Many professional speakers have seen their businesses collapse when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. James Taylor is booming. He broke the seven-figure income of his business, which he runs with his wife. Unable to record the 300,000 miles of air travel he took last year in 2020, he has made a smooth transition to virtual operations, which has helped him revamp his business profitably.
Today, Taylor caters to a business audience on topics such as 'SuperCreativity', the subject of a book he wrote, and the innovation of his home studio in a bucolic town near Edinburgh, Scotland . Sheep graze outside his window.
Taylor began his career as a professional speaker in 2017, following a career as a manager and agent for a number of Grammy Award-winning artists. He had grown up in a family of musicians - his father and grandfather were jazz musicians - became a jazz drummer himself and married award-winning jazz singer Alison Burns.
After moving to Napa Valley, California, and starting an online music school, Taylor began receiving invitations to speak at more and more conferences. He started to say yes and found that he really enjoyed going on stage.
“I felt like I was coming home,” he says. “Talking is not the same as acting, but there is a lot of commonality in connecting with audiences. There is also the love of being on the road.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Taylor made about 70% of his income through in-person speeches for corporate clients. The rest came from events he organizes, like his International Summit of Speakers, his Speakers U course on how to become a highly paid global keynote which he presented in 2018, and a publishing business he runs with Alison.
That changed last February, as he barely left Riyadh, where he was speaking for a soft drink company, on the last flight before the border closed due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Taylor quit doing events in person, at least for the time being, after that trip and moved on to an entirely virtual career, almost overnight. (He will share his story in a free community round table on High Income One-Person Businesses in the UK and Australia on Thursday, November 18 at 1 p.m. EST.)
Here are some of his strategies for growing his business.
Adopt AI. Before Taylor presents to an audience, he uses IBM's artificial intelligence tools to analyze his audience. “As a speaker, I want to make sure my presentation connects with the audience on a very deep and emotional level,” he says.
To that end, if he gives a speech to an association - let's say it is made up of real estate agents - he will ask for that group's Twitter account. His AI tools will give him a psychometric profile of the participants.
For a smaller event, it will ask the organizers for the Twitter pseudonyms of three people who indicate the audience and feed some of their posts into the AI tool. He uses this information to create a speech that addresses their concerns. “It tells me about the public as a whole - what's important to them, what their needs and values are,” he says.
Go for high technology. Taylor knows his corporate clients well and, when he brought his business online, understood that they would expect the highest quality virtual events.
At home in Scotland, he set up a studio, equipped with five cameras, elaborate lighting and green screens, where he could organize events with the highest level of Polish. It has also adopted technologies such as augmented reality, to add special effects that borrow from live events and game worlds.
By appearing at virtual events, he realized he needed to rethink the way he gave presentations. He focused more on communicating from the waist up, as audiences couldn't see him walking around a stage, and started paying more attention to his facial expressions and gestures.
“I'm not competing with other speakers,” he says. “I'm competing with Netflix and your social media feed. I have to be a lot more visual. "
Taylor makes sure he looks as polite as he would in person. When organizing an event for a large corporation, for example, he makes sure his pocket square and tie match the colors of his logo, so he's "on the brand." And he invests in extra touches, like stage makeup. “When you shoot in 4k, you have to do your makeup in 4k,” he says.
In some cases, he appears at virtual events via a hologram, much like Peter Diamandis, a trend that he says will be increasingly important. “After COVID, you'll start to see more of the hologram keynote,” he says.
Stay open to new opportunities. Although Taylor mainly gave keynote addresses at in-person events, once COVID arrived, he received more invitations to be a virtual host for day-long conferences and other online events.
“They need someone to bring it all together,” Taylor says. “They need it to sink. I am the face of it.
Taylor tried out these events and found he really enjoyed them. He found he could do more virtual events in a week than in-person events, which could take 10 hours or more of travel to get there.
While Taylor was reluctant to do more than one or two keynotes in a year, now that he has moved on to doing more virtual animation, "I wouldn't want to do more than five in a week," he jokes. he. Some virtual animators he knows do two or three events a day.
