What do you do with conflicting business advice?


I’ve heard some version of the following – many many many times:

So…I had this GREAT conversation with my business coach (or read this book or watched this webinar or heard this speaker or bought this program). We came up with an idea to market my business. I was so excited. This was going to be AWE-SOME.

Then I brought the idea to my mastermind group. I showed them my plan and they all said they didn’t think it was a good idea and it wouldn’t work. We brainstormed ideas and came up with something completely different.

The really tricky part? The new idea is ALSO exciting. It could be awesome too.

Now I’m totally confused. What am I supposed to do?

Hello common problem that can be incapacitating.

The complete and utter confusion that comes with conflicting advice

It is so easy to get information these days. Everything you ever wanted to learn about business, marketing, sales, strategy – it’s a quick Google search away.

You don’t even have to search Google. It gets delivered right to your news feed when you hop onto Facebook.

We are constantly bombarded with advice: “Proven” blueprints, the “next great thing” – along with the warning signs of doom: the thing you are doing/were planning to do is “dead” and you should do this other thing instead.

It all sounds good. It all sounds “right.”

The people promoting it have the “markers of success” – fancy photos and websites, impressive credentials and they’re being “authentic and transparent” by boasting talking about their revenue. (Always revenue. Never profit.)

And then we have people in our lives that we personally know, like and trust: our friends, our families, our colleagues.

What do you choose? Who do you listen to? What’s the RIGHT answer?

The bad news first: there is no one “right” answer.

I swear I can hear the sinking feeling when I say this to my clients.

This is NOT what people want to hear. We are conditioned to look for the right answer. We get graded in school for being right or wrong. Right and wrong are easy and satisfying.

Here’s the thing: if this business/entrepreneurial thing was that easy – if the “right” answers were so easy to find, EVERYONE who attempted to go into business for themselves could be successful. Virtually instantly.

But MOST people struggle and a lot of people give up.

Why no right answer? Because YOU are unique.

The lack of right answer stems from the fact that there are zillion of what we geeky folks call “variables.” Every business brings with it a combination of factors that are NEVER exactly the same as another business.

Your business is completely unique because it is YOU.

It carries with it: your strengths, your weaknesses, your experience, your talents, your skills, your personality, your preferences, your values.

It even carries with it some things that are somewhat or completely out of your control: your age, your race, your appearance, your language, your background, your network, the country you are born in, your education and your financial and social standing.

And your business is unique as well.

There are a huge number of variables with your business as well.

Selling widgets is different from selling coaching is different from selling freelance graphic design is different from running a restaurant is different from…well you get the picture.

The kinds of clients you serve, the prices you charge, the geographic area you work in (or the online area you promote in).

There’s also the “time and space” in which you run your business. What worked 50 years ago or 15 years ago or 12 months ago – or hell, last week – may not work as well or as easily today. And it may not work tomorrow.

All that advice you’re hearing is simply someone’s opinion

It could be based on their experience – which springs from their unique set of variables.

Or their clients’ experiences (once again, based on those peoples’ unique set of variables.)

Or maybe it’s based on what they’ve learned from others – re-telling, summarizing or analyzing the above.

The good news: anything can work (there is more than one “right” answer)

Name a marketing activity and you’ll find that it works for some businesses some of the time.

Lots and lots and lots of people are successful by marketing their businesses through: cold calling, advertising, social media, networking, blogging, speaking – even talking to random strangers or leaving flyers under windshield wipers.

One of the most successful people I ever met was a Realtor who spent most of his time hanging out at the local pub/coffee shop talking to people. He was at the top of the real estate board stats for YEARS.

I met another very successful woman who – at the time – was making 6 figures+ per year by marketing her business through Twitter. And only Twitter.

One of my clients completely transformed her business by dropping everything else and only giving presentations at health food stores.

So what do you do?

Here are 3 tips to help you choose in these situations

1. Choose what feels right and good for you

Ultimately, this is the freedom and power you wanted when you started your business. You get to be the boss. You get to decide.

Consider your options.

What are you drawn to? What can you see yourself doing? What are others who are somewhat like YOU doing?

Does the advice you’re considering match the TYPE of business you’re in? (Will what works for celebrity internet marketers who sell digital products actually work for a massage therapist who offers in-person treatments at a specific geographic location?)

The STAGE of business you’re in? (Despite the claims – unless you have a LOT of resources to throw at it – you can’t instantly shortcut your way to the top and shave 10 or 15 years off your journey.)

Listen to the voices that resonate with you. Can you see yourself operating in the same manner? Do you have the financial resources to follow their advice? Does the person you’re listening to have similar values?

Make sure you have a complete sales and marketing system.

A LOT of the “magical” advice out there zeroes in on one particular piece of the process.

Getting great at, say, “creating Facebook Ads” is not enough if you have a crappy website and can’t comfortably manage a sales conversation.

And creating a new offer – such as an “online course” – can just be a way of AVOIDING the sales and marketing process. Those things don’t sell themselves!

