How do you turn Helpful calls into sales?

“How do I turn helpful calls into sales?” …is a question I get a lot.

So wanted to write you a quick tip on that.

Have you ever been told,

“You sound so salesy?”

I used to get that a lot.

I knew being an entrepreneur means having to be comfortable about asking for money. But I just couldn’t get over being told I sound salesy, when I genuinely believed that to the right people, my travel concierge service solves a real problem. But in order for them to benefit, they need to buy.

That means I needed to sell.

That I can “sell without selling” just by helping prospects 1 on 1 over the phone, is what really attracted me to Helpful Marketing.

Realizing I have to let people know what I sell and why they should buy it

So I started offering to help people 1 on 1 over the phone. I hustled to get calls.

…And I got them!

Here’s what I wanted to happen:

  • Hustle to get someone on the phone
  • Be the best thing that happened to the person today
  • Never mention my paid product…

But expect person I helped to figure out

  • That I do sell something; and
  • How to buy it

After having 10-15 productive —  albeit reputation-building and insight-getting — calls, I had to face reality and ask myself…

How do I actually turn these free helpful calls into sales??

That was 6 months ago.

Today, we’ve figured out that yeah, you can and should turn helpful calls into sales. But you have to be deliberate about it. Leaving it up to your customer to figure out the hows and wherefores does not work.

You have to make a clear path from being helpful to closing the sale.

One easy way to do that — if you feel uncomfortable talking about money — is to use automated email courses.

The idea is to send a customer a series of emails that tells him “what to do” to solve a problem. Towards the middle or end — wherever it makes sense (so that it’s not just a tacky sales pitch) — you make an offer to:

  • Solve the problem yourself (if you sell a service); or
  • Try your tool that makes problem either go away or easier to solve (if you sell a product)

The key is to continue the helpful conversation into an email course and embed a friendly, natural sales pitch in the content.

If you can somehow get someone to trust you first — and the easiest way to do that is 1 on 1 over a call — he’ll actually want to reciprocate… Making it likely he’ll actually read your emails and see your offer.

Here’s what it looks like in real life. You will:

  • Be a friend and build trust over a helpful call
  • End it by asking if you can send some emails that elaborate on what you just talked about
  • If he agrees, ask for his email address and add it to your email list

And voila! The email course does the selling!

You will, of course, need to have an email course.

Here’s a quick and dirty 5-email outline you can use:

  • Tell a story about the main problem your product/service solves
  • Give quick tip 1
  • Give quick tip 2
  • Give quick tip 3
  • Make your pitch — What you want him to do, why you want him to do it, and what life will look like after he does it

Just to summarize… First, build trust by being helpful over a call. Continue the conversation by asking for their email address. Add their email address to the email course. Write a 5-email autoresponder and embed a friendly, natural sales pitch. Make the course do the selling!

That’s it.

Have you struggled to turn helpful conversations into sales? Tips? Questions? Leave a comment!

How to write a business book guaranteed to sell

“…we cannot promise you your book will sell well… In fact, most books, both traditionally published and self-published, don’t sell well… millions of other books and media forms are competing against you for your prospective reader’s ever-shrinking pie of attention.”
—Smashwords book marketing guide

I can’t promise your book – or my book – will “sell well” but if you follow the steps below:

  1. you will greatly increase your odds, and
  2. be able to predict how many you will sell yourself

This is the strategy I used to write my latest book, Get your First 100 Customers: A Step-by-Step Guidebook to Launching your Business by Being Helpful. I just finished the final draft for our December 1st release. Since we have preorders I know it will sell – but I pretty much knew that anyway after following the process below.

Why most authors don’t sell

Most people who write business books use the following process:

  1. Come up with an idea
  2. Write a book
  3. Try – unsuccessfully – to market it

Unfortunately this approach exposes you to 3 big risks:

Risk 1: Not having audience

My friends who are selling books have an active email list they built over a year or more. A good rule of thumb is 1/15 active email subscribers will buy if you ebook is positioned, priced, and launched well. Social media is good for building relationships but mostly terribly for selling. Blogs are good for general awareness but that’s about it.

Follow the steps below and you’ll have an engaged audience from day 0.

Risk 2: Not knowing what to write

Why is writing a book so painful? Because people don’t know what to write. Sure they have ideas but they expect the chapters to just fall together. So they stare at a blank screen night after night for a year.

Follow the steps below and you’ll have most of the book written before you “write” it.

Risk 3: Not knowing how to sell it

Read anything about marketing a book and you’ll find the usual advice about selling anything: good title, know your audience… The only way to figure this out is by working with a lot of potential customers.

Follow the steps below and you will know how market your book.

Step 1: Write an email course with ConvertKit

I wrote my first email course called Helpful Marketing 101 over a year ago. A few months ago I retired it and Chiara & I wrote Get Your First 100 Customers, a much better course with more specific content.

Starting with courses had the following benefits:

  • Let me evolve my ideas with customers.
  • Built an email list of thousands of people.
  • Taught me exactly what I needed to write.

Why use ConvertKit

I am currently using MailChimp, GetResponse, and ConvertKit. You can build auto-responder in lots of tools but ConvertKit is the easiest to use. It is designed for this purpose – author email marketing. You’ll get much better support than you will from a bigger company and they will even help you create a book cover.



Create a course landing page and get signups from Quora

Don’t start by writing a single email of your course. Start with a landing page and try to get people to sign up for it. This is also easy in ConvertKit – another reason why it is built for authors.