Speaking out at online events has made his business more profitable. This is true even though his in-person concerts pay $ 10,000 to $ 30,000 each. He found that he could be paid better after being accepted into speakers' bureaus which he says run 70% of better paying concerts in his field.
“Even though, on average, the virtual presentation fee is 30% lower, you save all that travel time and can host multiple events in a week,” he notes.
Find new ways to connect with audiences. When Taylor lectures in person, he relied on cues like audience laughter to guide his performance. Some of that gets lost on screen, he finds.
“You can't feel the energy the same way with a virtual audience,” he says. "You have to do interactivity in a slightly different way."
Taylor now relies more on things like polls and word clouds to make events more interactive. “Good teachers do this instinctively,” he says.
Deliver the complete package. When Taylor prepares for an online event, he relies on a team of contractors to handle administrative details such as setting up pre-event calls with clients and creating marketing materials, such as graphics and videos. He also found a photographer in Astoria, New York, who specializes in taking virtual photoshoots that appear to have been taken on location. "Technology, when done right, should go," says Taylor.
Taylor's business could be very different next year, especially if there is a vaccine for the coronavirus. “In 2021, all signs are that live and in-person events are returning,” he says. “Now I'm looking at the opportunity costs. Should I fly to Mumbai to do this conference? Or do I give three virtual speeches? "
At the same time, he is aware of the risks of a business that relies too much on face-to-face talk. “I don't want the person in person to be more than 40% of my income,” he says.
Fortunately, he discovered he had many options. Each speech he gives generates 2-3 other reservations. “The more you talk, the more reserved you are to talk,” he says. And if you feel like coming home from taking the stage, it's an exciting way to live.
The biggest problem founders and small owners have is that they’re experts in their field and novices in what it really takes to effectively run a business. That’s what usually trips them up, sooner or later.
Don’t let that happen to you. Admit that you don’t know what you don’t know about , starting with these 15 tips guaranteed to help keep you and your company out of hot water. Some are straightforward, others are counterintuitive, but they’re all true. And some day they’ll save your butt.
Always make sure there is and will be enough cash in the bank. Period. The most common business-failure mode, hands down, is course out of cash. If you know you’ve got a cash flow or liquidity problem coming up, fix it now. You can’t fire bad employees fast enough. You just can’t. Just make sure you know they’re the problem, not you ( see next tip ).
The problem is probably you. When I was a young directeur, my company sent us all to a week of quality training where the most important concept we learned was that percent of all problems are management problems. When things aren’t going well, the first place to look for answers is in the mirror.
Take care of your stars. This goes for every company, big and small. The cost of losing a star employee is enormous, yet business précurseurs rarely take the time to ensure their top performers are properly motivated, challenged, and compensated. Your people are not your kids, your personal assistants, or your shrink. If you use and abuse them that way, you will come to regret it. Capiche ?
Learn to say ' yes ' and ' no ' a lot. The two most important words owners and founders have at their disposal are “yes” and “no. ” Learn to say them a lot. And that means being decisive. The most important reason to focus – to be clear on what your company does – is to be clear on all the things it doesn’t do.
It boggles my mind how little most fondateurs value their customers when, not only are their feedback and input among the most critical information they will ever learn, but their repeat business is the easiest to get. Learn two words : meritocracy and nepotism. The first is how you run an organization – by recognizing, rewarding, and compensating based solely on ability and achievement. The second is how you don’t run an organization – by playing préférés and being biased.
Know when and when not to be transparent. Transparency is as detrimental at some times as it is beneficial at others. There are times to share openly and times to zip it. You need to know when and with whom to do one versus the other. It comes with experience.
Trust your gut. This phrase is often repeated but rarely understood. It means that your own instincts are an extremely valuable decision-making tool. Too often we end up saying in retrospect and with regret, “Damn, I knew that was a bad idea. ” But the key is to know how to access your instincts. Just sit, be quiet, and listen to yourself.
Protect and defend your intellectual property. Most of you don’t know the difference between a copyright, trademark, trade secret, and patent. That’s not acceptable. If you don’t protect and defend your IP, you will lose your only competitive advantage.
