Why Your Funnel Is Failing (And How to Fix It)
If your sales funnel isn’t working, looking at the stats gives you surface-level info. It tells you where the funnel is breaking. But it doesn’t tell you why it’s breaking..
This episode looks beyond the stats, and goes deep into the problem. We will look way beyond, “Do A + B, and you’ll get C” and look at why it’s so darn difficult to do A and B to get C.
I’ve never spoken about this before, but if your funnel isn’t working, the villain is low-profit thoughts that put humans in a hierarchy. Left unchecked, these perceptions of inequality result in perpetually broken sales funnels. In this episode, we’ll examine why women, in particular, are held hostage to income inequality.
Stick with me… I’m saying some of the quiet things out loud. I’m going deep in this episode, but I’m not afraid to dig deep with you, because getting to the root of the problem is what we must do to close the gender earnings gap. When we start talking about the real issues, we can begin solving them.
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM THIS EPISODE:
- Why I use and teach Invitation Marketing (it creates high profit presentations that function as sales magnets!)
- How Invitation Marketing nails the 5 high profit presentation targets
- Identifying the messaging villains of human hierarchy and inequality
- Why thoroughly defining the happily ever after, and action steps to get there, are critical to effective messaging
- How to recognize and reject “you’re not qualified” grooming to underearn
- How to infuse your strengths into your marketing message
- The true root of perceived human inequality that results in income inequality
- How fear and intimidation affect the quality of your messaging, and how to change that
LISTEN TO THE FULL EPISODE:
FEATURED ON THE SHOW:
High Profit Presentations — Target #1 (Distilling Your Message)
High Profit Presentations — Target #2 (Highlighting the Happily Ever After)
High Profit Presentations — Target #3 (Clearing the Obstacles)
High Profit Presentations — Target #4 (Demonstrating Expertise)
High Profit Presentations — Target #5 (Capturing and Holding Attention)
Gateway to Seven — Work with me!
Welcome to Episode 31 of How to Make More Money, a podcast that helps you get seriously good at the game of making serious money. I’m your host Kelly Hollingsworth, and I’m thrilled you’re here because today we’re getting into the nitty gritty on slaying the villains that are preventing you from making serious money with your marketing message. The title of today’s episode is, “Why Your Marketing Funnel is Failing (and How to Fix It). This may sound like we’re covering a surface-level problem, but we are not. As I promised last time, what we’re talking about today is a surprising reason why it feels so darn difficult to create a high profit presentation that brings in a lot of business. The reason that we’re going to discuss today goes deeper than you might imagine, and it may surprise you.
So before we dive in, let’s take a second to clarify two things. One is that if you’re listening to this podcast in proximity to your kids or other tender ears, you might want to press pause and wait to listen until you’re in a place where you have more privacy.
The second thing to say before we dive in is much less intriguing, it’s a simple matter of clarifying terminology. And then term I’d like to clarify is what I mean when I use the word funnel. Lately, we tend to think of a funnel as a long, automated thing beginning with a Facebook ad that takes folks to a lead magnet or a webinar, that puts them on an email list and you send them an email nurturing sequence until eventually they buy. This is indeed one form of funnel, a long form and not the best form in my mind, but in any case, that’s not what I mean when I use the word funnel or it’s not the only thing that I mean.
I found a definition that’s more in line with my thinking on the word funnel from our friends at clientpoint.net. They write that a sales funnel is a sales process. The term funnel refers to the purchasing process that businesses lead their customers through when buying products or services. I like this definition because it clarifies that a funnel is any type of sales process. What is the process your clients go through before they buy? Whatever it is, that’s a funnel. I have a short, very streamlined funnel. It’s, “Here’s my podcast. I can help you. Let’s talk,” and then we work together. I don’t believe in messing around, and neither do my clients. That’s why my funnel is very short. But however long or short, your funnel may be today we’re going to talk about fixing it. And I’m not talking about “optimizing.”
If you spend any amount of time on constructing or tinkering with funnels, what you’ll read, again and again, is that improving the efficacy of your funnel has to do with stats and data and conversion rates and making sense of the numbers. But all of that is just a symptom of the problem. If the conversion rates aren’t there, that tells you that you have a problem. Does it tell you how to fix the problem? No. Today we’re going to talk about fixing the problem. Not just measuring the problem or figuring out where the funnel is breaking. We’re going to talk about why it is breaking.
