It’s a crowded marketplace online these days (3 strategies)

The upheaval of the past couple of years has brought A LOT of people into the online business world.

There are folks who were forced online due to layoffs or business shutdowns. Those who have had to change their schedules and lifestyle to accommodate for taking care of kids and family. Folks who simply had ‘enough’ of unsatisfactory workplaces and weren’t willing to stick around. Or who had always dreamed of doing their own thing and thought ‘now is the time to do what I really want to do.’

Having worked online now for over 20 years I LOVE seeing how many more folks have come into our online world. It’s a great place to be and there is loads of opportunity in the online space.

And, let’s be real… more folks online means more competition.

If you’ve been online for a while now you may have noticed that it’s getting more crowded. There are more people out there now who ‘do what you do’ – be it as a coach, trainer, OBM, VA or otherwise.

And it’s natural to be wondering “How do I stand out?” or” Why would someone choose to work with me when they have so many other options?”

Here’s 3 strategies to consider when you want to stand out and succeed in a crowded marketplace.

1) Go Deep

I do a trends call for my Certified OBM Association each year and one of the 2022 trends we talked about was micro-niching. Being a generalist isn’t enough in a crowded marketplace, as you are positioning yourself to be the same as everyone else with the same title as you. Look for ways to go deep (focusing on the few) vs. wide (focusing on the many.)

For example, if you position yourself as a business coach you are instantly competing with every other business coach out there. If you position yourself as a business coach who helps founders prepare their business for sale within 3 to 5 years, you’ve instantly positioned yourself to work with a very specific type of client. You can get known for doing this specific thing and can go deep in your expertise there.

2) Leverage your Genius 

If our goal is to go deep (as shared above) it also brings up an opportunity for us to leverage our genius. It’s soooo easy to build a business around doing ‘all the things’ – especially when we are good at doing many things! Not only does this put us in the mix of all the other generalist “I can do anything you need me to do for you” folks – it is a recipe for stress, overwhelm and potentially burn out.

It is more important than ever to align your business with your strengths – your genius – in a crowded marketplace. Your genius may be the thing that has you stand out from the crowd, while building a business that is energizing and enjoyable.

3) Stay the Course!

Imagine you want to grow a fruit tree. First you plant the seed. Then you spend time tending to the seed – giving it what it needs to grow. Everyday that you tend to the seed it grows and over time you will have a beautiful tree.

I see too many folks in the online space messing up their seeds. They plant a seed and 3 months later get tempted by another type of tree that they think would be easier to grow, so they abandon their seed and plant another one. Only to be distracted yet again by what they were promised would be a bigger tree, planting yet another seed and starting all over yet again…

In many ways this is the most important strategy – give your seed time to grow! Commit to tending it daily through your actions. Give folks time to get to know you for what you do. Give yourself time to really dig in and go deep. Every time you change your mind you are essentially starting your tree over again from scratch. My recommendation is to always give something at least a year (maybe two) in order to really see what is possible and to allow your success to really bear fruit (pun intended 😉

To be clear, there is still TONNES of opportunity out there for all of us. Crowded doesn’t have to mean we can’t create the success we are looking for, it just means we need to be more purposeful and strategic.

I’m curious – do you feel like the marketplace has become more crowded? If so, which of these strategies feels most relevant for you? Or what are you doing to navigate these crowded waters?

Perfectionism

I find perfectionism to be an interesting thing.

On one hand it’s about excellence – we want to do great work. We want to create amazing results for our clients. We want to bring our best to any situation. These are all good things to strive for in business.

But perfectionism can also be the thing that stops us and is a very common form of resistance or self-sabotage.

In my experience, when I’m stuck in perfectionism it’s often masking a fear of making a mistake.

“What if I mess up and they think less of me?” “What if I let them down?” “What if I’m not as smart/talented/awesome as they think I am?”

These are the kind of fears that can trigger shame and make us feel like we aren’t good enough. Ooof.

If we are someone who gets caught up and stuck in perfectionism, what do we do about it?

I don’t think it’s as easy as just saying “well there is no such thing as perfect, so just do it anyways” or “done is better than perfect”. Those things are true, but they aren’t helpful when deep down inside we are terrified of making a mistake and letting someone down.

What if instead, we worked on becoming better at making mistakes?

One of the things we talk about in our Certified OBM community is ‘the big mistake’. Meaning that all of us at some time will make a big mistake – it’s inevitable. (Mine was deleting an ENTIRE client website that wasn’t backed up anywhere – eep!)

The most important thing about making a mistake is how we respond to it.

  • Do we take ownership of the mistake and look to fix it or make it right?
  • Or do we run, hide, or try to blame someone or something else for the situation.

