How to Validate Your Business Idea When Everyone is Lying to You with Rob Fitzpatrick

So you have a business idea.

You have a ton of energy and endless passion to make it happen. You are convinced your idea will be a hit.

Even your family and friends seem pumped about the idea. They tell you how great the idea is and that you’ll do great. Maybe you even told some fellow entrepreneurs, potential advisors, mentors or even investors – they all agreed that you’re onto something big.

But are you really?

There have been many founders who felt exactly the same:

  • Plancast – A social event sharing site that allows users to discover, plan, promote and celebrate events. The startup all but abandoned after an inability to attract users beyond 100,000 early adopter sign ups,

  • MyGuidie.com – A platform designed to connect travellers with local guides. Great idea and winner of many pitching competition was closed after 2 years of development,

  • Boozilla – A platform connecting artisan distilleries with booze lovers. My own business burnt our teams cash and turned into a big failure after only a few months and lots of positive feedback,

The examples are endless.

Everything from personalised e-commerce, tutor matching, music streaming, wine as a service companies, to games and mobile apps ended up in this TechCrunch DEADPOOL.

So how do you know that you’re not going to be the same? And most importantly, what will you do to make sure that you don’t end up like one of those examples.

The good news is that many successful entrepreneurs have had some big failures before success. The bad news is that regardless of experience. Almost all startups fail.

This issue is designed to help you find out if you really have a winning idea before you invest significant time or money.

 

Our Hero: Rob Fitzpatrick

Our interviewee Rob Fitzpatrick dropped his business after 4 years of development, even after selling to major companies and being backed by Y Combinator – one of the best startup incubators in the world.

In my interview with Rob, he shared his years of experience on how to talk to customers and get valuable feedback. He gives us actionable tips on how you can start eliciting feedback about your idea without costly mistakes. A fundamental skill every entrepreneur should develop. Follow Rob’s advice and I promise you‘ll avoid many years of struggle chasing the wrong idea.

How to validate your business idea when everyone is lying to you

What is Customer Development?

If you’ve been in the startup environment, I’m sure you’ve come across customer development – the catalyst of the Lean Startup approach.

If not, let me introduce you to this fundamental startup concept that totally changed the way I look at building a business.

Customer development wants to answer the simple question ‘What does the customer want?’.

The concept uses simple principles to systematize the startup build process and lets you create things that people want (and stop building what they don’t) through customer conversations.

By talking to customers before you have a working product, you have the opportunity to gain customer insights, test assumptions and optimize ideas.

Don’t get burnt by your business ideas

You have seen the failures of founders that lost their company, money and even years of their lives on a bad idea. Going through emotional torture even though they had no chance in the first place.

So what can you do to turn the odds in your favour?

While there’s no one single answer, there are some questions you can use to get some answers that put you on a good path:

  • What is the problem I am solving?

  • Are there others with this problem (or is it unique to me)?

  • What are their motivations to solve the problem?

  • How do they solve this problem now?

  • How much does it cost them?

  • What is the best solution according to them?

So how can you get the answers without making bad assumptions? The answer is obvious right…

Talk to your customers!

There are many benefits of talking to customers after the idea pops in your head.

You get to ask them questions and understand their lives – their motivations, goals, how their day looks, costly problems and what they think would be the best solution.

With patience and practice – It’s that easy to get the right information! You find your customers, you ask them questions, they tell you their solution, you build it and then they buy from you. You have a real money making business. Well, maybe not so fast.

Even though many startups DO talk to customers… most of us still get it wrong.

 

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot

When you ask your potential customers:

  • ‘Do you like the idea?’,

  • ‘Would you buy it?’, or

  • ‘How much would you pay?’

You will probably get an answer pretty far from the truth that will send you in the wrong direction. And this is why you need to pay attention.

Our guest Rob learnt the hard way on how to get useful customer feedback that led to building products people wanted and were willing to pay for.

He found himself in a situation where he realized after months of customer conversations that they were useless!

All because he was doing them wrong. Gradually burning through all his investors and teams money, going broke and dropping the business after years of work.

The thing is, he understood that talking to customers was important. He was constantly in touch with his customers, getting out of the office, talking to clients and getting feedback on the idea that he and his team were building – It was a solution they said they wanted!