Go on Quora every day to answer questions and link to your course. Here is one I did last week.

Don’t start writing your course (much less your book) until you get people signing up.

Then write the course 1 lesson at a time

You don’t have to – or want to – write the whole thing at once. It’s too overwhelming. Write a lesson every few days and release them until you’re done. About 7–10 lessons is perfect.

Revise or re-write it

After a few months you’ll know a lot more. We decided to re-write the whole thing – it was a great move and made writing the book much easier.

Step 2: Review homework through HelpScout

There are a million email “courses” that fill your inbox with shit and try to sell you stuff. Don’t create another one. The real value for the students (and you) is interacting with them, answering questions, reviewing homework.

Start by asking them to reply via email

I tried sending people to Google Communities to post homework figuring it would be easier for me. Nobody did it. Now I realize it is easier and more valuable for me to respond to emails.

Start the course by asking a very simple question like “reply and tell me what you’re working on and what your biggest problem is”. Then read their answers and respond with some suggestions.

It gets them interacting with you – which is the only way to learn anything.

Why HelpScout


I started by just using Gmail – it sucked. I couldn’t see previous messages and their responses piled up in folders. HelpScout allows me to create auto-responses, see previous communications, and shows publicly-available info like the city where they live, social media accounts, etc.

It saves a ton of time. Plus the guys at HelpScout give killer support.

Supplement homework with simple tools & apps

You may find that building a simple tool or app helps with the course. We created the Helpful Canvas so people could document their strategy. It was so useful we made the Helpful Canvas a central part of our workshops, course, and books.

Step 3: Use SoHelpful to help them 1-on–1

“You have to see their pupils dilate”
‐Steve Blank

Want insight? GTFP

Helpful Marketers have a saying: “Get Them on the F____ Phone”.

You won’t learn enough from interacting through email. You need 1-on–1 dialog, ideally over a video call on Skype or Google Hangout. On the final email of your course offer to help them 1-on–1 for 30 minutes:

“Thanks for taking my course, I’d love the opportunity to help you 1-on–1. You can schedule a 30-minute Skype call or Hangout with me at”

Learn their objections

They are not doing what you suggest in the course? Why? What are their concerns? When we started having calls with students we learned a few objections:

  • They didn’t feel like they were “expert” enough to help people.
  • They thought it would take too much time.
  • They figured it wouldn’t scale.

This was amazing insight. I now have a chapter in the book dedicated to answering these objections head-on.

Learn how to sell your book

You’ll get your best marketing copy by listening to what they say during these calls. When I got them on Skype I would ask, “So why did you sign up for this course?”

They told me things like:

  • “I’m sick of sending cold emails all day and being ignored.”
  • “I’m doing content marketing but nobody is finding or reading my blog”
  • “To get my first customers”

We picked the book title (Get your First 100 Customers) and all of our landing page copy from these conversations.

Get testimonials & “friends” to help you promote

You will get killer testimonials after helping someone 1-on–1. You’ll need them to get more people in your course and book.

After helping someone you will have made a new business relationship. Keep track of these and ask them to help you spread the word when you launch.

Why SoHelpful?

Johnathan Leow used SoHelpful to write The Crowdfunded Kit. (I bought a copy too).


SoHelpful is designed for this purpose – in fact, I started making it because I couldn’t find the right combination of scheduling tools, workflow and promotion to do what I want.

It is hard to get serious people to schedule a call with you for help – you have to convince them you’re worth their time. SoHelpful gives you a professional landing page + social proof with testimonials. Plus it takes care of the whole scheduling process and asks for testimonials on your behalf.

Try SoHelpful risk-free.

Step 4: Write the book

Start with the complete outline



After creating the course and interacting with hundreds of students you’ll be ready to write the outline. If this comes easily you’re ready to move on. Here is what mine looks like in Scrivener

Write the “free sample”

People don’t want to make the wrong decision. Make it easy on them by giving them a free sample, just like Amazon and supermarket brands do.

When someone tries a sample, what she’s really doing is asking… “Should I read this?”

Don’t leave the answer to chance! Respond to it head on.

In other words, you’re still selling. Use the classic 4Ps (Promise, Picture, Proof, Push) salesletter formula as an outline for your sample:

  • Make a promise (your big solution/benefit)
  • Paint a picture of them using it (contrast to current situation/problem)
  • Prove you’re credible (assert your credibility)
  • Push them to action (why they need to buy now)

To see how I modified this formula for my own book, check out my sample here.

Create the landing page and collect email addresses with the free sample

Start letting people know that you’re working on a book. Drop hints in your newsletter and on social media to warm up people. Create a “get notified with a free sample” list. ConvertKit has tools to do this as well.

Now write 1,000 words/day

I held myself to a schedule of 1,000 words a day. Of course I missed days but that was my goal. A 25,000 word business book will take you a month to write.

Don’t get hung up on tools. I use Scrivener but it isn’t easy to use. I have friends who use Google Docs without any problem.

Work with me on your book

All of this is based on the idea that you’re writing a book to serve your customers.

To make it work, you have to be willing to work with them. To discover their biggest problems. To experiment with solutions with them. And to find out and refine what works and what doesn’t.

How to do that, systematically and step-by-step, is what my latest book, Get your First 100 Customers: A Step-by-Step Guidebook to Launching your Business by Being Helpful, is about.

Since I’m following my own advice, I’m going to personally work with readers of the first edition to make the book better. That’s why I’m only making 99 copies available.