Learn to read and write effective agreements. You know the expression “good fences make good neighbors ? ” It’s the same in business. The more effective your agreements are, the better your business relationships will be.
Far too many créateurs d'entreprise run their like an extension of their personal finances. Bad idea. Very bad idea. Construct the right business entity and keep it separate from your personal life. Know your finances inside and out. If you don’t know your revenues, expenses, capital requirements, profits ( gross and net ), debt, cash flow, and effective tax rate – among other things – you’re asking for trouble. Big dysfonctionnement.
You don’t know what you don’t know. Humility is a powerful trait for leaders, and that goes for new owners, veteran CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and everyone in between. More times than not, you will come to regret thinking you knew all the answers. Behind every failed company are dysfunctional, delusional, or incompetent business précurseurs. The irony is, none of them had the slightest idea that was true at the time. Even sadder, most of them still don’t. Don’t end up like one of them.
For every success you have in growing your market share, another business or other businesses will inevitably lose ground. Here are 11 quick and easy business tips to gain a competitive advantage over your rivals and insulate yourself from the threat of new entrants in the market.
Of course, we all want to spark business growth and increase revenue. But the way you do this in a sustainable way is to focus instead on the building of a loyal database of avid fans. Content marketing, paired with optimized website forms and intelligent email automation follow-up is critical to success. This approach builds trust by giving away free value before asking for someone’s hard-earned money. Not an professionnel in creating optimized lead generation pages on a website ? No worries, use a trusted tool like Leadpages to make it happen.
Like it or not, folks out there aren’t searching for your brand, they’re just looking to solve a problem or find a particular type of product ( unless you run Starbucks or Adidas ! ) Don’t list all the benefits your product brings. Focus on the solutions. Explain to the customer in simple, straightforward terms how or why your product can help them or assist in the attainment of their goals. Consider FedEx’s iconic slogan : When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight. This was a clear example of addressing widely-spread anxiety about the reliability of delivery services. Run through some market research to profile your target customer. How does your product or service – and your delivery and and price point – solve other people’s problems and make their lives easier or more pleasurable ?
Dropping prices doesn’t necessarily raise sales, for instance ( though it will definitely squeeze margins ). If you position yourself as a de haute gamme brand, then your customers aren’t necessarily value-driven in the first place, and cutting prices could even tarnish your brand. Consider this case study from Robert Cialdini’s seminal book ‘Influence : The Psychology of Persuasion’ : a jeweller sold out of turquoise jewelry after accidentally doubling, instead of halving, the price. The inflated price tag lent the product an unwarranted cachet ! If you are a de haute gamme brand, there are ways to optimize your pricing without lowering prices. For example, offer the quality-conscious customer an ‘exclusive’ benefit that your rivals do not or cannot provide. If you are at the value-driven end of the market, on the other hand, don’t assume slashing prices means incurring a loss. Low pricing can help you rapidly onboard a heap of new customers who may also buy other items in your site and return again. Context also counts for a lot with pricing. The best way to sell a $5, 000 watch, for instance, could be by putting it next to a $10, 000 watch. Think strategically when it comes to deciding any price point.
Yes, it sounds obvious, but it’s so very important ! Whether consciously or not, people are more likely to buy a product if they like the sales assistant who’s attending to them. While the employee’s personality obviously has no bearing on the price or your product’s ability to serve their needs is irrelevant. Friendly customer-facing staff will always attract more sales. Be rigorous in hiring people who are genuinely cheerful, friendly and outgoing. Make sure your training program teaches them to adopt a consistently friendly approach that puts customers at ease and feel like a priority.
Say you’re a bricks-and-mortar store and you’re getting a rush of customers as closing time approaches… why not close up an hour later ? While this may cause disgruntlement among staff, solve this venant by getting creative with rosters. Monitor customer footfall throughout the day and week to identify your busiest periods, and équipe people accordingly. You can also reduce headcount during quieter periods to offset the higher costs and longer sérieux hours created by your extended opening hours. It’s a win-win !
