Trying to build a coaching business? Or any online business at all?
It’s not just sweat, blood, and tears. It’s knowing how to keep things simple. From the outside, business coach Marc Mawhinney looks like a content machine. It’s almost hard to see how he keeps up. But when you peel back the layers, you see he’s running a well-oiled machine with a simple process that keeps new clients coming in the door.
Read on to find out how he does it. You won’t be disappointed.
Hey Marc. Glad to have you here. So…let’s say you’re starting from scratch. You’re building your business all over again. Where do you invest your time? What do you focus on?
Of course, my focus is always with coaches, those are my clients, but this can apply for any online business that you choose. The first step you have to do is decide, obviously, who are you going to serve? I know it sounds like common sense, right? It’s going to entail a little bit of market research but not too much. Some people get mired in the market research and then they use that as an excuse not to take action.
There’s whole sorts of ways you could do that market research but we don’t realize how lucky we are in 2018. We have the world’s best market research tool for free at our fingertips and we’re still complaining, compared to the old days when the internet wasn’t around. Take a little bit of time to decide, okay, this is who I want to serve and who I want to help.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to have done that. For example, I get this question all the time, people say,
Well, if you want to be an executive coach do you have to have been an executive before?
If you want to be a weight loss coach do you have to have lost a bunch of weight before and all that stuff.
Obviously you don’t. You can still help those people but it’s a heck of lot easier if it ties in with your background and your passions. You already know the lingo. You have credibility because you’ve done it. There’s a coach I know that lost half his body weight. I think he went from 350 to 175. Now he helps people look and undergo massive transformation. That’s probably a good fit for him, where he can walk the walk, where he’s done that before.
You have to boil it down to being able to answer in one sentence what exactly you do, who are you helping? I talk with the barbecue pits, in the backyard barbecue and someone says, “So, Spencer, what do you do?” You’ve got to be able to rattle that off in one sentence so they get it, they know what you do, and not a 20-minute speech or a blank stare. That’s not good either.
Fantastic. So, I figure the next question on everyone’s mind after the research is How do I get the word out? How do I get traffic my way?
What I’ll be talking about is organic stuff because let’s assume the person doesn’t have thousands of dollars to throw into Facebook ads or anything like that. Again, we’re very lucky to be living in this time in 2018 that we can connect with people all over the world for zero dollars or very little, yet we take it for granted.
For my business the big three which has stayed pretty much consistent for the last five years.
One is podcasting.
Two is Facebook
Specifically the Facebook groups. With the Coaching Jungle, there are 15,000 potential clients in there, so the Facebook group’s important for me.
The third is e-mail marketing.
Daily emails. That’s the asterisk I’ll put on. I’m a big fan of daily e-mails. If I’m doing podcasting, Facebook like I should be and the e-mail marketing, I’m good. I don’t have to do a 100 different things.
Like I mentioned, the big criteria there are two things. First of all you should enjoy whatever it is you choose to do, because if you don’t enjoy it you’re not going to be consistent with it. Number two is it has to work. For example, if you, Spencer, said, “I really enjoy sticking my head out the window here in Brooklyn and yelling at people to hire me, hire me, hire me.” It’s the favorite thing that you do every day. You absolutely love it. Now maybe it could work. You might get some people in Brooklyn, you’re not in a small town, but it doesn’t fit that criteria that works. So even though you love doing it, you can’t wait to stick your head out the window, it probably doesn’t meet the second criteria.
I see that happen a lot. I mean, not the head yelling out the window, but the same basic idea. Now, you just mentioned you got 15,000 people on the Facebook. How long ago did you get that started?
The Facebook group would have been late 2015.
Okay, late 2015. Wow. So you built it up to 15,000 people in three years. How long did it take before it started generating revenue? What were the numbers like at various milestones, one year?
Yeah, one thing I did with the group is I was really grasping in the beginning, getting people into there. I think the mistake a lot of group owners make is they expect, “Oh, I’ll take 30 seconds to start the group. I’ll open it up. I’ll mention it once or twice and a bunch of people will find it and come flooding in.” It doesn’t work like that. That’s why you see so many groups out of the 500 million Facebook groups out there that are dead or on life support. They’ve got tumble weeds blowing through them.