And if you’re one of them, I’m going to personally work with you on marketing and selling your book. So check it out and try a sample chapter.

What I’ll cover in Part 2 of this post

I’m targeting December 1st to begin selling. In part 2 a few weeks after our launch I’ll give you the results and cover the following:

  • Building your “friends” list to help with promotion
  • Plan big, start small – limit your releases
  • Take preorders with incentives
  • Build an AIDA landing page that converts
  • Close the deal with a launch series
  • Launching on Product Hunt

Photo Credit: Daniel Foster

The top 3 challenges for getting startup traction

Next week we’re kicking off our free course Get your First 100 Customers by Being Helpful. This is a special edition for people who purchased Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers.

traction-bookIf you’ve already bought Traction …

There are about 75 spots remaining so signup right now (for free) to get help getting your first 100 customers.

If you haven’t bought Traction …

Then go get it. Now. It belongs on every entrepreneur’s bookshelf.

Thanks for telling me what you’re doing

I asked everyone in the course to email me and tell me what you’re doing. About 30 of you did so (the rest of you … what are you waiting for??!!) and I gave some suggestions or observations about your plan.

Out of these conversations I’ve identified 3 challenges many of you will have with your current plans.

Challenge #1 – You are not thinking long term

We strongly believe that many startups give up way too early. A lot of startup success hinges on choosing a great market at the right time. Consider DuckDuckGo, the search engine startup that Gabriel founded. Other search startups gave up after two years: Gabriel has been at it for more than six.
–Traction, Chapter 3

I asked for your course goals and many of you responded with ones like “get my first 100 customers by Xmas”. I hope you get there – I really do. But this is wildly optimistic if you have 0.

You need to think about just getting those first few, learning about their real challenges and how to solve them. This takes time.

Follow the advice in this course and we’ll show you how to begin laying the ground work for your long-term success.

Challenge #2 – You need to focus, focus, FOCUS!

At any stage in a startup’s lifecycle, one traction channel dominates in terms of customer acquisition. That is why we suggest focusing on one at a time, and only after you’ve identified a channel that seems like it could actually work.
—Traction, Chapter 2

This quote about focusing on channels can be equally applied to customers. Most of you are trying to sell to way, way too broad of a customer base. It’s fine to tell your investors about your plans for world domination but most of you need to pick a very specific niche to start. Otherwise you’re going to waste a ton of time talking to everyone about what you’re doing and get nowhere.

Challenge #3 – You are trying to scale prematurely

At different product phases, moving the needle means different things. In phase I, it’s getting those first few customers.
—Traction, Chapter 3

Your first few customers are going to come from doing things that don’t scale. Too many of you are already thinking about scaling strategies like PR or paid search.

Trying to scale before you’re ready is the biggest cause of startup failure – you’ll waste a ton of time and money doing stuff and get nowhere.

I’m looking forward to next week

Confused? Don’t be. We’re here for you and will help answer your questions.

You’re all amazing people working on some really interesting projects. I’m looking forward to next week so we can get you on the path for your first 100 customers.


Photo credit: Sprinter by Shinichi Higashi

Get people in your email list to call you with the “foot-in-the-inbox” technique

Want to hear what doesn’t work?

Dumping your SoHelpful link on people.

If you’re asking for people’s emails and sending them automated follow-ups with a CTA to grab a slot on your schedule and get on a call with you…

You’ve probably seen that people seldom take you up on it.

Don’t ask her to sleep with you on the first date.

In more professional words, make her take a small step first.

Once people take one step, it’s easier to get them to take a second step. That’s also how getting calls from your LinkedIn network works.

The good news is, it’s easy to skyrocket your subscriber-to-caller conversion rate. It just takes one tweak and a bit more effort.

Enough intro.

Here’s how to do it:

First, make the CTA of your autoresponder’s first email an easy-to-answer question that makes them think of something specific.

Here’s ours:

Tell me about you and what you’re working on. Main website URL? Your biggest challenge, and what you’d like to achieve from this course?

Reply and I will… show you a picture of my cat.

Almost everybody gets this part.

But they mess up on the next part.

What do you do when she replies?

This is an important moment. You’ve gotten her to join your world.

Don’t ignore her! So…

Second, comment briefly to her response and make the ask!

Something like this:

I checked out your site and wow, I really like your blog post on being nice to cats. Hey, people ask me about dog-training all the time. Is this something you need as well? Grab a slot on my schedule?

We have static links to my SoHelpful profile in our 10-email autoresponder course, “Get Your First 100 Customers.” About 3% of people take me up on it.

Don't just dump it

Don’t just dump it

But when I first reply to them and then ask them to call me… 80% agree.

They say, "Thanks a lot for your handwritten email." :-)

They say, “Thanks a lot for your handwritten email.” 🙂

Cialdini writes in Yes! 50 secrets from the science of persuasion,

Potential clients who are reluctant to use your service may be more inclined to do so if they’re first asked to take a small step, such as agreeing to an initial ten-minute appointment.

The challenge today is getting them to even agree to the appointment.

So remember your prospect is scared. Take her through small steps first.


  1. In your email autoresponder, ask the subscriber a question or offer to help her with something.
  2. Comment briefly to her response and offer to get on a call by sending her your SoHelpful link.

Try this hack today and watch the number of your appointments soar.

I’m thinking of calling this the “Foot-in-the-inbox” technique. What do you think?