Even after getting giant company customers in MTV, Sony and even being backed by Y Combinator. Rob found himself and the team working on a product that just didn’t scale. There just weren’t enough customers and no recurring revenue.

Going through all that pain and learning how to do it properly with a few more businesses allowed Rob to write the book ‘The Mom Test – How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you’.

 

That’s why Rob’s here. To help us learn from his mistakes and jump right into our customer conversations to get the truth!

 

Why you need to understand your customer right NOW

Do you really need to be convinced that understanding customers is the number one skill every entrepreneur needs?

Imagine if you could suddenly take the guessing out of the equation when building a business, or if you could instantly answer the questions… ‘Would people want it?’, ‘Will somebody buy it?’ or ‘How much will they pay for it?’.

Here are a few more reasons why you should be dying to understand your customers:

  • Avoid spending time and money building something nobody wants,

  • Focus on vital product features people actually want,

  • Understand the motivation of your customers and sell them easily,

  • Gain insights that help you build the most valuable product,

  • Get startup ideas from people ready to buy before you even invest anything,

  • Build a community of early adopters and advisors who will help you build your product,

  • Launch to a group of customers who already know and trust you, and

  • Pre-sell your product before it even exists

It’s obvious right? Customer conversations done right are powerful.

It’s been years since Steve Blank delivered the methodology of customer development in his book ‘Four Steps to the Epiphany’. So why isn’t everyone doing this? But as Rob says its much harder than it looks. In the next section we’ll look at some of the pitfalls to avoid with customer conversations.

 

Ways you will screw up conversations

Even though Rob understood how important customer development was, he wasn’t a natural and made a lot of mistakes. Mistakes that he could have easily avoided.

Here are some of the mistakes Rob says we need to avoid in our conversations:

Mistake 1. Looking for compliments

We go out there, we say to people “Here is my idea, do you like it?”

In the best scenario, somebody will try to point out some of the problems with your idea, but most will just say “Yeah, It sounds awesome”.

Then you come back to your team and they ask “How was it? What do they think?” and your obvious answer is “They all love it!”.

The problem is that the feedback is mostly false positives, bad information that causes you to run ever so enthusiastically into a brick wall. Ask the wrong way or annoy someone enough and they’ll tell you what you want to hear.

Mistake 2. Pitching

Many entrepreneurs think it’s best to get feedback through pitching the idea. Wrong! By pitching somebody your idea, you are making them biased.

Let’s imagine it. You are so excited about it that you see somebody and instantly spew out your precious idea.

How can someone give you honest feedback when you just told them the problem, the solution and instantly counter their feedback with “but it’s waterproof, has a touchscreen and keeps your data in the cloud!”.

You might try to hold off on pitching mode but as soon as somebody asks “So what is your idea?”, you instantly find yourself back to pitching mode and suddenly losing a chance to learn about your customer.

Mistake 3. Collecting bad data

What are you actually looking for? What do you need to know if an idea is good or bad? What is the specific hypothesis you are trying to validate?

Finding out that your target customer takes a shower daily and thinks it’s a waste of time doesn’t validate your idea!

Mistake 4. Talking too much

When you talk, you don’t learn.

To have a useful conversation, you need to not only ask the right questions but actually listen and hear the answers. Be comfortable with silence and let the person actually think. Remember it’s not about you, it’s about them and what they want.

So how on earth do you get customer conversations right?

 

The Mom Test

After years of talking to customers and several failures Rob has come up with The Mom Test.

“People say that you are not meant to ask your mom about your business idea” Rob explained. “This is because she will always say – ‘It’s wonderful and that’s very smart – good job’.”

Not great feedback right? The problem as Rob found was ALL people he talked with were nice and gave positive feedback just like his mom!

For example, you go to an investor and say “Here is my business” and they say “Oh that’s really interesting… keep me in the loop, let me know how it goes and keep me up to date.”

So you always hear these seemingly ‘positive’ pieces of feedback but don’t actually get feedback that helps you build a better business Rob explained.

You’re just too likeable and nobody wants to tell you that your idea sucks.

Realizing this problem, Rob finally understood what to do. If you can’t ask your mom whether your business is a good idea, you shouldn’t ask anybody whether your business is a good idea!

So give them no choice using The Mom Test

You should ask questions that will give people no choice but to tell the truth.