In fixing why a funnel is breaking, the first thing you need to know is that a high profit presentation is the engine that drives any sales funnel. If your funnel is a mill wheel that brings clients into your business–try saying that three times fast… mill wheel–If your funnel is a mill wheel that brings clients into your business, the high profit presentation is the river that keeps the mill wheel spinning. If your presentation is low profit, the wheel stops spinning, and little or nothing comes into your business. So the high profit presentation is the mechanism that drives the entire funnel. It’s the driver that keeps the wheel moving, and clients and revenues coming in.
If you were with us for the last five episodes, you know we discussed five targets to aim for, to amp up the power of your presentation, and get the wheel turning, and keep the wheel turning. And at the end of the last episode, I asked, “If this is how you make serious money–and it is–then why aren’t more of us doing this? Why aren’t we all making serious money by hitting these targets?
To answer this question, I’d like to share with you what’s happening inside Gateway to Seven since I launched the podcast thirty episodes ago. As I said at the outset of this series of episodes on high profit presentations, what we’re doing in there is the most meaningful work of my life and the lives of the women who are participating. And today I’d like to share with you why I’m saying this. What’s going on in there?
The first thing you do inside Gateway to Seven is learn to attract clients in a highly powerful, highly profitable, highly replicable manner. Obviously. In business, nothing happens until a sale is made. So inside the program, I teach a process called Invitation Marketing that brings your high profit presentation to life and nails the messaging targets that we’ve been discussing in the last five episodes.
Invitation Marketing is the messaging approach that I use in this podcast, and it works. I started this podcast with ten foundational episodes, then made an offer that attracted clients representing hundreds of thousands of dollars in income and set the foundation to scale far beyond that in the near future. This wasn’t a one-off or a fluke. I did the same thing in my prior podcast for hedge fund managers, in marketing my own hedge fund, in my legal practice, in every business I’ve ever been in.
No matter what business you’re in, Invitation Marketing is the best way to draw clients to you. Why? Because it helps you hit the messaging targets of a high profit presentation, including the five that we’ve discussed so far in the last five episodes. Invitation Marketing distills the meaning of what you do in no uncertain terms. It shines a light on the happily ever after that your business creates. It clears the obstacles from your audience’s minds. It demonstrates your expertise so they can see you as the best in the world. And it captures and holds attention in a manner that has your audience happily carrying your message to the masses in ever widening circles. This ensures that a ripple becomes a wave. This method of marketing works because it invites your audience to a happily ever after that they want–that they have always wanted–and then they feel drawn towards your offer by their own internal desire, rather than by marketing techniques that feel creepy and manipulative.
I’ve distilled the principles of Invitation Marketing over a lifetime of learning to be what they call “good in a room,” and helping others learn to do the same thing. Being “good in a room” means you walk into a meeting, and you walk out of the meeting with money rather than maybe. Conceptually, the principles of Invitation Marketing are not complicated. When you nail them, you quickly become fully booked with a waiting list. One woman inside of Gateway to Seven credits the approach with why she was able to close five clients last week, without even doing consult calls. When you’re using Invitation Marketing, you develop a skilled approach to communicating with your audience so people know they have to work with you. There’s no question in their minds. And then when you have this, your ability to scale into a larger offering based on an ever-growing audience becomes inevitable.
So what’s the challenge? One thing is knowing what to do and how to do it. We take care of that inside of Gateway to Seven, as you learn the process of Invitation Marketing. But that’s not the big challenge. The big challenge, that we also take care of inside of Gateway to Seven, is the fear that comes up when you contemplate taking the action steps that allow you to hit the messaging targets and speak powerfully to the marketplace.
Here’s an example. A major principle of Invitation Marketing is you specify the exact happily ever after that your business creates. You put a stake in the ground at the precise location of the happily ever after, and you declare, “This is where we’re headed, folks. This is what this business stands for. Do you want to join us?” In every business I’ve ever been in, no matter what I’ve been doing when I’ve made money in my life, it’s because I precisely defined the happily ever after.
In my housekeeping business when I was a teenager, it was a house so clean it smells clean for the entire week until I show up next time. In my hedge fund, it was you will make money in this fund subject, of course, to the proper risk disclaimers. But I didn’t fall back on fine print to water down my message. When I was selling my hedge fund, I was certain that they would make money and I told people so. I said, “Of course, this is a risk determine how much you can afford to lose, cut that amount in half and cut it in half again. And then, whatever that number is, invest 25% of that amount, because this is risky. But do I think you’ll make money? Absolutely, or I wouldn’t be making this offer.”
Obviously, precision about the destination is going to make for a more effective message. If you’re inviting folks to go somewhere, defining precisely where you’re going is going to be key to getting them to go there with you. My friend Nancy and I want to go to a spa this summer. Are we going to get on a plane if the pilot says, “Yeah, maybe we’re going to a spa. Maybe not. Maybe it’s someplace else.” Is a plane with an imprecise destination one that we’re going to board? Would we buy that ticket? No. Definitely not.