Even in the web age, some customers will always prefer to contact you by phone rather than courier or Facebook. While many online companies with tight margins eschew manned phone lines altogether, it’s worth giving customers the option of having a voice-to-voice conversation with your brand. By all means, slash the time and cost spent responding to queries by funnelling customers to standardized, pre-existing responses on your webpage ( i. e., FAQs ). But if their query isn’t listed in the drop-down menu of FAQs, then don’t make them click more than once more to find your phone number. Put it front and center on your digitale page, particularly if you’re a retail offering. ‘Live chat’ bots are an inexpensive way of offering real-time communication, too.
Why not give your happy customers a voucher with their purchase to redeem on your products and services ? If they love what you do already, they’re only going to love you more for this. It’s good for you because : It guarantees they will return to your store again. People hate to waste freebies ! When they return to your store to redeem their voucher, they may buy other items, too. If your business operates online, then the freebie could be strategically timed to coincide with a special sale. Oh, and guess what ? Chances are customers who have received vouchers or freebies won’t stay quiet about it either, so you could enjoy some positive buzz on social media.
Local businesses can arguably connect with their unique communities with much greater authority than any global chain. A local retailer, hair mobilier or gardening company can sponsor a kid’s sports team and offer deep discounts for OAPs at the same time. Some cinemas feature special ‘sensory’ screenings where parents can bring kids with autism ( who would normally be overwhelmed by busy, noisy environments ) to enjoy a movie in a relaxed, stress-free atmosphere. This reflects well on them and also guarantees them a loyal customer niche. Whatever you choose to do to support your community, make sure it authentically fits with your brand offering and business journey to date.
Social media is a great medium through which to build a solid relationship with customers – just don’t forget what ‘social’ actually means ! Soul-less corporate shop-talk won’t work on Twitter. Try to give your brand some ‘personality’ when you write updates or posts. This can bring its own risks, évidemment. But if you get it right, the benefits can be très grande. Develop a tone of voice that aligns well with your brand identity. Seek to inform, help, entertain or amuse. And most importantly – given the dire PR consequences – don’t patronize, try too to be funny, or tweet after a few alcoholic drinks !
Sometimes it’s better to be a master of one discipline than a jack of all trades. Admittedly, multiple revenue streams do spread your risk : if one falters, others can take up the slack. Nevertheless, consumers often associate ‘specialists’ with higher quality products or services than generalists. And with good reason, too : specialists typically invest all their resources into perfecting a solo product or service. So what should you specialize in ? to state the obvious, it should be something in which you excel. You could also pick something with rising or recession-proof demand which is resilient to technological change in which you possess a competitive advantage over your rivals or where there’s an obvious gap in your local market. Own it, whatever you do.
Don’t ever get too satisfied with your business. You can always improve – and improve you must ! Don’t get me wrong : without the odd moment of smug satisfaction, what’s the point ? Do relish in the successful launch of a game-changing product or take pleasure in positive customer feedback. But don’t let your customers hear you banging on about it time after time ! Be alert to the common element that has led to the downfall of countless hitherto thriving brands : complacency. Imaginative, nimble and innovative start-ups often do better than big market précurseurs that just got lazy. You may be the disruptive innovator today, but tomorrow you could be the complacent market leader with a tired business model. So try to be humble and always strive to improve. Seek inspiration from other entrepreneurs, from books and from seminars. The moment you think ‘mission accomplished’ is the same moment you become vulnerable to being usurped.
There are lots of ways in which you can improve your business, and not all of them are complicated ! Try out the above tips or integrate them with your existing strategies, and let me know how you go in the comments below. Guest Author : Faye Ferris is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Dynamis APAC Pty Ltd offices in Sydney. She develops the DYNAMIS durable of brands and their expansion into the Asia Pacific region as well as BusinessesForSale. com, FranchiseSales. com and PropertySales. com. If you have an interest in partnering up with Faye or advertising on any of these websites in the APAC territories, please do not hesitate to contact her on faye@businessesforsale. com.