To do it, you must not mention your idea. Instead, you ask them about their lives, what they care about, their goals, their budgets, their problems and their current solutions.

Note how I repeated THEIR lot of times? Yes, I did it for a reason. It’s not about you and your idea – it’s about THEM!

So even when you ask your mom, she won’t have the chance to lie to you – unknowingly she will let you know if you have a crappy idea.


Agnieszka Nazaruk is a writer for Blueprint Entrepreneur, an Apple Newsstand magazine for smart entrepreneurs that want actionable content to start and grow their business. For more great content like this, you can download the app here and follow Agnieszka at @agaonfire.


Want more great actionable content to grow your business just like this? Download Blueprint Entrepreneur for iOSAndroid or Computer.

 

How To Get Started With Email Marketing And Convert Your Browsers Into Buyers with Chris Hexton

Recently I got an email from my very good friend, a friend I share my Aweber account (an email marketing software), saying:

“Aga – you have over 1000 signups on your fitness website – but i have not seen any follow up sequence – time to monetize that!”

I’ve been procrastinating to write a simple email sequence for months, one of many sites I own.

I’ve probably lost out on building an engaged community of 1000 subscribers and also thousands of dollars in sales as a result. Not a nice feeling.

On the same day, I was reading something I have heard a ton of times in my marketing career. ROI of email is around 4,300%!

That was it! It was time to learn email marketing and break through the procrastination. I started to research and tried to get my head around all these questions:

  • How on earth do I get started?

  • What should I write about?

  • How can I make sure that people like it?

  • How to come up with a good subject line so people open it?

  • What should I be tracking?

 

Going through tons of articles online left me more miserable than I started. There was just too much to take in…

But in all this madness, I also read about the new era of email marketing. An era of behavioral marketing, so I decided to reach out to an expert and discover first hand what it takes to succeed with email marketing properly.

So I reached out and set up an interview with Chris Hexton, renowned behavioral marketing guy and co-founder of Vero. Vero, an email marketing software company that lets you send and test targeted emails based on what your customers do or don’t do on your website to significantly improve conversions from emails. You will see his guest posts on KISSmetrics, Crazy Egg, and other high profile marketing blogs.

After our conversation, I knew building a successful email marketing campaign has never been more important than it is now. You’ll quickly see why in this issue.

If you are one of those who have not started yet, here is everything you need to get started and maximize the impact of your emails.

Enjoy,

Agnieszka Nazaruk (aka Aga)

PS. Find more about me at sheisonfire.com

 

Our Hero: Chris Hexton of Vero

Before starting Vero, an email marketing company, Chris was running a marketing and web consultancy company. He and a small team were building websites and helping small businesses with their online presence.

 

When dealing with clients, he was often asked to run email marketing campaigns. 90% of his clients didn’t have any technical knowledge, but as founders and marketers they wanted to have control over the copy in the emails and who they reached.

 

It was so prevalent that Chris and his team built a tool for them. As more and more of their own clients were using it, it seemed strange that there was no product out there that could fill that gap. That’s where the original idea for an email marketing company developed. Since then, the team transitioned all their energy into Vero, building something extremely valuable.

What was the most challenging along the way?

“Every day is a challenge, every day we are trying to grow and make the product better, but the hardest part is always starting. Making sure that you are building something of value and getting people to pay for it. Especially when you have a very lightweight product, you need to focus on the essence. Your first customers are investing in you and what you are building.” explained Chris.

 

Now that you’ve got to know Chris a bit better – let’s cut to the chase.

How To Get Started With Email Marketing And Convert Your Browsers Into Buyers with Chris Hexton

Why should you use email marketing?

Before we jump into email marketing, let me give you some reasons why email marketing can be your game changer.

 

‘Why should you use email marketing?’ was my first question during the interview. Email can feel like an old fashioned tool, and with so many new marketing avenues emerging, you might have the perception that email marketing is dead. Does anybody even open promotional emails anymore?

 

“It’s definitely hard to cut through the noise and this is definitely not an easy challenge” – explains Chris. “And although email has been around forever it still has the highest ROIs compared to any other channel.” For every $1 spent, a good email marketing campaign can return $40-50+.

 

Apart from this huge ROI number email there are tons of other advantages. Here are a few:

  • Great when you are starting out

  • You can write personal emails and get replies

  • Winning campaigns can be used over and over

  • Ability to send tailored emails based on a person’s actions (inactions)

  • Great way to educate and build a relationships

  • People still read emails that interest them

How is email still so effective?