The most effective way to onboard your app’s new users, with Dan Siegel

One of the best parts of my job is meeting entrepreneurs doing super cool things. The community on SoHelpful hustling and making it happen is just amazing.

That’s why I’m so pleased to introduce to you one of my favorite people on SoHelpful – Dan Siegel. He’s the founder of Spokepoint, a self-serve platform that helps startups craft their stories, find journalists, and get media coverage.

A lot of people think SoHelpful and Helpful Marketing are interesting… Maybe something they want to try someday. But Dan?

He gets it.

He knows that to be effective, Spokepoint has to get on the phone with customers. And he knows that unless he makes it easy and compelling, they won’t do it.

Wonder what happens when you commit to new users successfully adopting your product and get on the phone with them? Read this case study with Dan.


What were you trying to change or improve?

We not only want to talk to our customers… We kind of need to.

Spokepoint sells software to help people manage PR campaigns. A PR campaign can only start by listening to and refining a customer’s story, a very human process.

So we need to get on the phone with our customers very early in the process, or else our software platform feels like putting the cart before the horse.

Who are you? What are you doing or making?

Spokepoint enables customers to take charge of their own PR campaigns and media outreach.

We help customers craft their stories, find relevant journalists, and send targeted messages with measured outcomes.

Perhaps most importantly, we help customers demystify the process of getting press and track all their activities so they can adjust their campaigns in real-time.

“We tinkered with a lot of things before SoHelpful.”

Things like

  • Plastering our phone number all over the site. Few people called.
  • Requiring users to calls us before gaining log-in credentials to Spokepoint. Felt unnecessarily restrictive.

I found SoHelpful by reading a Google Group thread about Lean Startups.

This guy Spike Morelli made some insightful comments… So I went to his site, scheduled a call with him using SoHelpful, and found the whole process kind of amazing.

I set up a profile immediately and it’s been nothing but awesome since.

“We now use SoHelpful as an integral part of our onboarding process for new users.”

Almost immediately after signing up, we lead users to schedule a call with me (using the SoHelpful widget embedded on our site). Like this:

It’s easy to schedule, but unobtrusive enough that people don’t feel forced.

Our customers need to talk with us, and we embrace that. But our core product is not our time, it’s our software. SoHelpful makes it really useful to bundle the two together in a way that makes sense to our customers.

SoHelpful has been so…helpful for us because it perfectly aligns with what we’re all about – a heavy dose of actually talking to our customers, mixed in with technology.

“Once we started using SoHelpful, the numbers screamed loud and clear.”

Our most key metrics – percent of users returning to Spokepoint, time spent per user on Spokepoint, and conversion to paying customers – shot up.

Each of these literally doubled or more.

Interested in getting press for your business? Craft your story, find relevant journalists, then reach out and measure. Dan and Spokepoint can help. Check them out here.

A 5-word hack that gets 80% of subscribers to reply to your email

Collect emails! Build a list! Start a relationship with your subscribers!

That’s what everybody tells you to do. So you sign up for Mailchimp and place opt-in boxes everywhere in your website. Some of them are even crazy enough to subscribe…

Now what?

How do you actually start this relationship-building everybody talks about?

They open, they read, they might even click on a link… But how do you get them to actually reply to you?

Read this article to learn how.

How to be normal

You see gurus personalize the email with your first name. Then they say “Just hit reply. I read and reply to every email.”

So that’s what you do too. Like this:

Hi Chiara, thanks for signing up.

Here’s the free report you requested.

Anything else I can do to help?

Just hit reply. I read and reply to every email.


Remember the last time you got a message like that? Did you reply? Probably not. I know I don’t.

No wonder your subscribers don’t reply to you too!

The shockingly easy way to kill it with email

… is to treat each subscriber as a human. Not as subscriber #39.

How? Let them know you’re taking the time to find out who they are and what they’re up to!

Kevin started doing this when he found that people were not reading his emails. Because they assumed they were autoresponders.

So he started using the 5 words, “I hand-typed this email” in the subject line.

Specifically, “SoHelpful (I hand-typed this email)” then wrote a few lines specific to the customer.

It worked!

We don’t track this metric at SoHelpful. We just do it.

But I also did this in my previous business, and I got an ~80% response rate. Yes, 8 out of 10 people reply. Some of them even wrote me 300-word emails!

It’s crazy!

They’d say,

Well….I got a bit carried away there in my reply, probably just surprised that you’d personally “hand-typed” your e-mail!

Let me start by saying Wow! I didn’t expect a personalized response, I figured I would get the usual auto-responder, take a look at your price sheet and be on my way. I am very impressed. 🙂

Thanks for checking out my blog. It’s cool that you’re actually doing a bit of research on your clients (something so easy, yet no one does it).

Want to get the same results?

Here’s a script you can use

Of course, let your autoresponder do its job. But take a few seconds to send a personal email too.

This is the exact email I used in my previous business. Of course, modify it to suit your audience and needs.

Subject line: Marc, thanks for signing up (I hand-typed this email)

Email body:

Hey Marc,

Thanks for signing up at Location Asia’s landing page.

I am Chiara, the founder, and I am hand-typing this to you.

I found your blog at http://marcsblog….com and see that you are a copywriter.

Was there a particular reason you wanted Location Asia’s pricing sheet? Did you imagine using Location Asia’s services and/or membership in a specific situation?

Thanks again and please let me know if I can answer any questions.



Personalize with their name. Google their email address, find their blog/Twitter/whatever, and write one line about what you thought about it. Ask them a specific question you want some insight on.