So here’s something interesting to think about. If your marketing message isn’t attracting like you want it to, take a good hard, look at your message. Is the happily ever after precisely defined? Is it powerfully defined? Is it clear as a bell? Could we see the result on a movie screen? If not, try to paint this picture in your marketing message. If you can do it, terrific. Go forth and prosper. If you’re having a difficult time, watch what your brain does when it comes time to take this very logical and reasonable step of defining the happily ever after. If you’re struggling with the messaging villain that we’re talking about today–I’m going to name this villain shortly, but for now, if you’re struggling with this villain, your brain will battle you if you have this villain unconquered in your business, internally, the battle can take different forms.
· Your brain may say, “I can’t say that! Someone else is already in that business that I want to be in. I can’t step on their toes.”
· Your brain may say, “Yes. I can see the wisdom of talking about the happily ever after. But what if I can’t actually deliver?”
· Your brain may say, “Well, I wanted this result–whatever the particular happily ever after is that your business delivers–but I doubt others will want it. Or if they do want it, I doubt they’re willing to put in the work that I did, so I’m not really going to name exactly where we’re going.”
· Your brain also may say, “Yes, this worked for me, but I’m not sure it will work for everyone.”
Whatever your brain tells you, if you’re struggling, what I’d like you to notice is the common thread that tends to tie all of these low profit thoughts together. What do they have in common? They tend to put human beings in a hierarchy.
When someone else is already in a particular business, and you don’t want to step on their toes, that means something. It means that they get to be in the business that you want to be in, but not you. Fundamentally, this concx`ern that shows up in your marketing message, that shows up in an ineffective marketing message, is a basic thought of human inequality. When you won’t define the happily ever after because someone else is already doing it, you’re essentially saying to yourself, “They get to do it, but not me.” That’s inequality.
If your brain tells you, “Yes, I can see the wisdom of talking about the happily ever after, but what if I can’t deliver?” This also is an expression of inequality, because one of two things is happening. Either you’re offering to take your clients to a place where no human has ever gone before, which is probably unlikely, or you’re offering to take your clients to a happily ever after where lots of people have gone, but you’re thinking that you, unlike your competitors who do the same thing as you, are uniquely incapable of getting your people to that destination. If your competitors and colleagues are doing something that your brain is saying that you can’t, that, too, is a hindrance to your marketing message that is born of basic, low profit thoughts of human inequality.
If your brain says, “I wanted this result,” whatever the particular happily ever after is that your business creates, “but I doubt others will want it.” Or, “If they do want it, I doubt they’re willing to put in the work that I did.” This is a view of human inequality, but in a different direction. In the prior two examples, you are less than equal. In this example, the members of your audience or other humans generally in your mind are not on equal footing with you. If your brain is responding in this manner, it’s telling you that you’re a human who wants a happily ever after and is willing to do the work to get it. The members of your audience, however, are not.
Your brain may also say, “Yes, this worked for me, but I’m not sure it will work for everyone.” This is another way that our brains try to categorize humans, to put them in a hierarchy. They try to say that some humans can be helped by a solution, but not others–yet another expression of inequality. Why? It’s only if we’re fundamentally different, i.e. inequal, that a solution would work for some humans, but not for others.
So here’s something to notice. Specifying the happily ever after is pretty darn important if you want folks to buy the tickets and get on board with your business. And in this one step, I’ve identified four different types of low-profit thoughts that are grounded in inequality that make this step feel difficult or impossible. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the kinds of low profit thoughts that prevent you from taking this simple step of precisely defining the happily ever after, but this list will do for now. I think you’re getting the picture.
Now let’s think about another messaging target–demonstrating your expertise. Here’s how the high earners do it. They say, “Here’s what I did. Here’s a path I walked. By walking this path, I arrived at the destination, and my clients also arrive at the destination walking the same path, so you should take the same steps that we did, and it will work for you, too.”
This is how you demonstrate expertise. You say, “Folks, this is what works. Walk this way.” That’s why a second step in Invitation Marketing is to specify the steps your clients must take to reach the happily ever after. Again, seems fairly simple, right? Conceptually it is, and when you do this, it’s money.
Consider, for example, Dave Ramsey’s famous Baby Steps to escape debt and financial struggles, and become an “Everyday Millionaire.” His first step is, save $1000. Second step, pay off debt, smallest to largest. Third step, accumulate an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses, and so on. He has a path and it works.