Users do receive lots of emails, most of which they don’t pay much attention. That said, email still has one of the highest returns on investment. A smart email cuts through the noise and reaches people that are interested.

 

According to Chris it comes down to the fact that email is a personal medium. It’s definitely more personal than social media – a business posting on Facebook or sending a Tweet isn’t as personal, it’s more of a distribution tool. When you send an email, you get right in front of the person.

 

You communicate directly with your customer, and if done right, this communication can be very personal. By using email, you effectively move the conversation about your business to a personal environment — the inbox. This makes email a powerful tool for building relationship and making sales.

 

Building relationships with email

Email is your tool to develop relationships and trust. Sale comes later.

Just think about it for a second. We trust friends, colleagues and experts. Marketers who understand this, devote time and resources to creating relationships. People buy from people they trust.

So how do you build trust?

You need to be interested in your customers. You show that you care, you help them, you understand what they are doing and where they are going.

So how do you use email to do this?

  • Speak to them in a distinctive manner, like you would to a friend – use their name, use the same tone and develop your own voice,

  • Be interested in their needs, problems and aspirations,

  • Create content which will help them achieve their goals and solve their problems,

  • Share content which they find useful and inspiring,

  • Be consistent with the value you are providing, and

  • Engage with them on a personal level by sharing your own experiences.

I hope you are starting to get an idea of what it’s all about. This mindset can take your marketing to the next level.

 

Getting started and overcoming your mental obstacles

So why for months and months have I been procrastinating with writing my first email sequence? Well, I had a number of mental blocks, these stopped me from taking action.

 

Are you having any of the concerns I had?

  • What am I going to write about?

  • Will I write emails nobody wants to read?

  • Do I use automated emails or not?

  • Will I send too many emails?

  • Do I use templates or standard text?

 

Chris explained that these are the same obstacles most people face in the beginning. The big additional ones he observes with clients are getting subscribers and deciding how to structure an email.

 

“People are simply worried about having a perfect email and perfect message. While perfecting is often a long process, and nobody will ever get their first message perfect.” – Chris

How to overcome your worries with email

  1. Be aware of them. It’s very often a matter of awareness to overcome them.

  2. Understand the value you provide. Chris says “Don’t be afraid to email. If you are working on a business, then none of your readers are investing as much time on what you are working on. That means you can send an interesting email on your topic that can educate and entertain them.”

  3. Write as you would write to a friend. Write your email in a personal way, write something that you would want to get yourself. Your subscribers want to receive emails from you and you shouldn’t be afraid to send them.

 

Getting your first subscribers

As Chris covered, the second biggest obstacle to getting started with email marketing is frustration about a lack of subscribers and lack of knowledge on how to get them.

 

This section will walk you through a ton of strategies on how to get subscribers. Then in the next section we’ll help you choose an email service provider.

Thinking about the customer funnel

Chris suggests that you should start thinking about your business and your customers as a funnel. Your first step is to find out how these prospective customers are coming in contact with you and your site, then find places where you can get their email address. This is the top of your funnel.

 

Some general rules from Chris:

  • It’s a lot about the content you are producing and its quality,

  • Email marketing is about getting customers permission to send them emails,

  • The more context you give at signup, the better, and

  • Offer them something in return for their email.

 

So here we go…

Getting Subscribers

You probably have some ideas of how to collect email addresses already. Below are different ways to collect email addresses. To start, just choose one or two strategies that fit what you already do.

1. Place Opt-In Forms Around Your Site/Blog Content

Sidebar

When somebody first lands on your blog, what do they do? They start interacting with your content.

 

Your content quality here is an important factor, but when you get that right, you need to look for places of interaction. Your conversion rates will go up if email is captured in context of what the visitor is doing on your site. That can be as simple as a sidebar placement and getting people to sign up for updates. This one below is an example from Kissmetrics.com

 

Below the blog post

This is a great place to collect email. If your content has kept someone engaged, you have built trust with them and they will be much more likely to subscribe.

 

I personally use a little tool called OptinSkin – a WordPress plugin that enables you to create simple opt-in forms you can put in multiple places on your blog. It’s great.