I had a nice little start because I already had a good sized network or following. I talked about, I was kind like a mother of a new born baby that can’t shut up about her darn baby. That’s what I was like with the Facebook group. “Hey, you gotta check this out! If you’re a coach you gotta be in here.”
I got the first probably 300 to 500 fairly quickly because of that, probably in the first month I was up already to those numbers. I can’t remember the exact numbers for milestones but after a year I was probably like 2500 and then it really exploded. Once we got up over 1,000’s when the growth really started to go and it took on a life of its own that way.
The big key…it’s kind of like rockets. They say that they use up 80% of their fuel with the lift off and very little fuel afterwords. It’s kind of the same way with Facebook. I put in a lot of effort in the beginning. You’re going to be frustrated. You’re not going to see the traction necessarily but you need to put that effort in to get it up and get it going. Once you can get your head up above all those other Facebook groups that are out there then you’re flying, but you’ve got to get to that point.
I think there’s a lot of that. With most activities you don’t see returns until you pass that 80% point. A lot of people get discouraged and they give up before they hit that 80% point so they never actually become profitable because they say, “This doesn’t work.” Then they reboot and go looking for something else.
Now, one thing I hear about all the time is whether Facebook works. And you not only built a good user base, but it regularly generates business for you. Am I correct about that?
Yeah. It does, yeah. It’s one of my main sources. But that being said, I don’t just let it sit there, and engage a little bit, and expect money to come flying in. Where you’re in the group you’ll see … Actually, right after this interview I’m doing a joint venture, training with Jeff Smith around Alexa Flash Briefings. That’s a joint venture, where anyone who signs up with Jeff for his package, I get an affiliate cut, or commission. Not many group owners are doing that, surprisingly. You would think they would be.
So, a lot of them aren’t monetizing it. They’re not putting offers to their group, and I’ll give a really quick example. I had a past client who shot himself in the foot. He had a Facebook group in the podcasting niche, and the first thing he says to people once he gets them into the group, “Don’t worry, this group isn’t going to be like other groups on Facebook. I’m never going to sell to you. I promise. It’s just going to be all value, value, value.”
And you probably know where this story’s going. He built it up after a year to a little over a thousand people, which was great. Never made a penny off it. He was essentially providing tech support for podcasters hopping on Skype and all this other stuff. He shot himself in the foot when he started it by saying, “I will never sell to you.” So I was watching what was going on, and I said to him, I said,
“You gotta start monetizing this. You gotta get the Titanic turned away from that iceberg, because that’s, or you’re going to hit the iceberg and sink.”
And he started trying to monetize it, and everyone got their backs up. He had the worst group of freeple and cheaple I’ve ever seen assembled. And they acted like the Springfield mob in the Simpsons. Whenever something happens they get out their pitchforks and their torches, and they go to Homer’s house. That’s what they were like. There was a mutiny in his Facebook group, and everyone said,
“Hey, you said you’d never sell to us, you bastard,” and all this other stuff.
So, my suggestion to him was get out of that group. I said, “You’re never going to monetize it. Go start a new one fresh, but do it the right way.” That’s what he did, and I’m happy to report that he is monetizing the new group, because he started on the right track. He started selling right on day one. I sell unapologetically to my group. I have it right in the group description, when people join and they see it. It has the rules. It says, “You keep your selling and your promotion to the theme threads, like our Promotion Friday thread.”
But I do say in there that I will be selling my products and services, and if you’re not cool with that you should leave, because I don’t want people to do the same thing that happened to my past client there, with it. So I sell unapologetically, but the way I look at it is,
Yeah. I think people need to plan on monetizing, from the very beginning. My feeling is, for example, with emails, people will wait until they build a list of a certain size and think, “Okay, now I’m going to start monetizing.” They’ll put all sorts of barriers in the way, and they’ll build this model where it’s just kind of all getting ready to monetize, without doing it. Do you feel that with the Facebook group even from day one, when you got five people in there, you’re still thinking about monetizing?
Yeah, I am. I had this question regarding email lists recently. A guy said, “When should I start doing daily emails, and when should I start selling to my list,” because he had a very small list.
I said, “Right away. Even if you have three people on there, it’s your mother, your Aunt Gertrude, and your Uncle Lenny, or whatever, start selling to them on day one. It’s going to get you past that hump, and comfortable with selling as you grow your list. And you shouldn’t worry whether you have three people, 300 people, 3000 people, you should be selling to it.”