Do I think this is the best path for becoming a millionaire? No, because it’s not my path. I walked a different path to creating serious money, and it didn’t begin with saving $1000 or making a budget. It began with ridding my life of the cancer that is under earning. This is the path that I walked, so this is the path that I teach. I’m not sharing the steps Dave Ramsey offers because I believe they’re the best way to become a millionaire. Rather, I’m sharing them with you because they are defined. In the process of defining the steps, you create dollars.
This works in any business. When you tell someone, “Look, I was where you are, stuck in a hell that was seemingly inescapable. But there’s a way out. I found it. I escaped. Here’s exactly what I did.” When you’re saying this, what you’re saying demonstrates expertise in a way that few other things do.
When I tell someone I was a housekeeper at age 13, and I became one of the few female hedge fund managers in the world by acquiring just seven skills, that conveys I know what I’m talking about and that others who have and execute the same skills that I do, will achieve the same success. It makes sense, right? If you want to get to the top of Everest, follow the well-worn path of those who went before you. Is that particular path of climbing Everest a challenge? Yes. But if you put one foot in front of the other on the well-worn path all the way to the summit, you will reach it.
Whatever your business is, it’s critical to show folks, not just the precise success, but also the path to the success. Defining the steps on the path to success, even if it’s not the best path, puts you head and shoulders above your competitors. Why? Because the path is clear. It’s replicable. When people hear the steps, they think, “Yep. That makes sense to me. That would get it done. I want to work with that person to reach my happily ever after.” This is why specifying the exact steps to reach the happily ever after is step two in Invitation Marketing.
But, again, the conceptually simple process is complicated by thoughts of human inequality. Specifically, if you’re struggling in trying to communicate the critical path that your clients must walk to succeed, you will be stopped in your tracks by low profit thoughts along the lines of, “Who am I to say what they need to do?” Or, “How would I know what they need to do?” Or, “I’m not qualified to tell them what to do.”
Interestingly, these thoughts frequently arise even if you have already walked the particular path to the particular happily ever after that your business creates. You’ve done it. You’ve gotten to the happily ever after. If we look back on your life, the steps your clients should take are as obvious as looking back in the snow and seeing where you walked, and simply telling folks, “This is what I did. Do this too, and you’ll get the result I did.”
But when your journey through hell, your time of walking through the fire and crawling over the broken glass is over, and it’s time to make a business out of this experience by helping others escape hell and get to the same happily ever after, these low profit thoughts can rise up and bite you in the behind. If they do, they will thwart you from doing what Dave Ramsey and other high earning business owners are doing, which is defining a simple path. These are the steps to the happily ever after.
If you can’t take these two very simple steps in your messaging—specifying the exact location of the HEA and defining the steps to get there–you are behind everyone else in terms of your earning, because they can. Dave Ramsey will say, “Everyday millionaire? Piece of cake. Just do these seven things.”
If you’re a financial coach like Dave Ramsey, what might you say? Would you march forth with your own recipe for financial success, or might you say something decidedly less profitable, such as something along the lines of, “I don’t tell you what to do. I just help you work on your mindset.” I hear this kind of thing so much from coaches who aren’t making money, I can’t even tell you.
Whatever business you’re in, if you can’t specify the simple steps on the path to success, why will it happen? Once again, it will be low profit thoughts that are preventing you from taking the simple action, and these low profit thoughts will be grounded in human inequality, in this case your own. If you have these low profit thoughts, you’ll watch the Dave Ramseys of the world march forth into commerce, telling people the path to getting out of debt and becoming an everyday millionaire as they see it.
But when it comes time to throw your own hat in the ring and share your thoughts on the subject, based on your own experiences, when it comes time to telling folks how you got it done and how you recommend they do it, you will feel paralyzed.
Thoughts that cause this kind of paralysis, include for example, “Who am I to tell them what to do?” these thoughts are dramatically helped along by grooming to under earn. For example, as part of his baby steps, Dave Ramsey instructs listeners to buy a mix of four different types of mutual funds to achieve a specified average annual return over time. Does he have any kind of registration, or certification, or official qualification to provide this advice? Not that I can tell. He’s just out there as a financial coach telling the world what he views as the proper mix of mutual funds to buy. And no one seems upset about this.
But what about women who want to be coaches? I once heard a woman call into the Dave Ramsey show. She had quit medical school for some reason. She had medical school loans without the doctor’s income to pay them off. She wanted to pay off her medical school loans by becoming a health coach. And he told her, before she became a health coach, she should make sure that she was qualified to offer health coaching to her clients. I want to be very clear, here. There’s nothing wrong with being qualified to do what you’re doing in business. I’m not into charlatans who don’t know what they’re doing masquerading as coaches or anything else. There’s too much of that kind of thing going on in the world already.