That’s it. Simple, right?

Yes, it takes more effort. But that’s only 20 seconds of extra work. In return, you get the privilege of getting your emails opened and replied to in your future customer’s inbox, amongst 100 other marketers’ that are getting ignored.

What does it take to get subscribers to reply to your emails?

Just this: Remembering to treat them as humans.

How’s your experience with email marketing? Are you going to try this script? Discuss in the comments.

The proper way to start marketing your digital product, with Johnathan Leow

You have a great idea for a digital product.

It kicks the ass of all existing information products in your space. And you want to show people it’s different and way more awesome than everything out there.

Fantastic. You’ll love this case study with Johnathan Leow. We talked about:

  • What NOT to do: common advice that don’t work
  • How a small e-mail list can be a big advantage
  • Where to find your customers
  • How to make them reach out to you, and
  • How to find out what they need and want to buy

And more.

Enjoy this case study interview with Johnathan.


I’ve learned that there’s always someone out there who needs your help. But they will not come to you. You’ll have to be proactive at seeking them out.

In my previous job as a startup marketer, I couldn’t find a simple, step-by-step guide on putting together a crowd funding launch plan.

After several weeks of getting headaches, poring over hundreds of blogs, articles, and PDFs scattered online. I eventually managed to put together a launch plan.

The problem? There are a million and one articles out there on things to look out for when crowdfunding… But no guide that could walk you through the whole process.

And although there was no lack of successful crowdfunding campaigns to learn from… I also wished I could speak with someone who has crowdfunding experience. But I didn’t have time to reach out and schedule Skype calls.

So I told myself,

I don’t want this to happen to other startup marketers.


I resolved to help them save precious time and launch faster.

This resulted in the birth of The Crowdfunded! Kit For Startups

The two challenges in creating a digital crowdfunding kit

I’m putting together an all-in-one resource for startup crowdfunders.

My biggest challenges are:

  1. Making my target customers aware of my product (the course kit)
  2. Learning what their burning crowdfunding questions are

I’m looking for startup marketers/founders planning to launch a crowdfunding campaign for the first time. These people are frustrated. The process of planning a crowdfunding launch scares them.

The solution is a course kit called The Crowdfunded! Kit For Startups. It will contain an ebook, audio book, expert interview, case studies and a 90 day action plan for planning crowdfunding launches. Also, the highest tiered premium version of the kit includes a personalised consulting session with me.

Starting out and wasting time

I originally used three methods to get insights and make people aware of my product

  1. By getting referrals from friends of startups they knew who were planning to use crowdfunding
  2. Attending relevant conferences
  3. Cold emailing people who were running crowdfunding campaigns

The first method worked. But it was very slow and cumbersome. After a while most of my referral contacts dried up anyway.

The second method also worked. But like the first, it was slow and yielded only one referral.

The third didn’t work out at all. Cold emailing was an utter waste of time because my emails probably ended up in their spam folder.

I chanced upon Kevin in He talked about using Helpful Marketing as a way to stand out from all the marketing noise.

That really got my attention.

“I only started using SoHelpful when I became desperate.”

I was trying to get more email newsletter subscribers.

3 weeks into putting together this project… I hit a stone wall. I stagnated with zero subscribers for an entire week!

And then a brainwave struck me one morning while I was brushing my teeth,

Why not focus on helping these 30 subscribers first?

Even if not everybody responds, at least some might. Some is better than none. So I sent an email to the list volunteering a 30min SoHelpful Skype session to help them with their crowd funding campaign.

Surprisingly, three persons on my list actually set up a SoHelpful session! I was like:

WOW! this SoHelpful thing actually works!

What didn’t work?

I posted my SoHelpful link in my email signature and at the bottom of each post in crowdfunding forums. But to date, I’ve not received a single request for help.

Unless they have a compelling reason, people will not even bother to look at your signature.

I’ve learned that there’s always someone out there who needs your help. But they will not come to you.

You’ll have to be proactive at seeking them out.

Getting people to call me from LinkedIn

Applying fellow SoHelpful member Bruce McCarthy’s tactic, I joined crowd funding communities on LinkedIn. Then I wrote a helpful EPIC blog post.

After I shared that post in the LinkedIn group, everyday 1-2 new persons would connect with me on LinkedIn.

I then reached out to them via a private message with my SoHelpful link.

This resulted in me regularly getting SoHelpful calls!

The value of getting on calls with your customers

1. It helped me understand my customer.

Insight I couldn’t have gotten without talking to them. One of the key insights I got from these calls… The email subscribers who replied to my SoHelpful offer didn’t want to wait till my book launch in October.

They need advice NOW. Because their crowdfunding campaigns are only weeks away from launch.

(And if you fit this category, sign up for The Crowdfunded! Kit For Startups. You’ll get a free 30min session with me for advice on your crowdfunding campaign. Before the kit launches!)

2. Two of the guys I got on the phone with referred me 5 new leads!

That was the other benefit of using SoHelpful. If two guys could get you five leads daily… Imagine the potential of 10-30 people you help. That’s a potential for 150 leads.

So do not despise the day of small beginnings. You don’t need a huge email list.

You never know what doors will unlock when you sincerely reach out with SoHelpful.

About Johnathan

Johnathan Leow is the author and creator of The Crowdfunded! Kit For Startups. He was VP Marketing at PROTAG, a startup that makes Bluetooth-enabled devices. He ran a successful crowdfunding campaign that raised $106,830.  He is now on a mission to help startups launch better crowdfunding campaigns.