 

Here is an example of an opt-in below the blog post on Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income Blog

and another on Neil Patel’s Quick Sprout Blog.

Both are placed just after the blog post.

 

OptinSkin is a paid plugin, but if you want a free version to test out, you can use the Lite version of Magic Action Box for free. If you are just getting started it will be more than enough for you! I used it for many years successfully.

 

After your post, the byline

The byline, the space after the blog content is also great to offer a contextual “lead magnet” offer. Imagine that you wrote this guest post on How to Craft Tweetable Quotes That Spread Your Content like Wildfire.

 

At the end of the post you could offer something of value to enhance your readers experience. In this example John Corcoran offers his free ebook called ‘How to Increase Your Income in 14 Days by Building Relationships with VIPs, Even If you Hate Networking’ in exchange for an email. It works great and can skyrocket your conversions.

That byline link sends us to the below landing page where a name and email address can be captured.

 

2. Create free downloadable content

HubSpot is an incredible example. They constantly create quality content that is free and mostly downloadable (now they have a whole library of great content). All they want in return for access is your email address (wink, wink).

 

3. Use pop-up surveys (Qualaroo)

Qualaroo is a simple product that makes it easy to ask simple questions of your site visitors. Using their workflow, you can create mini-funnels within your surveys to capture emails.

 

For example, ask blog visitors a question to see what specifically could help them, then capture an email and reward them with the webinar they are most interested in:

You’d be surprised how well this works.

 

4. Make magic with pop-ups (but don’t be too annoying)

The homepage is often a place that gets a lot of traffic but not too much conversion. People visit and are hovering over the ‘back’ button to make sure they don’t waste more than a few precious seconds looking at a website that doesn’t solve their problems.

 

This is where a popup can dramatically increase the amount of emails you capture, rather than lose that visitor forever. You have to find something you can bribe the visitor with in exchange for that email.

 

Neil Patel from Quick Sprout is killing it with pop-ups. When you go to his blog, you will see this pop-up:

 

The funny thing is that no matter which option you click, it will take you to the signup form.

But this is not the end of popups for Quicksprout – After a few minutes when you have really engaged in a post on the blog, this pop-up arrives:

It’s not to capture email addresses but to capture sales. Neil takes you directly to his sales page. Smart!

5. Landing Pages

I love LeadPages for creating landing pages. I have tried all there is on the market and I believe LeadPages is the best product available (and it’s also the most affordable). LeadPages gives you all sorts of templates that you can easily customize and place on your site, blog or Facebook page. There are thank you pages, opt-in pages for webinars, launch pages, sales pages, squeeze pages and even 404 pages.

 

The great thing about LeadPages is that the templates are already optimized for conversions. I have gotten incredible results with them and love the interface.

 

You can hear all about LeadPages and how to use it on Pat Flynn’s podcast episode Rapid Audience Building For Accelerated Hypergrowth.

 

Here are a few examples of real world templates from them:

 

6. Use a gateway for your site

This is even more aggressive than the pop-up. It’s a ‘give me your email or you don’t get access to my site page’ (you can skip this page but it’s usually hard to see).

 

But since you want to build a relationship with someone and they want access to the value of your site, it’s often a great trade off. Someone that won’t give up an email address isn’t someone you usually want as a client anyway.

 

Here are a few examples of sites that have created massive lists with this strategy:

 

7. HelloBar

HelloBar is a wordpress plugin that lets you direct visitors through a colorful bar at the top of your site or even to capture emails.

Here’s an example of Quicksprout pushing traffic to another page

and Finding Home encourage readers to subscribe for blog updates.

 

8. Display Remarketing

You can use Adroll to set up a remarketing campaign. Remarketing allows you to show ads to people that have visited your website and encourage them to come back to your site.

It’s very affordable and works magic. Chris suggests that when you do a remarketing campaign, make sure you drive them back to a dedicated landing page and give them something of value in exchange for an email address.

 

For example, look at how Vero is doing exactly that with their educational email course. They have a 48% conversion rate with this simple landing page.


Agnieszka Nazaruk is a writer for Blueprint Entrepreneur, an Apple Newsstand magazine for smart entrepreneurs that want actionable content to start and grow their business. For more great content like this, you can download the app here and follow Agnieszka at @agaonfire.


