on the value you provide, people won’t trust you.
I say that you set out your ideal client and continue to refine the criteria as you get more work. Looking back at every quarter you should see more and more work being done inside your niche.
If the discomfort of building a special business sounds like way too much work, get a job.
You will never build something truly special and unique if you’re not willing to be uncomfortable. You have to be able to laugh at people telling you you’re doing it wrong, and instead do what you know is great and valuable.
Without risk you won’t build something worthwhile. If it were easy to build something that people looked up to, everyone would be doing it.
But every time it feels hard, or you want to quit and go back to the same old way you’ve been doing things, remember this: If building a Badass Brand were easy, everyone would be doing it and you’d have a lot more competition.
As I read Badass Your Brand, I was super excited about it. I’m changing parts of my business and how I offer them based on the feedback in the book. That being said, I feel like I have to recommend the book with a huge reservation.
Like many books today, there is a push in the book to sign up for Pia Silva’s email list to get the workbook. Then you’ll find out about a webinar. Since you’re excited like me you’ll sign up for the webinar.
But that’s stupid because the webinar is going to recap chapter 1 and 2 in 20 minutes. Then Silva is going to pitch you for 20 minutes. It’s pretty standard internet marketing crap here. All the benefits you get on top of the course so that you’re really getting double the ticket price if you purchase right now. But she won’t tell you the price until the end of the 20 minute pitch with repeats about all the extra stuff you get if you stay on the webinar to the end.
If your me, you’ll sigh and not purchase. But the next day you’ll take a look again and realize that it’s actually $500 less on the site right now. So you would have wasted $500 if you purchased during the webinar.
One of the key questions in Badass Your Brand is “What is normal in your industry that you stand against.” For me it’s this crap. At the very least I wasted 40 of my 60 minutes to a sales pitch. At worst, the whole hour was a waste because I read the book already.
If you ever catch me doing this type of crap, fly out to Chilliwack and smack me in the head until I promise to never do it again. Webinars are fine, I do them. It’s the total lack of respect for the value of people’s time that I can’t stand.
But, yes you should read the book. You should even sign up for her email list and get the book. Don’t go to the webinar though. She’s wasting your time. If you’re ready to invest $900 - $1500 in some more training, then find out where you get the best price and invest in the webinar so that you can see about the course.
Otherwise, produce something awesome with your hour instead of listening to a 40 minute pitch.
Photo by: kthai