When I deleted that client website, I took ownership of rebuilding the entire thing. And even though the client was slightly annoyed it had happened, in the end it was totally fine because I fixed it.

I can tell you from experience on both sides of the coin – as both client & service provider – that ownership is what really matters. 99% of the time your clients will be fine with any mistakes that happen, so long as you take ownership of fixing it and looking to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

In other words, if you become good at responding to mistakes – taking ownership – then perfectionism no longer has to be the goal. It no longer has to be the measuring stick you use to decide whether or not you are doing a good job (and we all know, when we measure ourselves to perfection we will never measure up.)

Instead, the goal becomes “am I someone who is willing to take ownership for any mistakes?” Even when it sucks and feels uncomfortable. Even if a part of you does want to run and hide. (I thought I was going to barf when I had to tell my client about deleting that website!)

And strangely enough, as we take ownership and become better at responding to mistakes… perfectionism may no longer have such a strong hold over us. We know mistakes will happen and we know that we will take ownership of it and take care of it. <– That is what really matters.

Here’s to making mistakes! And being OK with it. 😉

When is enough enough?

I’m about to head into day 2 of our annual OBM Live conference – exclusive to members of our Certified OBM community.

Our theme this year is the inner game – and how if we don’t take care of our inner game then we will struggle to see results in our outer game.

We are having some amazing discussions around burnout and boundaries. Leading through chaos. Impostor syndrome and dealing with the worry, doubt & fear that comes up for all of us.

During one of our sessions yesterday the topic of ‘more more more’ came up, and how easy it is to fall into the trap of always wanting more.

More clients. More money.

Getting more done. And in less time (ooof).

And feeling the CONSTANT pressure of all of this.

There is a very real price to this that we don’t talk about often. Things like:

  • Hitting burnout because we are over working ourselves (or even overthinking, which can be equally as exhausting!)
  • Not being able to enjoy the success we do create, because we are instantly looking to the next goal
  • Feeling shame because we aren’t where we think we should be.

Keeping it real – this is a trap I’ve fallen into in my own business… and I’ve paid the price.

I remember when I first hit 6-figures in my business. It was a goal that I had for years, and I would dream about how amazing life would be. And when I hit 6-figures in my business I barely even noticed it, because I was so focused on “OK, now I have to hit 7-figures!!”

I didn’t take a moment to celebrate it or really let it in. I just kept on going… kept on working.

This is something I continue to struggle with – every goal that I reach. Every milestone that I pass. There is a part of me that feels like it’s “not enough”.

What if – instead of trying to constantly get more – we aimed for ENOUGH? 

Enough to live the lifestyle we want. And I’m not just talking about money here (although that is certainly part of it) – I’m talking about energy as well. The bigger the business the more it’s going to require of us, even when we have amazing support around us. How hard do you really want to work? How much time do you have available for work when you consider the life you want to live now? (Not the life that you think you’ll get to live in the future once you ‘get there’.)

It’s hard to resist the lure of more, more, more! Everything around us is telling us we should want more. Our own internal drive is telling us the same.

AND you ultimately get to decide.

What is enough? Right here. Right now.

What if we could be happy with enough? What if we could linger there and truly receive and enjoy it? Hang out there for a while… maybe even years?

Not gonna lie – this is something I have yet to master for myself. I’m aware of it and I’m working on it as well, but there is a lot to untangle around the ‘more more more!’ habit.

And yes, there are times when we may truly want more. There are seasons when we have more to give. More energy. More time. In which case go for it! Bring it on.

But we also need rest. We need to linger. We need to simply be and enjoy.

Imagine if we gave ourselves permission to simply live in enough. How different would life be?

Strategy or Mindset – what matters more?

We need both strategy & mindset to be successful in business:

  • Strategy is the outer game of success – what is the best way to accomplish our business goals? How are we going to get from A to B to C? It’s the tactical, practical side of things.
  • Mindset is the inner game of success – what goes on inside our minds and how does that affect our actions? Where do we stop ourselves?

It’s not hard to find good strategy these days. There are endless trainings, books and programs out there that can lay out the path to get from A to B to C. Doesn’t matter if you are wanting to learn how to hire better or create a strong marketing funnel – a quick search online will have many solutions right at your fingertips. Heck, we can even find all the strategy we need for free on YouTube.

Strategy matters, but it’s not the bigger challenge for most of us.

What matters more is what we tell ourselves. Our thoughts, beliefs and fears. Things like:

“I don’t know enough yet”
“Once I have more experience then I’ll be able to….”
“What if it doesn’t work out?”
“I’m scared I’ll mess this up!”
“What will they think of me?”
“Everyone else seems to have it all figure out – why am I struggling?”
“I’ve tried this before and it didn’t work”
“I know what I need to do, but I just can’t seem to get it done…”

I could go on – and I suspect you could add more of your own stuff to this list.