But I am raising this point, because it shines a light on what is a pretty sharp divide between the high earners and those who are struggling to earn. The high earners don’t question their qualifications. They just go in with what they know. They know, “This is what worked for me, so it will work for you too.” Do you hear the equality in this high profit thought? I’m a human. It worked for me. You’re a human, so it will work for you too.
My ears perk up when I hear anyone suggesting that business might be more complicated than this. If you’re in a regulated profession, such as law or medicine, then yes, you need a credential before you can proceed. But if you’re in an unregulated profession, such as coaching, in the United States, and someone suggests that there might be more to your business than, “This is what worked for me so I know it will work for you too,” if they say, “Make sure you’re qualified,” what I hear in that is grooming to under earn.
The reason I hear it is because it shows up when my clients are trying to do the exact same thing Dave Ramsey does, specify a path, “This worked for me,” but they’re having a hard time doing it. Instead of just putting a stake in the ground at the exact happily ever after and specifying a clear path for getting there, clients who have been groomed to underearn in this fashion instead say, “I’m not qualified.” The strength of their messaging then collapses under the weight of inequality and with it, so does their business and their income.
So when Dave Ramsey, an unregistered, unregulated financial coach (like all coaches in the U.S. are unregistered and unregulated)… when he is telling a woman who’d been to medical school to check her qualifications about being a health coach, I thought, Seriously? In the U.S. any human can call themselves a coach anytime they want. And no one knows this better than Dave Ramsey. He’s had run ins with a state regulator in, I think, Missouri, for not being registered to solicit and refer clients to registered investment advisors. And he restructured his entire business to avoid that registration requirement. But he’s telling a woman who was in medical school to make sure she’s qualified before becoming a health coach??? She was in medical school for Pete’s sake. If she’s not qualified to be a health coach, who is?
This may seem like an isolated problem, but it isn’t. Right now, Gateway to Seven is populated by a legion of coaches who are overcoming this kind of rooming to underearn. Before they came into the program, they were struggling to take the basic and very reasonable actions of defining the happily ever after and the simple steps to get to it. Before they came into the program, that was their struggle, because in their families, in their schools, in their churches, in the podcasts that they consume, they have been groomed not to advise anyone on how to do anything lest they be deemed unqualified. They’d been told something that conveyed, “You don’t know. Someone else knows better. Leave the driving to us, sweetheart.” That is often implied in what people say to us, as in, “Make sure you’re qualified.” But often it’s not implicit. It’s explicit.
In coach certification programs, for example, new coaches often are instructed to keep silent about the actions their clients should take to reach a result. Instead, these coaches in these programs are advised to do something along the lines of, “You just ask your client questions.” Or they are told, “the client knows what they should do. Not you.” To this, all I can ask is, would Dave Ramsey be a multimillion dollar financial coach that he is if all he did was ask questions? If he instructed his clients, “just do what you think is best? I don’t think so. Do you hear the echoes of the “Leave it to Beaver” era in this advice? “Whatever you think, dear.” You can almost hear it coming out of a black and white sitcom from the fifties on Nick at Nite TV.
This problem of, “I’m not qualified to tell anyone how to actually get to the happily ever after” is running rampant among struggling coaches, but it extends into every industry. If you’re an expert who’s struggling to be seen as an expert, chances are good you are struggling with this, too. I think I’ve mentioned a tax attorney who wouldn’t post her own thoughts about what to do tax wise on her own website. Instead, she was putting her mentor’s advice about what to do, even in instances where she disagreed with him.
All of this is grounded in human inequality. Part of this human inequality renders you blind to the fact that the teachers and coaches are doing one thing to make money, but advising you to do another. If you’re looking at someone who is clearly doing the very thing they are telling you not to do, that is on its face an equality problem. They are thinking, I know, but you probably don’t, so while I make money, you go check your qualifications. If you buy into this thinking, the grooming to underearn has seeped into your own brain. You’ve been groomed, and then the inequality lurks there, and it kills your marketing message, because when it comes time to take these simple steps on the path to creating your own high-profit presentation, you’re going to think, not me. Those folks who are making the money, they must know. They are allowed to take the actions that lead to effective messaging, because they know, but I don’t. I’m not qualified. So they can go make money. And in the meantime, I will work on my qualifications.