I think that a big issue for people online is they’re not comfortable selling. They feel icky about it, and that’s why they’re afraid to go out there. They don’t want to be labeled as a sleazy salesman or sleazy saleswoman, and there’s blocks there. Now, ironically, a lot of times they’re the same people who are putting themselves out there as being able to help people push past their fears and stuff like that, and there’s a disconnect there with it, as well.
So, same thing goes with Facebook groups. Right? Day one, you should be selling unapologetically. You should be providing value, too. It’s not like the Home Shopping Network, where it’s just nonstop just pitch, pitch, pitch, pitch, pitch, but you should mix it in there and get a nice balance going.
Yeah. I think they go hand-in-hand. I think I read, I can’t remember from who, it might have been Seth Godin, but someone was making the point that there was never a time when Steve Jobs would show up anywhere where he wasn’t pitching.
A big issue with online is you have a lot of people who’ve never had to sell in their past, before. So they’re coming from maybe HR, they’re coming from a desk job, a 9-5, something where they didn’t have to sell. Now, the advantage for me is, my background is in real estate. I did real estate starting at 21, throughout my 30s, so for about a decade. So when people talk about the reputation of coaches I say, “Hey, I actually took a step up. I was a real estate agent. I was down around used car salesmen, politicians, everything else. So, hey, this is a step up for coaches.”
But back in my real estate days I had to sell, or I wouldn’t eat. And I had to go out there and constantly find the next sale. I was used to selling, I was used to sales and things, but a lot of people aren’t unfortunately. They think, “Oh, I’ll just jump into coaching, start a website, and the clients will come in.” It doesn’t work that way. So I don’t say to a coach,
“Why did you become a coach?” I say, “Why did you start a coaching business?” I add those two words, because it really is a business. You’re an entrepreneur first, coach second.
Yeah, that’s the thing of it. If you’re coaching, if you’re consulting, I mean really, no matter what you’re doing, the craft is actually running a business. The product is the coaching, or the product is a course, or the product is whatever the product is. But the skill you’re developing has to be running a business because that’s what lets the craft work.
Yeah. Well, a lot of new coaches think they’re going to be spending 80 percent of their time coaching, and then maybe 20 percent of their time on some backend stuff, a little bit of marketing or whatever. It’s actually flipped. It’s probably 80 percent of your time finding clients, marketing, and all that stuff, and you’re lucky if you’re even coaching 10 percent, for your time there. And they don’t see it that way, so they’re in for a rude awakening when they start, because if you expect to just be able to throw up a website, whatever online business you’re doing, that’s not nearly enough.
I’ve noticed it’s gotten a lot noisier here, late 2018, compared to when I started online in early 2014. You can’t get away with, “Oh, I’ll throw up one post on social media a day and that’s good.” No. Well, you’ve seen my content. I’m just constantly churning out content. You gotta get your message out there.
And actually, maybe that’s a good segue for the next question because, yes, you do put out a lot of content. You do email daily. You do participate in the group all the time. I know you do the podcasts. So how is it that you manage to generate that much content?
I have a team of monkeys in my garage. So they’re chained to typewriters, and when I notice the output going down a little, I go down. They’re just like, “Get to work. Come on. Let’s go.”
Yeah. I think that was on the Simpsons once before, too. It’s a Simpsons day today. But I’m just very deliberate with what I’m doing, so I’ll give you an example. I have a sticky right here on the wall. It’s got certain things that I’m working on now. I have another sticky which says “No surfing Facebook.”
It also says, “No political posts or commenting, Marc,” because what had happened recently was, I would get engaged in a political debate with someone who has nothing else to do all day, and then they would try to draw me in. They’re like Mohammad Ali with the rope-a-dope strategy, trying to draw me into it. And I’m like, “No.” But this note for content has six things that I have to do. So, for example, the top of it is the November issue of my print newsletter, which is just about done now.