Any one of these things can stop us in our tracks. Stop us from taking action on the strategies we know are effective. Cause us to self-sabotage ourselves every step of the way.

And it’s totally normal to feel this way – to have worries, doubts and fears. I like to say mindset is 83% of the journey (not an official statistic, but certainly reflective of my personal experience as well as that of my clients.)

It can also be our biggest ally, when we are able to get our mindset on track and working with us (instead of against us.)

I’m curious – how important is mindset in your success journey? Hit reply and let me know.

Misconceptions about freedom in business

There are two competing views about freedom.

  1. On one end is the soloprenuer – the person who does all the work themselves. If they don’t show up work doesn’t get done.
  2. On the other end is the owner who has structured a business that runs and grows without them. They have a team and structure where they don’t have to show up for work to get done.

Everyone talks about the second option as being a ‘real’ business – that it should be the ultimate goal of every business owner. And that if you fall into the first category you don’t have a business you have a “glorified job”.

That’s such BS.

Being in business is all about the freedom of CHOICE. The choice to do what we want. When we want to do it. And with the people we want to work with.

I was a soloprener for the first 10 years of my business and I loved it! Yes, I had to show up to do the work or I didn’t get paid. But it was on my terms. I set my own schedule. I (mostly) did things I wanted to be doing. I got to work with some amazing clients.

Beats a job any day imo!

I shifted to a leveraged business model in 2009 and had to learn (the hard way) how to shift my role in the company. How to get the right support and structure in place so I could do LESS of certain things and MORE of others. How to become a CEO.

But I am still working. I am still doing. Yes, I take weekends off and don’t work myself to the bone. I have an amazing team who takes care of the day to day running of my business. We have worked hard to setup solid systems to create ease for all of us. Any of us can take an unplugged vacation and the business runs fine in our absence.

And I’m still here. I’m showing up in my business.

I want to work. I like to work! And I dare say most of us feel the same… eating bonbons on the beach all day would bore the life out of me in short order. (what the heck is a bonbon anyhow?)

It’s more about doing the right things – and knowing that what we do makes the impact we want to make – vs not having to do anything at all. And making sure that our business serves us as much as it serves our clients.

I’m curious – what does freedom in business look like for you?

Befriending your fear (say what?)

Oh the amount of time I’ve spent over the years trying to run away from fear. Thinking that it was ‘wrong’ and that if I was going to be successful I needed to first get rid of my fear.

I would do all kinds of things to avoid my fear – stuff it down, distract myself, pretend it wasn’t there – only to find that it kept coming back. Sometimes larger and more consuming than before.

So I would dig in and try more ‘fear busting strategies’. Meditation. Positive thinking. Affirmations. The good ole ‘suck it up princess and do it anyway’ approach.

Some of these strategies would work for a while… until I wore out from all the pushing and found my old friend fear still there beside me. It felt like running on a treadmill trying to get across town – spending so much energy and ultimately ending up in the same place.

There was a moment a few years back when something struck me about fear.

What if fear wasn’t here to stop me, but was instead here to shine a light on future possibilities. 

Hmmm… I had to sit with that for a moment.

And as I sat with it something became clear – fear only showed up when I was looking to make a shift of some kind.

When I was looking to go from ‘where I am now’ to ‘where I want to go next.’

Fear doesn’t show up when things are easy. Comfortable. When we feel 100% confident and in charge of life.

Oh no – fear only shows up when we want more from life. When we want to make a change.

And in my experience, the more fear that shows up… the closer we are to our truth. Our purpose.

Put simply – we can look at fear as the enemy or we can look at fear as a friend.

If we look at fear as the enemy we will keep fighting it. We will try to find a way to ‘push through it’, avoid it or keep on thinking positive thoughts pretending it’s not there.

If we befriend fear then a couple of really cool things start to happen.

We recognize that fear is normal and positive. It’s a natural part of the growth process and not something we need to resist. “Hello fear… I see you. I know I’m looking at some changes and I recognize that you being here is a sign that I’m on the right track.”

We can honor that fear is here to protect us. Why does fear show up when things are changing? Because it wants to keep us safe. It wants to keep us where we are now because it’s known. Making a change forces us to step into the unknown and fear doesn’t like that. “What if this doesn’t work out? What if I try and I fail? May as well just stay here with what I know… even if I don’t enjoy it.”

When we look at fear differently we can get to know it better, so that we can work ‘with’ our fear instead of always trying to fight it.

I have a few journaling questions I like to ask my fear when it shows up that I’ll share in my next post.