Is any of this low-profit thinking true? Are any of these low-profit thoughts true? No, but if you’re in this struggle, it affects you. You won’t share what you know. You won’t share, “This is what actually gets it done.” You’ll pretend, even to yourself, that you don’t know, because you might not be qualified and someone else might know better than you. This happens so much, I can’t even tell you. Life coaches, real estate agents, lawyers. It doesn’t matter who you are. If you have considerable expertise, but you’re not making considerable money, it’s because you’re thinking of yourself as inequal. And you didn’t come across this opinion all by yourself. It’s the grooming to underearn in this regard that helps create it, and it’s everywhere.
So that’s what’s happening. Now, the question is, what do we do about this? How do we fix it? The first thing to glean from today’s episode is that thoughts of human inequality create income inequality. If you’re thinking of yourself as less than equal, that will show up in your messaging. It will prevent you from hitting the messaging targets that create a high profit presentation and that will, all other things being equal, put you behind others who don’t suffer from low-profit thoughts about their own inequality.
More surprisingly, thoughts that others aren’t equal to you–for example, that others can’t do what you did or don’t want to work as hard as you did, or don’t have the same motivation or drive that you have–those thoughts also will detrimentally impact your messaging, they will cause your messaging to collapse under the weight of, “Well, other people don’t really care as much as I do about this and they don’t have my drive and my motivation,” et cetera. And then your message will lose strength and that lack of strength in your message will create the results of exactly what you’re thinking. Other people won’t want to do it because you’re not coming across with how it amazing it is to do it in what you’re saying to your audience.
All thoughts of human inequality detrimentally impact the quality of your message. And they create income inequality. What we see inside of Gateway to Seven over and over and over is a fundamental and profound truth in high profit messaging. When you think of all humans as equal, your message becomes powerful, appealing, and profitable. When you think of one human being as on a higher level than another human being in terms of potential desires or capabilities, that will cost you money every time. That’s low profit messaging.
So inside of Gateway to Seven, we do two things. We look for this. That’s the first thing. And when we see it, we solve it.
How do we solve it? To solve it, we have to know where these low profit thoughts that create low profit messaging come from. Where do we acquire low-profit thoughts that are grounded in human inequality? Are we born with them? No. We come by them honestly. Through our families, parents, teachers, churches, podcasts, and even our coaches and coach certification programs.
The next question is, are these thoughts something we really believe? We’re certainly operating under the weight of these beliefs as far as our messaging is concerned. But do we really believe these things? Do we really believe that humans exist in a hierarchy? That some are inherently less qualified? Less capable? Less driven? More inadequate? I guess some people could believe these things, but when I’m working with a client on messaging, and low-profit thoughts of inequality are the “problem,” is it the case that they truly believe these things? No, they don’t. On even a cursory inspection of their beliefs, my clients who are struggling with messaging inevitably say, “What am I saying? Why am I talking about this? I know I’m qualified. What am I so afraid of??? What is this wall that I keep running into??? ”
The wall they keep running into is the villain that’s gutting your marketing message. To get a visual of this villain, I’d like to tell you about a scene from one of my favorite movies. It’s a 1996 movie called Bound. It was directed by The Wachowski brothers, who are now the Wachowski sisters, and I’m linking a Youtube trailer of the film in the show notes. It’s an amazing example of narrative drive depicted in video, if you want to see it. But in any case, Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly play an ex-con and a femme fatale, respectively, who team up in this movie, in an erotic and entrepreneurial/criminal relationship in which the two of them are going to rip off the mob and make off with their cash. At one point, Gina Gershon’s character Corky is getting smacked around by the mob. They’re asking, “Where’s the money?” and she tells them the location. At that point, one of mobsters suggests that now is the time to kill her, and she says, “You can’t kill me.” and he asks, “why not?” And she says, “because I could be lying.” She’s implying If you kill me now, you won’t really know where the money is, because maybe, as you’re smacking me around, I’m not telling you the truth.
This scene beautifully illustrates what we already know. You cannot believe disclosures that are made under threat of violence, or elicited by torture. Think about this– if you interrogate someone under coercion or threat of torture, can you rely on the responses they give you? No, you cannot. And exactly the same thing is happening when we cling to beliefs about our own inequality. What I’d like to offer you today is something surprising that I don’t think I’ve ever discussed before. The beliefs about our own inequality are similarly acquired and adopted under force or threat of violence. And they therefore are similarly suspect. Here’s what I mean by this.