Want more great actionable content to grow your business just like this? Download Blueprint Entrepreneur for iOSAndroid or Computer.

How To Achieve Rapid Success Through Masterminds, Mentors and Coaching with Jaime Tardy

Our Hero: Jaime Tardy of Eventual Millionaire

Jaime Tardy wasn’t always ‘Jaime Tardy of Eventual Millionaire’.

It’s hard to believe that the woman with over 130 millionaire interviews under her belt and founder of an explosive online community, was, not too long ago, $70,000 in debt and stuck in a dead end job.

So, how did she go from unknown cable company employee, to creating a million dollar network?

She used Mentorships, Mastermind Groups and Coaching to propel her forward.

Jaime had to overcome a lot of obstacles once she started on the path of entrepreneurship. She struggled with moving to a new community and not knowing anyone, becoming a new mom and dealing with uncertainty about what direction she wanted to go in business.

So what did she do? She reached out.

First to Kurk Lalemand, a successful business coach in Jaime’s area. Initially, Jaime contacted Kurk because she wanted to check out her competition. However, Kurk gave Jaime two hours of his time and shared invaluable advice with her.

She walked away from that meeting feeling empowered, enlightened and extremely grateful. So of course Jaime took the opportunity to ask Kurk if there was anything she could do to help lighten Kurk’s load in exchange for more amazing advice from him. He agreed and became Jaime’s mentor.

Kurk got Jaime started on the right foot by teaching her everything he knew about business coaching. In return, Jaime worked almost every day for Kurk getting him coffee or doing whatever he needed. Soon, she was coaching clients under Kurk’s guidance and knocking out huge wins for herself.

Seeing the benefits that a mentor had on her growth, Jaime decided to push herself even further by creating a Mastermind Group which she heard about from Napoleon Hill’s book Think And Grow Rich. The Mastermind group helped propel her forward in the development of her business and in overcoming fear.

As for Coaching, Jaime has seen huge successes with her clients, including our past guest, John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneur on Fire. She describes a coach as someone who is “in the trenches with you”. When you want to back out, a coach will still be there with you through the everyday nitty gritty, cheering you on and not letting you give up.

It’s safe to say that Jaime would not have reached the level of success that she has achieved had she not set up accountability teams for herself.

In our interview, Jaime shares invaluable advice about how Mastermind Groups, Mentors and Coaches can help you. Keep reading to find out how.

How To Achieve Rapid Success Through Masterminds, Mentors and Coaching with Jaime Tardy

Information Overload

Have you ever struggled with getting too much good information?

So much so that you feel paralyzed by it? Overwhelmed by it?

Do you absorb advice from successful people like a sponge, only to find yourself stuck on your butt? Not able to move forward because you don’t know which direction to go?

Hey, you’re not alone! This is a very painful and legitimate dilemma that a lot of people struggle with.

As a newcomer to entrepreneurship, I’ve experienced this hang up firsthand and surprisingly enough, so has Jaime Tardy. Until I talked with her and gained some perspective, I really had no clue how to implement the information I was getting. But Jaime was my life raft, bringing me safely back to shore.

Inspirational podcasts and publications specifically tailored to the entrepreneur are at our fingertips. New ones sprout up every day. We see self-made millionaires who are more willing than ever to share their advice on a public platform. But this information is useless if we have no one around us on a consistent basis who is keeping us accountable.

So, what do we do when we have all of the information we could possibly need, but have no idea how to implement it?

We bring in the troops! We’re entrepreneurs, so we are already naturally gifted at creating something out of nothing. This is where we need to be strategists and let our creative side run wild. By putting together a team of successful people and keeping ourselves accountable to our team on a regular basis, we are setting ourselves up for success rather than failure.

In this issue, you will find priceless, actionable information straight from Jaime Tardy as she walks us through the detailed steps of exactly how to set up these teams whether you choose to do a Mastermind Group, hire a Coach, or pursue the wisdom of a Mentor. Jaime has all the tools we need to get ourselves going again. Are you ready? Lets do it!

Another Note From The Grasshopper (That’s Me)

After talking with Ann Rea for our issue Becoming A Successful Artist, I was extremely inspired to start taking action. I wanted to begin to grow my own business, find my niche and start targeting a market.

What I found though, is that I really didn’t have a point of reference. So, I began reaching out to several successful people in my community to learn more about the market and ask questions. I cold emailed a bunch of people and met for coffee, lunch, talked over skype and on the phone.