Next is my emails, because I always like to stay ahead for my daily email schedule. Next up are my recording Flash Briefings together, to batch them. After that is working on some videos that I’m launching here this month. And then after that is my book. It’s looking at me every day. I’m looking at this list and I know,
Or if you’re creating 18 hours, it’s not going to be your best stuff by the time you get up to 18 hours. In my estimation, I have probably five hours of peak, where I’m like Bradley Cooper in Limitless, where I’m just flying. After that, the pill has worn off, NZT-48 or whatever, and it’s not going to be as good quality. So I have to be very careful, there. I’ve got about five hours of peak, Limitless creation. And then after that I do the things that don’t require as much brain power, responding to emails and all that stuff.
When you create these, how often do you repurpose and use things in multiple channels, versus what percent of your content is standalone exclusively, or your Morning Minute
Yeah. I repackage a lot of stuff. People may not notice unless they’re following everything. But for example, my daily emails go into Facebook, in my Facebook group. They also go on my personal Facebook, they go on LinkedIn, they go on Twitter as well. My Alexa Flash Briefings, I mentioned I record a bunch. I’ll batch a month, or two months of these little daily one-minute ones, all in one sitting. I’m giving away my secrets here, so I shouldn’t tell you this.
I should be saying, “I’m struck by inspiration. Everything’s completely original.” For my recent batch of Alexa Flash Briefings, I went back to my daily emails from, oh God, the summer of 2016 or something. And not every one, but going up that list I’m like, “Which of these can be used for a daily Alexa Flash Briefing,” because it’s not like anyone’s going to say, “Hey, wait a minute. I think I saw that in an email that you sent in July of 2016, Marc.” Right?
So I’m stretching that content, getting as much extra mileage from it as possible. Some days I’ll cheat. Let’s say my brain is not firing at all cylinders, it’s late in the day, I want to get a post up in the Facebook group or whatever, I look into Facebook Memories. A lot of the posts you see in the Facebook group are things that I’ve already posted years ago on Facebook. Yeah.
Yeah. One time I actually had one person who signed up for the same course that I offered, three different times. It pained me to have to refund it the other two. But he signed on for the same course, three times, and I think that was when it really clued me in that you can really repeat a lot of what you say in many, many places.
Yeah. And it’s good to repeat stuff, to get those concepts to sink in people’s brains. The important concepts, you want to hear them a bunch of times so they sink in and they become second nature. Anyone who ever complained about that and said, “Well, gee, Spencer, I remember. Are you asking us again,” I would either … Well, I would, first of all, ignore them, or I would drop them off the email list or unfriend them.
Perfect example, I ask a Facebook question-of-the-day every day on my Facebook, at around noon Eastern time. A little while back, one of my Facebook friends sent me a message, “You asked this question like months ago,” or whatever. I didn’t give her the courtesy of an answer, because if you’re going to send me a message like that and just be an annoying person, I’m not going to spend my time talking to you about that.
I didn’t unfriend her, but I just ignored her. Ignoring people is great, I find. I used to think I had to answer every single person. It’s true, I was offering a infographic the other day on Facebook. You know when people put up posts, say, “Hey, here’s what I’m giving away. If you want it, comment here”? I did that with an infographic, and the picture that I put out was pixelated, so blurred out the content from the infographic. I had almost 100 request it there right away. One guy said, “Well, why the secret,” because of the pixelation or whatever. I just ignored him. I think, “If you have time to ask that, buddy, I’m not spending time on you.”
You have to get used to repelling people. It’s tough, but that’s why I love sending daily emails. It chases away people who don’t resonate with my message, because I take the filter off a lot of times. Once, I had a woman who was upset because the title of my email was, “Suck it up, buttercup.” It was talking how a lot of people in the coaching world and stuff make excuses and, “Boo-hoo, woe is me.” She sent it back like I was Hitler. “How dare you use that title,” and all that stuff, and, “I’m unsubscribing.” That’s fine. Good riddance. I would not want to work with someone like that, because if I ever made a joke or whatever, if they’d get all … We use another Simpsons reference. If she’s like Reverend Lovejoy’s wife, “Oh, the children. What about the children,” I don’t want to work with people like that.
I let her go, and … I wasn’t throwing darts at her picture on the dartboard there. I just said, “Okay. She doesn’t resonate with me, my sense of humor, my message, so good riddance.”
I love that. So, I could go on and on, but I know we’re running short on time, so I want to thank you for doing this and sharing so openly. It’s been great talking to you.