Listen to your head AND your gut.

Make a choice.

2. Commit and focus

Once you’ve decided your path, commit to it.

You don’t have to do everything – but whatever you choose – you need to do it well.

The Realtor I mentioned was brilliant at striking up conversations with new people. Twitter woman was a rockstar at creating funny and insightful 140 character blurbs. My client had a compelling presentation that benefited both her and the store owners.

They chose based on their preferences and their strengths – and they got better and better through practice.

Tune out everything else.

Stop watching “free webinars” – spend the time executing the strategy you chose.

Hearing about different ideas does two things – neither of which is helpful:

  1. It makes you second-guess your decision which brings up self-doubt and erodes your confidence. Which leads to procrastination.
  2. Or it gets you excited about “possibilities” and back into dreaming mode instead of action mode. Also procrastination.

Ideas are fun. They’re easy. They’re inspiring. Yay! Sweet success is on the horizon. This new thing will change everything.

And best of all?

You don’t have to do the things you don’t want to do. The scary stuff like “talk to people” or “click the publish button.”

Which brings us to…

3. Take action (especially on the hard stuff)

Action is what gets results.

The people I mentioned previously took action frequently and consistently.

And by that, I mean “daily” or close to it.

They also gave it time. Months. Years.

Contrast that with these statements I’ve heard:

  • I talked to TWO people. Neither one bought. Calling people doesn’t work.
  • I wrote a blog post. Why am I not at the top of Google?
  • I posted my event on meetup. Only one person showed up. I don’t think this workshop idea is going to work.

I started my own business by giving free workshops. I’ll never forget the day when I showed up – expecting the  7 people who had registered. I set up my computer and projector. I laid out the handouts. And I waited. And waited. 30 minutes later I packed up my stuff and went home.

I could have said “this workshop idea doesn’t work” and given it up.

Instead, I said to myself “this will make a great story one day after I become successful.”

Then I went home and asked myself: how can I avoid this happening in the future? What can I do better? What can I do differently?

Even when you find a strategy that fits for you – it’s not all going to be easy

You’re going to have to do some things that are unfamiliar and/or uncomfortable. This is part of growth – both for you and for your business.

Part of the reason we’re so distracted by new ideas is that we’re secretly searching for an answer that will magically bring clients through the door without having to do the things we find difficult, embarrassing or downright frightening.

And what’s difficult, embarrassing or downright frightening for people depends a LOT on their individual personalities. (See: variables above.)

Some people don’t like writing. Others are loathe to pick up the phone and have conversations with potential clients.

Sometimes the answer you’re searching for – the right option for you right now – is found in the the thing you most what to avoid.

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6 Comments

  1. Lynne Brown on January 15, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Good thoughts Patty.. I think the fundamental isssie is people want to be a success without doing the work. And of course as long as you are taking all this conflicting advice you don’t actually have to put yourself out there thus avoiding rejection.

    • Patty K on January 17, 2017 at 9:29 am

      Some people are willing to work really hard in their businesses – but only at the stuff that doesn’t scare them. (And “scary” is different for each person.) Others just seem to like the learning part, they feel like if they’re taking a course or watching a webinar, they’re moving forward. But until you actually DO the stuff people are teaching, nothing happens. Unfortunately, it often takes many thousands of dollars and/or years of time before they discover this for themselves.

  2. Rosalie Boulter on January 15, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    I’m beginning to learn the difference between exciting-scary and horrifying-scary to find my path. The exciting-scary plays to my strengths and values even if it is way outside of my comfort zone. The horrifying-scary will NEVER feel like me and sets me back.

    • Patty K on January 17, 2017 at 9:22 am

      Great distinction here! I think you’ll find that once you walk into “exciting-scary” and actually do these things, the exciting part takes over and the scary part dissipates. (At least that’s been my experience!)

  3. Joanne Morrison on January 16, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    It’s difficult to know how much promo is enough and what kind is right.. Patty you are entirely right, I just need to decide and do. I have someone in my family whose ideas are great.. but not always doable by me… especially not as quickly as she thinks they should be done. I limit my focus first to customers, 2cnd to our web site and next to some newpaper ads. (Old school newspaper ads work in our community, they might not in others).
    Our biggest is promo is our past customers… They like us.. because we really LIKE them and want them to be happy. Keeping them happy, keeps us successful. Especially when there is a problem.. Sometimes I don’t want to deal with problems but do them anyway..taking care of them quickly is an important opportunity!
    Patty I appreciate your down to earth style, and honest comments.. You give me courage to believe in myself and how I approach my business. Thank you.

    • Patty K on January 17, 2017 at 9:20 am

      Thanks Joanne – you make so many good points here. Liking your customers, keeping them happy and serving them well leads to repeat business and word of mouth. And yes – dealing with problems well is an often overlooked opportunity to demonstrate your care and concern. Sometimes it’s those “problem situations” that lead to the happiest customers and best word of mouth – it makes a great story to tell.

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