Everyone that I met with was very generous with their time and advice and I was very grateful for it. But the more advice I received, the more overwhelmed and divided I felt. I wasn’t quite sure how to apply all of the great information that I was absorbing. And I noticed that I was losing momentum and getting discouraged.

Why wasn’t I moving forward? I had gone through all the right steps (or so I thought). I wasn’t sure why I was stuck.

It’s fitting then that in my interview with Jaime Tardy something clicked. I started to realize that I was not alone in this and that she too had struggled with the same things I was struggling with. She too had talked to multiple self-made millionaires and had received invaluable advice from people who were doing incredibly well in business.

So what was missing? Keep reading to find out.

Getting Advice and Info Does NOT Guarantee Your Success

Jaime has interviewed over 130 self-made millionaires. She calls them her “case studies”. Every week Jaime interviews a new millionaire and posts it on her website: eventualmillionaire.com. I highly recommend watching or reading the transcribed interviews. Here are two of my personal favorites:

Derek Sivers founder of CDbaby

Million dollar motivational speaker, Josh Shipp

Screen shot 2014-05-02 at 3.16.26 PM.png

Anyone who listens to one of Jaime’s conversations with her weekly guest will instantly experience the rich quality and high volume of great advice that she gets during the interview. So when she told me that getting great advice and loads of information doesn’t really help you become any more successful, I was shocked. I wondered, “what does help you become more successful?”.

She explained that there has to be a support system around you making sure that you stay committed. Otherwise, all of the good information you’re getting, just ends up never being implemented.

The way to do this is to start or join a mastermind group, hire a coach or find a mentor. Jaime describes how her success rate started to spike once she formed a mastermind group of her own, because she was being held accountable every week to very successful people and she wanted to do well.

Jaime commented that when she first started interviewing people she would listen to their advice and think “Oh my gosh! They are amazing. I’m going to go do exactly what they said!”. But then the next week she would talk to another millionaire and think the same thing.

The problem was, one millionaire would tell her to go in one direction and the next millionaire would tell her to go in another direction. “I felt compelled to go in so many different directions”, she said. And when she applied their advice and it failed for her, they were already gone. She had no one to turn to.

So how can we stop going in multiple directions and start making progress in one, concentrated direction? Read on to find out how.

Mastermind Groups

Why Start One in the First Place?

Jaime was new to her community in Maine. She didn’t know anyone or have any connections. She explains that the biggest thing that helped her to move forward was to start a mastermind group to keep her accountable. She experienced huge benefits by starting a mastermind group.

Listen to what Jaime says in regards to the benefits of accountability:

“Starting a mastermind group helped me to focus on the big wins, not the easy-to-do, comfortable stuff. There are two pieces that really helped with the accountability.

  1. At the beginning of our weekly calls, everyone in the group would go around and we would share our wins. When I heard how awesome and big the wins were by the other members in my group, it made me want to work harder and aim for bigger and scarier wins.

  1. At the end of the call everyone in the group would go around again and share what they wanted to achieve that upcoming week. This was a very powerful tool to move myself forward, because I was accountable to the other people in my group and I knew that the next week I was going to get on a call with them and they were going to ask me ‘hey, did you do what you said you were going to do?’”

Exactly HOW Do You Start One?

Jaime has some great resources on her website for starting your own mastermind group. Here is the link to download her millionaire starter kit. Go check it out, it’s a brilliant resource for forming your own mastermind group step by step.

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Jaime Swears By Starting Your Own

Jaime says this about starting your own mastermind group:

“I highly recommend starting your own mastermind group, rather than joining one. The reason for this is, you’re the low man on the totem pole. If you can get one amazing person to join your group, then other amazing people will want to join and will challenge you more”.

When you’re first starting out, start your own mastermind group rather than trying to join one. Why do this? Well, in Jaime’s experience, this way you can hand pick amazing people to join your group. Even if you only find one amazing person at first, you can leverage that person to recruit others. Jaime highly recommends finding people who are doing way better than you are in business. She says that this will challenge you to do better, based on the big wins that they are bringing to the table every week.

The more successful the people in your group are, the more credibility your group will have and then other successful people will be more inclined to join. You need those successful people to propel yourself ahead and to learn as much as you can from them.