Have you ever thought about crowdfunding an idea but didn’t know how? Start now by learning how to find users to test your idea in my FREE email course. You’ll also get a free chapter of Crowdfunded! Just click this link and I’ll see you there.

6 little-known principles to make customers give a shit about your business

“What’s your biggest challenge in getting your first customers?”

That’s the first question we ask entrepreneurs in our free course, “Get your first 100 customers by being helpful.

The most common challenge is communication.

Some specific responses:

To have one new way to engage potential customers that builds trust quickly from a cold start.

I kinda suck at communicating right value prop to my customers. I intend to learn your way of communicating.

Techniques to gain meetings with new customers and present our offering in a persuasive way.

Communication is not about “ways” and techniques

“I have to learn how to write.”

I knew I had to, if I wanted to run an online business.

So I decided to learn copywriting first. It was a huge struggle. For months, I read books and blogs and courses on marketing and copywriting.

Doing that, I thought I was working and being productive, but when I *got it* I realized I went through all that struggle looking for secret methods, ways, and techniques because I didn’t understand the principles of making people give a shit about me.

My biggest mistake? I focused on me.

  • What’s the newest, marketing technique out there?
  • What words should I use?
  • What call to action should I use?

Didn’t get me anywhere.

Gradually, I discovered the truth. Communication is not about how good I write, how persuasive I am, or even having the best offering out there…

I dug up 6 of the messages that gradually helped me understand what marketing is really about.

They sound simple, but try not to glaze over them and say “Yeah, yeah I know this already.”

If you internalize and truly get them… Getting people to care about what you’re doing, getting them to reply to you, read and buy your stuff won’t be that hard anymore…

1. “It’s all about who you’re talking to…” — The first time it *clicked*

Let’s say you are married and for some reason you have to be away from your wife. You cannot be at the hospital and while you are gone your wife gives birth to triplets.

Some guy comes up to you and he is trying to communicate with you that you wife just had triplets but his grammar is screwed up, his English is faulty… But is there any way he could communicate to you that your wife just had triplets that would not be of interest to you?

That is the difference between world class response and all this mediocre stuff. It is knowing what is important to people.

You could write in pig Latin that your wife just had triplets and you could be Shakespeare writing about the knitting machine. It would not make any difference.

You’ve got to know what is important to people.

After I read that, I dashed of to write emails to 5 of my “online heroes” based on what I think they’d be interested in. All of them replied 😀

From that time on, reaching out to people became a matter of understanding what’s important to them instead of looking for “cold email scripts.”

Read this interview between Michel Fortin and Gary Halbert, one of the best-paid copywriters of all time.

2. There are a hell of a lot of other great things people could be doing with their time…

When someone comes to join me at my blog, reads something I write, listens to me speak, meets for for a coffee or we go on an adventure together…

There are a hell of a lot of other places they could be, and a hell of a lot of other great things they could be doing with their time. I think good marketing respects that.

Good marketing goes, “This person could be anywhere else – let’s make it worth their while.”

An extension to the principle of understanding what’s important to people. Reminded me that what you call “traffic” ? They’re humans. With hearts and minds. It’s not something you’re aware of when you’re just starting out online.

Read I think good marketing is mostly just having people want to spend time with you.

3. Being helpful is your unique opportunity to stand out today.

Being helpful trumps originality – or greatness. Many entrepreneurs make writing and content creation way too hard by trying to be original… Save originality for the PhD theses.

Your customers don’t care whether you are original – only that you are helpful.

You may think your product itself has to be great, but your customers are already overwhelmed with too many products that promise the same thing. Trying to win on product alone is becoming impossible.

Be the most helpful with a good product and you’ll crush competitors with a great product.

Most people getting started online think, “I’m not an expert. I can’t possibly add to the excellent writing already out there. To the beautiful products that already exist.”

You’re right, you can’t. At least not at first. That’s why being aggressive at seeking opportunities to be helpful is your unique opportunity.

Read The new wave of marketing: Gary Vaynerchuk, not Seth Godin, not Don Draper

4. Never ask for anything more complicated than a “yes.”

If you’re asking for resources like money or time… Get it all set up so all you need is for that person to say yes!

It shows you’re competent, you care… And you’re willing to take responsibility.

This question everybody starts using? “How do you feel about getting a cup of coffee sometime?”

It’s bad enough you want me to figure out where we’re gonna be doing this, when we’re gonna be doing this, or even if I wanna be doing this… But you wanna know my feelings too!

Geez, I gotta write a five paragraph essay to this person about grabbing a cup of coffee. It’s too much! Just make it easy on me…

Just make me say yes, man! “I’m gonna be at Starbucks 8pm wednesday night, can you swing by?”

NOT “What time are you available this week?”

That’s the worst question ever.

This was an eye-opener for me. You mean people don’t respond to me NOT because they hate my product or even me.. But because… It’s too much of a hassle to think of when they’re available???

Finally understanding people important to my business are busy, overwhelmed, etc. and committing to making it easy for them to help me are what ultimately made me sign up for SoHelpful.

Listen: The Tao of the Hustle

5. Answer emails quickly

These people took time out of their lives and reached out to your business, giving you full opportunity to show them you’re the best solution for their needs.

If you wait… if you decide to answer tomorrow, if you’ve set up one of those silly “I only check my email twice a day” autoresponders, if you put off answering thinking you’ll get to it later… that decision might cost you everything.