Consider for example, the Salem Witch Trials. What was going on there? Yes, five men were executed as witches in this notable case of mass hysteria that was the deadliest witch hunt in the history of colonial North America. But 78% of the 200 accused were women. Why? According to our friends at Wikipedia, the Puritan belief and prevailing new England culture was that women were inherently sinful and more susceptible to damnation than men were. I also found a paper on this, a feminist perspective on the history of women as witches by Maggie Rosen. She writes that, “the treatment of Puritan women (and women today) is rooted in biblical times.” Her paper quotes Richard Godbeer, a professor specializing in early American witchcraft. He explains that, “female bodies, as the weaker sex and descendants of Eve were more vulnerable to the devil’s influence.” This perceived inequality is why women were far more likely to be damned by the devil, tried as witches, and executed as witches.
But interestingly, of the 200 total accused in the Salem witch trials, 30 were found guilty and 19 were executed. Who wasn’t executed? Who was assimilated back into society? Those who admitted their guilt. In other words, those who admitted that they were weaker, more likely to be damned, and therefore guilty of witchcraft.
See how it works? Admit you’re weaker. Admit you’re more likely to be damned. Admit your own inequality. And we’ll let you not just live, but live among us. But fight us on that, and we will accuse you. Try you. Imprison you. And execute you.
Given the stakes, is it any surprise that many of those accused in the Salem witch trials would unreservedly admit to their own weakness? To wind themselves up in this cloak of the safety of their own inequality and cling to it, no matter what? Hardly. It makes perfect sense that they would do it.
The Salem witch trials were but one incident in the history of time, a notable incident to be sure, but not isolated. That period of horror in Salem is one link in a chain of events, spanning female history in which women have been coerced, again and again, to acquiesce to the idea that they are somehow different, somehow weaker, somehow inequal, under threat of imprisonment, violence, or death if they do not.
One prominent form of this acquiescence is silence. Have you ever heard of the horrifying device known as the scold’s bridal? What is this? It’s an instrument of torture and humiliation overwhelmingly used on women who were considered “scolds.” Often at the request of her husband or other family members, a woman who was considered a scold would be forced to wear a scold’s bridal–an iron muzzle or mask with a sharp metal bit that inserted into her mouth and pressed down on the top of her tongue, often with a spike. This prevented the woman from speaking or eating and caused extreme fatigue, holding her mouth in a constant static position. Any movement of her mouth could result in piercing or laceration of her tongue. Scold’s bridles weren’t just used on women. They were also used on slaves of both sexes, and the effect was ongoing and horrific. This is why I’m telling you about this. History shows us that things do not go well for certain folks who speak up.
Consider, for example, the right for women’s suffrage. Women who had the temerity to march for female voting rights were imprisoned, force fed rancid food, beaten, and tortured. So acquiescence to the false idea of their own inferiority is one way that many of us are groomed and have evolved to respond to the threat of violence. This often takes the form of remaining silent to avoid harm.
And then there’s permission seeking. This is another common response to the problem of violence. A really solid way to avoid feelings of danger is to seek permission. If you raise your hand and say, “Is it okay with you if I do this???” chances are good you’re not going to get a smack down if somebody says, “Yes, go ahead,” and then you do it following their permission. Often, permission seeking has a certain charm to it. On campus, it looks like, “Would you walk me to my car?” It can look like, “I want my husband to go for a walk with me in my neighborhood at night, instead of going by myself.”
There’s also the perhaps lesser-used, but often effective strategy that I’m going to call, “Making a big fat fuss.” I remember once I was leaving a restaurant/bar on Rush Street in Chicago, and the bartender told me that a man at the other end of the bar wanted to buy me a drink. And I had noticed that man earlier, as I was ordering my salad, eating my salad, and paying the check. And when the bartender said to me that he wanted to buy me a drink, I said to the bartender, “No thank you. I’m getting a really creepy vibe from that guy.” I left the restaurant, and I walked down the block and around the corner. Rush Street is very well lit, but as I turned the corner to walk onto the residential street where I was staying, the residential street was dark. But I felt someone following me, and I turned back and I saw that man. He was still standing on Rush Street, so he was illuminated by the lights. And I could see him and I could see that he was following me. So I stood there. I stood my ground and I said, “I see you. Turn the eff around. Now.” I kept yelling at him and making a scene until he did turn around. Of course, this strategy doesn’t always work to avoid violence. In certain instances, making a big fat fuss can be an effective thing to do, as it was for me that night in Chicago.
But sometimes there’s just pure strategic capitulation. I remember being in New York on the same day I received word that my divorce from my first husband was final. And I was feeling strange. I was feeling untethered and detached and vulnerable. And I was standing outside the World Trade Center. And I was mugged. Some of my “friends” told me after the fact that I wasn’t mugged. They said that a man asked me for my money and I gave it to him. Not a mugging in their minds. Just a stupid and expensive thing to do. But here’s what happened, and you be the judge. A man came up to me and asked for my money in a threatening tone. And I gave it to him. When he asked. I remember thinking, now that I’m divorced, I don’t think I have dental insurance. And I had this vision of getting potentially punched in the mouth and losing my teeth. And I thought, Whatever is in my wallet. Isn’t worth that. He can have it.
