Teaching as the mouth of your MVF

I’m following up the Minimum Viable Funnel article by drilling deeper into each component of the funnel.

In this article, let’s look at using teaching as the mouth of your funnel.

As a refresher, remember that my Minimum Viable Funnel (MVF) looks like this:

Promotional activity (like teaching) –> Lead magnet –> 3 months of “lead nurture” emails that are constantly reminding subscribers about your services via the –> 1-page service description page

By this point I’m hoping you have built a solid lead magnet, a service description page, and some lead nurture content.

All your MVF is missing is a way to encourage human beings to opt in for your lead magnet.

A Protracted Warning About Bad Advice

Please never forget that “human beings” part. After all, that is who you are hoping to sell your services to.

If you head over to Google and search something like “how to drive traffic to your blog”, you will get a lot of very smart-sounding advice. And if your goal is to get some nice trending-upward lines on a graph of traffic for your site, the advice you get will be valuable.

However, if your goal is to build trust as quickly and sustainably as possible with human beings who fit your ideal client profile, you will get a mountain of bad advice.

Real quick: how many clients would you need over the next 12 months to have your best year ever? If your business is anything like those I regularly work with, the answer to that question is 10 to 30. 10 to 30 of the right kind of clients would be transformative for almost any solo freelancer, small development shop, or even a larger agency. Keep that in mind as you’re reading about list building tactics or content marketing strategies.

I want you to optimize for trust, not optimize for traffic volume or list size.

Your Options

You basically have two options for encouraging human beings to enter the mouth of your MVF and opt-in to your lead magnet:

  1. You can do what I call chasing the blue dragons, which is using techniques designed to get Google, Facebook, or Twitter to send traffic to your lead magnet or content marketing assets. I call this “chasing the blue dragons” because all three companies have blue in their logos and to very intentionally remind you of heroin addiction. Optimizing your content marketing assets for search engine rank and viral share-ability are more like a heroine addiction than a good technique for building trust in prospective clients. Note: If you sell a B2C product this does not apply to you.
  2. You can earn that traffic by getting in front of an audience that contains your ideal clients and teaching them something and then encouraging them to opt in for your lead magnet if they want to learn more or go deeper.

For B2B sales that depend on trust, I advocate method #2. To be fair, I don’t recommend that you totally ignore method #1, but your focus should be method #2. That’s what I’ll focus on as well for the rest of this article.

Teaching

If you hated some or all of the schooling you got as a child, I want you to try to put that aside for the moment. In the context of selling your services, teaching is a completely different ball game than almost any aspect of the conventional primary, secondary, or higher education schooling system.

Teaching people in a business context:

  • Demonstrates credibility. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, it becomes clear real quick when you try to teach someone else. Successfully teaching a potential client something valuable demonstrates your credibility in an impressive fashion.
  • Increases trust. While nobody really assumes that just because you have the knowledge and confidence to play the role of teacher you also know everything there is to know, people will assume that you are deeply skilled in the area that you are teaching about. This builds trust.
  • Demonstrates strength. Many teaching activities involve live lecturing and responding live to questions from the audience. Both of these elements of teaching demonstrate that you can solve problems and deal with unknowns, which demonstrate strength and resourcefulness. These qualities–when applied to an important business problem or critical project–are highly valued.

Teaching Opportunities

Your ideal clients are out there. Chances are, they are already a member of some audience that needs people like yourself to teach something. For example:

  • Conferences need speakers to inspire, entertain, and yes… teach.
  • Local meetups need people to present relevant and useful information. Again… that’s teaching.
  • Business networking groups often invite speakers to inspire, entertain, and again… teach.
  • Hosts of business-focused podcasts have audiences that are hungry for someone to teach them something valuable.
  • Private educational businesses like General Assembly need people to teach cutting-edge tech and business skills to their students.
  • People who have built up a substantial audience on their own need people to bring in an outside perspective… aka teaching.

Those six examples just scratch the surface of the need for teaching. Some involve travel and a shirt with a collar and some can be done from your home office while wearing dirty, stinky sweatpants. Some actually pay money while most are unpaid. Some will take almost anybody who can put two sentences together and some require a bit of prior speaking “street cred”. Some grant you a lot of what Oren Klaff calls “local star power”, and some grant you only a little. But they’re all situations where you can use a little teaching ability to build a lot of trust among prospective clients who you then encourage to visit your lead magnet landing page to opt in to your list.

So in a nutshell, that is what I am recommending. Find an existing audience that contains some people who would be ideal clients for you. Work with the “owner” of that audience to set up something where you teach something. Have your CTA at the end of the teaching event point back to your lead magnet opt in.

Let’s address some common questions about this approach.

Woah, this seems very unscalable, Philip!

Yes. Next question, please.

🙂

It is somewhat unscalable, but a) that’s not a bad thing b) there are ways to tweak the scalability.

Remember, your goal is to build trust with enough prospective ideal clients to keep you busy and profitable for the next year or so, not to get the entire city of San Francisco to join your email list.

Conference speaking is probably the least scalable of the teaching examples I called out above. If your talk is recorded, however, that extends the trust-building benefits of that 1-time event to others who watch the recording. If you have the rights to distribute the recording, then you have a new content marketing asset you can use to demonstrate your expertise to those on your email list or those who visit your web site. I have numerous interesting examples of conference speakers literally walking off the stage and landing 5 or 6 figures of work on their way to the back of the room. So even though it’s not highly scalable, the trust benefits of conference speaking can generate an extremely good ROI for your time.

Being a guest on a podcast or presenting on a webinar combine many of the trust-building benefits of public speaking with a more scalable distribution model. Even quite popular podcasts will readily and easily accept a well-composed guest pitch, making it possible to reach a very large audience of ideal clients while sitting at home in your pizza and Cheetos-stained sweatpants.

How do I know where to teach?

Ask your clients. What podcasts do they listen to? What conferences do they attend, wish they could attend, and pay attention to? What email lists are they on? What books do they read?

Pretend that you are an FBI profiler and learn as much as you can about where your the clients you have and want more of (or don’t have and wish you did) pay attention. Then arrange to teach to those audiences and venues.

The final article in this series will wrap up with some thoughts I haven’t been able to get to thus far. Stay tuned for that soon!

 

Related Links

Want to stop competing against every other developer?

"This is by far the most valuable email I have ever received from an email list." - Timothy Voice

x