It’s proven: at Men with Pens, we fire off emails like shooting stars, and clients consistently tell us they chose us over others because of our lightning-fast response time. It wasn’t our skill levels or qualifications (which were a given). It wasn’t because we were cheaper (we’re not).

It wasn’t even because we sounded smarter, friendlier or had pretty blue eyes (though that does help).

It’s because we acknowledged, respected and demonstrated interest in our clients by responding to their email in short order… while the competition took their sweet time.

Self explanatory. The most powerful secret to winning new clients… is answering emails quickly? That’s not too hard, don’t you think?

6. Once someone generously gives you their email address, send them instant, personalized follow-up email.

3-5 sentences is enough. I deliberately try to come across as informal and make it personal so they know it isn’t yet another random mail bot:

Hey Jim,

Thanks for signing up at the SoHelpful landing page.

I am Kevin, the founder, and I am hand-typing this to you. I found your blog at http:// jimsblog…. com and see that you are a freelance designer.

Was there a particular reason you wanted to get notified when SoHelpful is ready? Did you imagine using SoHelpful in a specific situation?

Thanks again and please let me know if I can answer any questions,


I collected emails like everyone advised. I’m ashamed to admit it — But once people opted in, I just let Aweber send them the (obviously) automated follow up.

I was getting 5 subscribers/week. Obviously, I could have managed taking 20 seconds out of my day to find out more about my subscribers. But I didn’t. IT WAS UNTHINKING AND STUPID. No other explanation for it. No wonder nobody responded to my emails.

Implementing this small tactic got me an 80% response rate. People would say, “Wow I can’t believe someone actually took the time to find out who I am and what I’m about.”

Still think it’s hard to stand out today?

Read: Beginning customer development

It’s all about understanding your customers, what’s important to them, and treating them the way they should be – like the most important people in your business. Caring matters. The effort matters. Remember that. Respect that.

Then watch people start giving a shit about your business.

I understand this is mostly mindset stuff. It’s important, but tactics help too. We teach entrepreneurs how to go about understanding their customers, give them scripts on how to talk about their business that shows they care, etc. If getting customers to give a shit is a challenge to you, take our free course. I think you’ll like it. Get your first 100 customers by being helpful.


Photo credit: Ron


How Mike turned an idea into a digital course with 100+ highly qualified leads in three months

The intangible benefit/result has been a noticeable gain in my “digital street cred” More and more people are coming to me with questions, looking for advice and guidance. That is what I’ve been after for months, and has really helped solidify my expert status within my field.

The #1 mistake of people making digital products?

Spending weeks or even months writing something, hoping people would just show up on launch day.

Thrilled to share with you Mike’s story and how he turned a rough idea in his head into a digital course with 100+ highly qualified leads in less than three months.

There’s some gems in there (like how he overcame testimonial requests getting lost in inbox hell) Enjoy!

What were you trying to change or improve?

I had no idea who my customers were, or what they actually were trying to solve…I only had a rough idea in my head, but needed to VALIDATE what I was building before investing any more time and energy.

How can I actually get these conversations going with people that don’t know me?

Who are you? What are you doing or making?

Making an online bootcamp/course (digital product) for creative freelancers who want to raise their perceived value, authority status – so they can attract top tier clients and massively increase their rates.

What steps did you take solve the problem? What other products or services did you investigate?

I posted in some message boards to varying degrees of success. Got email addresses.

However, I wasn’t getting the actual in depth insight that can only come from one on one conversations. It was getting really time consuming to try and email back and forth with people one on one…

How do I do this without seeming like I’m pushing something on them?

How did you find out about SoHelpful?

Chiara– a friend and fellow entrepreneur I’ve known for the past year.

She recommended it as she was having more success getting potential customers in her target market on the phone.

How did you implement using SoHelpful? What worked? What didn’t? What did you expect but didn’t happen? What problems did you encounter and how did you resolve it? Did we help?

I created my profile and got on a few calls with other SoHelpful members asking for feedback and insight on what I was doing.

Then, I started helping people already within my network. Whenever anyone reached out to me with a question on business, marketing or entrepreneurship, I simply directed them to my so helpful profile.

Once I sent them there, like 99% of them “converted” and booked a call with me. It took all of the friction out of the process – synced with both Google calendars AND gave me an added shot of credibility, right out of the gate.

Getting people to leave testimonials

I had initially some challenge getting people to leave feedback and testimonials – the currency that gives you street creed on SoHelpful.

Once I mentioned it at the end of the call, that I’d be sending them a resource (link, article, introduction to a person) AND I’d be asking for a testimonial in the same email, that made the process go a lot smoother.

As people were expecting it and it didn’t just get buried and forgotten in the inbox abyss.

How well did SoHelpful help you solve your problem?

Not selling the course yet – launching September 1st. That said, our sales funnel has been growing steadily and we are around 100 on the opt in list thus far.

It has come from a variety of channels, but getting some highly targeted people on the phone via SoHelpful made the difference in terms of REALLY understanding my target market. Their experience. Their pain points. Their desires.

I always take notes on what they say when describing their problem, and try to use as much of their own wording and phrases in my marketing efforts. Sales copy, emails, landing page, etc. That’s been the biggest benefit.

The intangible benefit/result has been a noticeable gain in my “digital street cred” More and more people are coming to me with questions, looking for advice and guidance. That is what I’ve been after for months, and has really helped solidify my expert status within my field.