Step One: Get One Amazing Person To Join You

You don’t have to get three or four successful people right away to join your group. Start with getting just one amazing person on board. Jaime got the ball rolling by doing a bit of research about others who were doing really well in business. She scoured some forums and put up a post to start a mastermind group. She was lucky to get a response from David Hooper, an author who had written a book called The Rich Switch.

The book had an entire chapter dedicated to mastermind groups and outlined exactly what to do. David told Jaime, “I want you to get people way better than you to join this group”. So Jaime started cold emailing random people in business who were doing much better than she was at the time.

In Jaime’s words, “it doesn’t matter if you have a network to start with or not, just start”. Reach out to people that you know (if you can) and get recommendations from them, but if you don’t have anyone, just start, like Jaime did.

Note: Be picky. Jaime was picky, she got several responses from the forum post, but only let David Hooper in. From there, she started cold emailing people like he had suggested.

Step Two: How To Write A Kick Ass Cold Email

Yes, you heard me say cold emailing. Like Jaime, you are going to have to send out some cold emails, but don’t worry, Jaime breaks it down for us in a way that is professional and easy to do. Pretty soon, you’ll be cold emailing people to join your mastermind group like a pro! See cold email template below.

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Step Three: Start!

Jaime says this, “mastermind groups usually don’t have a leader, but you will have to take that role in the beginning to get the group together”. So, with that in mind, with the help of Jaime, we’ve broken down all the steps to help you to start and lead your own mastermind group.

These are the first steps:

  1. Decide that you’re going to do it. It only takes a few emails and a couple of weeks to hear back from people.

  1. Make a list of 20 possible members for the mastermind group

  1. Narrow down on your list, making your final group relatively small (3 to 4 people)

  1. Set a date to all meet via skype or google hangouts

  1. Meetings should be kept short, an hour or less and make sure to meet weekly

Step Four: The Layout of the Group

  1. At the beginning of the weekly mastermind group call, have everyone go around and share their wins from the previous week. (Jaime wanted bigger and bigger wins each week because the people in her mastermind group were getting such big wins).

  1. At the end of the call, have all group members go around and share what they want to achieve in the upcoming week.

Here is an example taken from Jaime’s Millionaire Starter Kit for mastermind group guidelines and mastermind group outline:

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For more information on masterminds check out Jaime Tardy’s new book, The Eventual Millionaire. I highly, highly recommend this book to anyone who is walking into entrepreneurship and needs step by step guidance for successfully growing their startup.

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What NOT To Do: Learn From My Three Big Mistakes

A few years back I started a mastermind group without really even knowing it. I called it by another name and asked a few of my friends and family members to join. We got together for dinner about every month and checked in. It was a fun “get together”, but didn’t push me to keep getting bigger and better wins. Here are three big mistakes that I made that I hope you can learn from and avoid in the future:

Mistake #1

I made it all about me. When I started my group, it was very “me” focused. My process, my goals, what I was learning, etc. No one else was sharing their wins and what they were accomplishing. Had I known then what I know now, I would have made sure that EVERYONE in the group was sharing. That way, it would have pushed me to do bigger, better and scarier things.

Solution: Have everyone in the group share the things that they are committed to achieving and their weekly wins toward that commitment.

Mistake #2

Choosing friends and family members. I love my friends and I love my family, but sometimes I think that our friends and family tell us what we want to hear. For a mastermind group to really work, you need to have people who aren’t stroking your ego or coddling you . Encouragement is fine, but we also need to be challenged if we’re going to get anywhere. Get people who INTIMIDATE you!

Solution: Pick people who are ahead of you in the game and don’t have time to stroke your ego. Stretch yourself, get out of your comfort zone. Place yourself around intimidating people who are going above and beyond.

Mistake #3

Meeting irregularly or only once a month. To keep that momentum going, that sense of urgency and that burning accountability, set yourself up for success by making sure to meet EVERY WEEK.

Solution: Commit to meeting every week no matter what!

Download the app to learn about Coaching and Mentorship OR get Jaime’s amazing book.


Stephanie Ault is a writer for Blueprint Entrepreneur, an Apple Newsstand magazine for smart entrepreneurs that want actionable content to start and grow their business. For more great content like this, you can download the app here and follow Stephanie at @StephanieAult.


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