So why am I telling you this? Because these are among the strategies that we use to avoid violence in the world. Acquiescence to the false idea of our own inferiority. Silence. Permission-seeking. Making a fuss. And capitulating to a lesser harm, to avoid a more serious, greater harm.
We’ve learned these strategies since the dawn of the human race. They’re reasonable responses to real threats. And it’s easy to see why we’ve acquired these methods of behavior as we make our way through the world.
So what’s the problem? The problem is that these strategies that we have been using in life since the dawn of time to protect ourselves as best we can, we also carry with us into business. And there, these strategies kill our earning potential. In commerce, particularly in modern commerce, they generally do not work at all.
There’s so much to say on this, I could write a book about it and eventually I will. But for now, the really big thing I would like you to glean from today’s episode is that not knowing how to feel powerful, profitable, and protected all at the same time in modern-day business environments is the real problem that is gutting your marketing message. It sounds a bit unbelievable, but I’m in the trenches of this problem in coaching call after coaching call after coaching call, and here’s what I’m hearing: In ordinary conversations about commercial messaging. These conversations are not about trauma. They’re not about violence. It’s just about business and putting a profitable message out into the world, and here’s what women are saying:
· I feel like I have to get permission or I’m going to get in trouble.
· Someone might sue me.
· Someone might confront me.
· I fear for my safety.
· I want to say what I think, but then I cave.
· I don’t even want to do that because I fear for my security.
This is just a smattering of comments that I’ve collected over the last couple of days, so you can get a sense of the depth of the problem. It happens in marketing, absolutely. But it’s by no means confined to that arena. This comes up everywhere that women are working in business.
One woman who was having trouble with a vendor recently told me, “I feel like I can’t say no to another price increase that this vendor wants now, because I said yes to price increases that he wanted in the past.” She remarked that this experience of not saying no now, because she has said yes in the past, felt like it was necessary to avoid angering the vendor and turning him into an aggressor. And she said, it feels very akin to rape culture. I know that I’m not really in danger with this vendor, but I’m noticing my brain acting the same way in business that it might in another setting to stay safe through acquiescence, to something that she didn’t really want, she felt the need to remain silent in a situation where she couldn’t possibly be injured.
This is what the human brain does. I think we’re so accustomed to trying to protect ourselves from violence, as we move through the world, that we’re bringing that into business in a place where it just doesn’t work at all. This is a pattern. It’s not an isolated problem. It’s rampant. And it is a real reason so many experts aren’t making expert-type money. They’re basically in this giant, cash-sucking dilemma that they’re confronted with, and it looks like this. I hear it over and over again: I can feel safe and say nothing. Or I guess I can just force myself to put myself out there. “Putting myself out there” is the language a woman uses when something is dangerous, but she’s going to march forth into it anyway.
And that’s paralyzing. Some of us can do that for a little while, but it gets exhausting. Who can afford to feel afraid all the time? It doesn’t work. This is why people get paralyzed. This is why people get into low-profit messaging. This is why we get stuck in business. The real problem is that we don’t know how to successfully navigate the world in a way that feels profitable, powerful, and still protected. That is the dilemma we have to resolve if we want to close the gender earnings gap.
How do we solve this problem? This is a problem that is successfully navigated. We can solve this dilemma with the skill of high profit thinking. High profit thinking helps you navigate through this low dollar dilemma of danger in a way that feels safe and makes you money. Why does it feel safe and make you money? Because it helps you create your own zone of protection in a powerful, profitable way.
It allowed me to feel powerful, profitable, and protected in the “male dominated” hedge fund industry. I would call that industry male “populated” rather than male dominated, but whatever you call it, high profit thinking was the solution for me in that industry. And it will work for you, too, whatever business you happen to be in. So that’s what we’re diving into in our upcoming episodes. We are going to fix your messaging problem by removing these low profit thoughts of inequality from your mindset. And the way we remove those is, we help you create a manner of feeling protected, powerful, and profitable without them. The only reason we think of ourselves as inequal is because those thoughts–that we don’t really believe– help us feel safe. Once you feel safe without them, you can let go of them. Your marketing message can become powerful and profitable and your business will start making a boatload of money. So that’s what we’re going to talk about in our next episode. Beginning with our next episodes, we’ll have a series on creating powerful, profitable protection for yourself and your business through high profit thinking. Please join me for those. And thank you so much for being here today.