Business flop #1

My first affiliate program (& the wrong way to start one in your own business)

I personally love being an affiliate for other people’s businesses! You’re pretty much killing all the following with one stone…

As an affiliate you are:

  • Connecting your audience with the best possible solution to a problem they are having (without having to become an expert on that thing yourself)

  • Letting someone else handle all the creating and fulfilling of that product or service and you just have to do the work of getting it in front of your audience (helloooo passive income!)

  • Randomly getting affiliate commission notifications dropping in your inbox on the regular (It’s like finding surprise money in an old coat pocket. Score!)

As the product or service creator you are:

  • Getting your offering in front of a bunch of other extremely relevant audiences you may not have been able to reach yourself (as opposed to playing marketing roulette and paying an algorithm you don’t understand to try to find your people for you)

  • Doing the work to create the thing, and then sitting back and watch others market it for you on autopilot

So yah, all the reasons.

But sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know until you know it….you know?

Which is why my first crack at starting an affiliate marketing program for my online courses was a major flop.

It wasn’t for lack of planning, though! We literally thought of everything!

Swipe copy & graphics for affiliates to use during a course launch, detailed launch calendars so affiliates could know when to send their audiences where, an automatic way to track who made which sales…

So people wanting to sign up would have everything they needed to kill it with affiliate earnings.

Well…almost everything.

Because as it turns out, no matter how prepared you are as the creator, there’s one super make-or-break thing that only THEY (your affiliate) can bring…

An audience!

We thought we had this covered too, since we had people include their audience sizes in their application to become an affiliate, and we only went with those that seemed to have larger audiences.

But what we didn’t realize is that by trying to get other Squarespace-focused people to market our Squarespace-related courses meant that our audiences had a TON of overlap.

And since our email list is the largest in our industry, it turned out that pretty much every single “referral” affiliates were sending our way were actually people who were already on our email list and would have received our course sales email sequences anyway.

So even though we were paying out a large chunk of affiliate commissions, we were not actually expanding our audience reach the way we had hoped.

So what would we do differently knowing what we know now?

We would look for businesses to partner with in complementary industries, rather than directly related industries.

So in our case, this could look like other course creators or content creators with audiences who – besides investing in the skills they need to run their business – will also be needing a website!

Or partnering with people who teach brand design, copywriting, and brand photography since those things tend to pair well offering design services, turning those people into a one-stop shop for their clients!

So if you are dreaming of adding an affiliate program to your business, try to think up:

‘Who are the audiences out there who may not know your product or service exists or had even considered it as an option, but based on the other businesses they follow, would naturally be a good fit for what you offer?’

Now, obviously this looks a bit different for the 1:1 service provider offering incentives for referrals.

You really can’t go wrong with having happy past clients send you future happy clients!

But thinking outside the box like this is a great way to referrals beyond just past clients!

Who do you know in neighboring or indirectly related industries that might be able to send fresh leads your way?

Business flop #2

Select Coaching Program (A.K.A creating a product my audience wasn’t ready for)

I’m a huge fan of audience surveys!

In fact, I literally just sent one off asking your opinions on a super exciting new project I’m working on so I could make sure it would be of legit value to you (and not just something I made up in my head because it’s what I wanted to create).

I love hearing directly from you what it is you want, how you want it, and when you want it.

But sometimes what we want and what we need are two very different things.

For example, my Select Coaching Program!

The idea for the program was born out of a response I kept hearing on repeat every single time I would send out an audience survey:

“I want to move beyond 1:1 client work and add a scaleable passive income product revenue stream to my business, but I have no idea what that product should be or how to create it!”

So I got to work creating my coaching program, and it was super well received!

The minute I opened the doors to the waitlist, I had applications pouring in from crazy-numbers of people who felt they were ready to take that next step in their business!

I was only going to accept a handful of people into the program to make sure that each person got the focus and attention they deserved, so I got to work reading through all the applications.

But in reading them, I realized a simple yet hard truth.

Everybody feels ready for passive income.

(Who wouldn’t want to work less and earn more!?) ‍♀️

But does that mean their business was truly ready for passive income?

I’ve honestly been dreaming of doing something like this for years, and was looking so forward to being able to champion these business owners through their next steps in such a personal, highly tailored way!

But I realized that 99% of the people applying weren’t at a place in their business where they would actually fully benefit from this kind of help.

There were several other very important aspects of business they needed to nail first that if I was being honest, would have totally held them back from succeeding in the program.

So what were most people missing? An audience!

(Noticing a trend here?)

They were all gung ho and willing to put in the work to create the next best thing that would sell like hotcakes…

But they hadn’t yet invested the time and effort it takes to build up a list of people who might be interested in said product, and therefore would have exactly 0 potential customers lined up to sell to on launch day.

We call it selling to an empty room.

And it’s the biggest reason why new passive income ideas flop.

My goal with any product or course I create is that students can easily expect to make back the cost of their investment with just their first 1-2 clients…

But without having a decent-sized audience already built up, it was highly unlikely they’d be able to make that happen, no matter how bomb their idea.

So how does this change my plans?

I’m taking a few steps back and filling in some of the holes along the way on my ideal client’s journey.

This looks like asking myself:

  • What’s my ideal client’s end goal?

  • What stage are they actually in by the time they find my business?

  • What’s the next right step for them to take based on where they are right now?

  • What do they need to start doing now in order to see long-term success with their goal?

P.S. That ‘next right step’ on the way to scaling your business with passive income is actually what I’m busy creating as we speak, and why you probably saw an audience survey land in your inbox this morning!

So keep your eyes peeled for that announcement soon!

Business flop #3

Launching Square Secrets™️ while moving (& why automation isn’t always a good thing)

In a wild turn of events, my husband Florian and I ended up swapping the city life for country living this year when we bought our first home!

It was a beautiful house, but due to very different tastes in pretty much anything, we had a lot of work to do to get it renovated and all set up for us to move into.

And as life tends to go, it was all happening right around the time I planned to launch my Square Secrets™️ course for it’s once-a-year open enrollment period!

I could have moved the launch dates, but I have students who had literally been waiting 12 months to join me inside the course and I couldn’t let them down!

Plus, I’m a massive fan of finding ways to streamline and automate the other parts of my business, so why not just do the same for my upcoming course launch?

So my team and I got to work automating every last detail of the launch, from opening the doors to the courses, to welcoming new students, to pre-scheduling Insta stories, to thinking up every last possible question someone might have during the launch and sticking it in a super obvious FAQ section right there on the course enrollment page.

And let me tell you, we were an absolute MACHINE come launch day.

But here’s the thing I learned about live launches…

The whole point of a live launch is to be, well….live.

And all that hype and excitement and motivation people have for signing up for your thing tends to go away if no one’s there to keep the party pumpin’.

People who waited all year long to enroll got busy and simply forgot to sign up…

People who were previously on the fence had no reason to change their mind…

And people who were just now hearing about my business for the first time really didn’t see what the big fuss was about.

Yep, due to being in the middle of a giant life move, I was 100% M.I.A for my course launch and it showed.

So moral of the story, if you want your potential clients to show up on launch day, you sorta need to show too!

You can automate, streamline, and creat killer detailed processes for every little thing under the business-building sun, but at the end of the day, you need to find ways to show up for your potential clients and customers in a meaningful way!

So now, for my once-a-year course open enrollment periods, it’s back to non-stop fun and action come launch day (with lots of solid, scheduled rest days to follow!)



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3 big business flops (& what the takeaway is for you)