I like that.

Are you a service provider with problem clients and you know you could do better? Check out Mike’s free and fantastic training, Red Flag Client Playbook.

Otherwise, leave a comment to get Mike’s advice on how you can dive deep into your market’s pain points and desires to build your own list.

The New Wave of Marketing: Gary Vaynerchuk, not Seth Godin, not Don Draper

I’ve worked with thousands of entrepreneurs and try to help an additional 10–20 every week.

The #1 challenge is always getting customers.

Whatever you think your biggest risks are, meeting more customers and building closer relationships with them will dwarf every other problem you have.

Just starting? You need to find customers to do Customer Development.

If your startup is a year old you know getting feedback from them is really tough.

IPO next month? Get ready to show the bankers how you’re going to grow.

It is getting harder than ever … but only if you market like it is 2009.  There is a better way.

During my career I’ve seen 2 major waves of marketing. I believe we’re beginning a 3rd.

An era where your success depends on how much your customers perceive you as helpful

Wave 1: Don Draper & Mass Consumer Marketing


For 50 years Madison Avenue told us what to buy. From shampoo to personal computers, companies paid money to blast us with with any-color-as-long-as-its-black mass-market messages.

Clever won. Unique won. Remarkable won.

…But mostly scale & money won.

Wave 2: Seth Godin & Permission Marketing


Mid–1990s “The Internet” arrived and consumers began spending more and more time consuming just what they wanted.

Don Draper retired to drink scotch at the beach while Sergei and Larry launched Google & Adwords. Companies suddenly had new channels to reach us like email & online ads.

What Seth Godin popularized as “Permission Marketing” was the new strategy. Want to get customers’ attention? First, earn their “permission”.

Serve me an ad NOT when I buy a magazine – but when I’m searching for a solution. Sell me products through email – but only after I opt-in for your newsletter.

The end of Permission Marketing

Permission Marketing had a great run… But it’s just not effective anymore.

Don’t believe me? Look at your email inbox – it fills constantly with stuff you will never read from companies with your “permission” to send.

Unfortunately  for them, “permission” is no guarantee you will read their emails.

Online advertising? Tim Ferris & Eric Ries wrote about running campaigns for a few dollars/day. Those days are long gone and few startups I know even try – it is too expensive as Sean Ellis explains in the Online Marketing Arms Race.

Wave 3: Gary Vaynerchuk, a helpful person who cares


“I attract a crowd, not because I’m an extrovert or I’m over the top or I’m oozing with charisma. It’s because I care.”

Gary Vaynerchuk

When I first heard about Gary Vaynerchuk I figured he was just another guy making lots of noise to get attention. Like anyone successful, he attracts critics and controversy.

Then people I respect began telling me how Gary changed their lives. I can’t tell you the number of people who’ve told me …

“I emailed Gary Vaynerchuk and he actually responded”

“Gary Vaynerchuck will do an interview with someone even if they have only 5 followers on YouTube.”

Google AdWords? So … 2009

“Here’s how I work: It’s 2013, and most marketers are operating like it’s 2009. I’m always trying to market like it’s 2015…”

Gary Vaynerchuk

What I now know is that Gary relentlessly helps people solve problems.

Don’t know which wine to buy? Gary will help you figure out.

Need more customers? Gary will give you some advice on how to find them.

Gary is the first to admit … there is no magic to what he does. He doesn’t claim to be the smartest guy, the most successful, or the richest.

Instead he spends his time AGGRESSIVELY pursuing every possible opportunity to PROVE to YOU he will help YOU solve problems.

Gary Vaynerchuk is the best example of this new wave of marketing, what I call Helpful Marketing.

What is Helpful Marketing?

My current definition, which will evolve as we learn more is …

Helpful Marketing is a strategy to win customers by proving you help them solve problems.

( if you have better ideas…)

Getting customers is harder – but being helpful is your unique opportunity

I know this is true because I’m using Helpful Marketing to achieve these goals myself.

I’ll show you how you can do it too.

Some Helpful Marketing concepts

#1 Start with who & why

The only sure path to failure is trying to help everyone. First identify who you want to help & why. I call this person your Target Persona.

#2 Aggressively seek opportunities to be helpful

Customers are reluctant to ask for help.

We have to convince them to give us a chance to prove we can help them. “Good customer service” isn’t enough. If you wait for people to ask for help, you’re going to lose to the Gary Vaynerchuk’s of the world.

#3 Being helpful trumps originality – or greatness

Many entrepreneurs make writing and content creation way too hard by trying to be original… Save originality for the PhD theses.

Your customers don’t care whether you are original – only that you are helpful.

You may think your product itself has to be great, but your customers are already overwhelmed with too many products that promise the same thing.

Trying to win on product alone is becoming impossible. Be the most helpful with a good product and you’ll crush competitors with a great product.

#4 Helpful Marketing is a lifestyle

Every email,

…every phone call,

……every meeting,

………every speech,

…………every possible interaction with your Target Persona is an opportunity to make your case, to convince them you can be helpful.

You can’t afford to miss one of them.

Put these principles into action

Let me guess … you need to meet more customers, right?

If you like this article, you’ll find my course very useful. Take my free course: Get Your First 100 Customers by Being Helpful

I have helped hundreds of entrepreneurs win fans and customers by being helpful. I can help you too.


Gary Vaynerchuk from affiliatesummit

Don Draper from Christina Saint Marche

Seth Godin by CC Chapman