SBM 068 : From Massive Rejection to a Million Dollar Online Course with Cathy Heller

Today’s Guest

Cathy Heller is a singer and host of the Don’t Keep Your Day Job podcast.

This is the 68th session of Smart Brand Marketing.

Cathy’s podcast beat out Tim Ferriss and Oprah last year… as chosen by iTunes.

She had a lot of ups and downs in her journey and some of it I could really relate to. We were both a part of the music industry and at one point she got a record deal and was then dropped by the label. I thought this was the best thing that could have happened to her… and she agreed.

Once she figured out what she is good at things got better, much better and fast. After a ton of research and trying out a few concepts she launched an online course. It made over a million dollars in its first year.

You bet I asked how that happened.

What are you waiting for…. press play

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  • Song writing and podcasting
  • Getting dropped from a music label
  • Dealing with Gatekeepers
  • Research and putting in the hours
  • Figuring out your why
  • Knowing what to sell
  • How Cathy turned depression and confusion into inspiring others
  • The moment it all clicked
  • Online Course
  • Exact funnel that made it successful
  • Creating your own ecosystem
  • Why tackle new things when one is working

How to Recover from Failures and Turn them Into Learning Opportunities

Failure. It sucks to fail, right?

After all, you have exerted every effort imaginable to make your venture work and you at least have made sure that the worst possible scenarios can be averted. But still, here you are with a failed venture.

So, is this the end for your business? Of course not! Failing at something does not mean that your dreams were wrong or that what you seek to achieve is untenable.

Why Failure is Good for You

This might come off as odd but failing can actually be a good experience for you; from a certain point of view. Failure, as a matter of fact, might have taught you more lessons than if you had succeeded. Here are just a few.

  • 1. It Redirects You

    This is one of the more bitter pills to swallow when you learn from your failures. Even if you believe that your goals are not impossible, perhaps the way you are going about it is wrong. Always remember that there are multiple routes to achieving a certain objective and the one that you used, well, did not just work.

  • 2. It Helps You Re-Evaluate

    More often than not, failure is an opportunity for you to get back to the drawing board. Where exactly did everything go wrong? Was there something lacking in your strategies? Failure gives you the chance to take a hard look at yourself and reevaluate your strategies. This way, you can come back wiser and more careful.

  • 3. Failure is Never Final or Fatal

    If there is something that we can learn from videogames is that failure does not mean the end of everything. For instance, the Dark Souls series of videogames are known for being severely difficult that dying on the same area more than 20 times is the norm, not the exception.

    However, each failure teaches the player something new which allows them to refine their skills and rethink their strategies. Eventually they “git gud” (that’s a Dark Souls meme, by the way) until they can plow on through tougher challenges where they can expect to fail again and again and again.

    Failure simply means that you get another chance to try again. No matter how massive the failure is, you are always given the chance to rethink your strategies and do better next time.

How Often Should You Fail?

So if failure is good for you, how much of it should you suffer through? Well, this is a really subjective concept because there is no exact standard for many times should you fail before you succeed. Some people fail at least twice before succeeding, some succeed in their first try, and some will go through a marathon of failures before they can even win once.

The quantity of your failures is not really an issue in the long run. It’s the circumstances behind it. If, for example, your failures are brought about you trying different strategies in the hopes that one of them works, that’s okay. However, if all your failures are brought about by the same circumstances since you are using the same tactics in the hopes that the results are different this time, then you haven’t learned anything from your mistakes. Do you know what they call it when you do the same things over and over expecting a different result? Insanity.

In other words, you should fail as much as you can if this allows you to learn new things. Just make sure not to repeat the same mistakes on your next try.

Gatekeepers: How to Get Through Them?

Ask any salesperson and they would tell you how much they dread talking to a gatekeeper. These people can take various roles in a business but it’s their primary job to sift through incoming communications and decide which calls are that important for their boss to take.

With that power in their hands, you can see why a lot of business opportunities ended up in failure before they even began because a person can’t get through a gatekeeper that stands between them and their prospect.

However, that does not mean that you can’t get pass through these people. Here’s how:

  • 1. Make Yourself Stand Out

    The most direct way you can get past through a gatekeeper is to convince them that you are deserving of having to talk with the executive/business owner. Most gatekeepers are on the lookout for people who are just opening up a line with the business to sell things that are not as useful as they present it to be.

    When talking to the gatekeeper, appear as confident as you can be. If you have the guts to bluff your way through, tell them that the business owner is expecting you.
    If you’re selling products and services, don’t tell that to the gatekeeper as that will immediately get you shot down. Just explain that you are there to meet the key person to follow up on a previous conversation. Do this right and that gatekeeper should be sufficiently disarmed.

  • 2. Take them Out of the Equation

    If you find going through the gatekeeper a bit of risk, you can go around them instead. You can do this by directly contacting the key person through their personal contact numbers or their e-mail address. You can even try to befriend them at local events or, if you’re lucky enough, in public. If you have established a connection with the person, there is no longer need for a third party to filter you when you call them at their

  • 3. Choose Your Words Carefully

    Selling your products, services, and ideas might you require you to toe the line between truth and lies but leaning heavily on the latter tends to be a risky move. For example, if you bluffed at the gatekeeper that the person is expecting a call from you, you run the risk of them double-checking your statement with their boss to see if it is true. Not only will you blow your cover and miss your opportunity to propose something to that person, you might not be prevented from contacting the business again in the future.

    As such, it is best that you plan your responses to their queries beforehand. You may not exactly tell the truth but having the right response to a gatekeepers questions can get you through them without a hitch. For example, responding with a “yes” if the gatekeeper asks you if the business owner is expecting you might put you in a precarious position but explaining why you think that they should be expecting an appointment with you might just get you off the hook.

How to Perform Damage Control Properly?

No one in their right mind would want to celebrate their own failures. That’s like telling your customers you nearly screwed the business up irreparably but at least you’re happy that the worst has come to pass. Putting a positive spin on a controversial event that your business is involved in will require tremendous amounts of mental gymnastics.
However, you can give your customers the impression that you came out stronger from the entire ordeal and will do better next time. Here’s how:

  • 1. Communicate

    Communicate with your organization first to help them understand what happened, what has been done to address it, and what they need to say to people outside. This way, everyone is saying the same message when it’s time to speak to the public.

    Once you have delivered the message, it’s time to cut down on unnecessary noise. This means that, sadly, you have to put any advertising or marketing campaign on hold to give your team the focus needed to deliver the more important messages to the public. This also helps your customers keep themselves updated without going through unnecessary ads.

    Also, make sure that your message will be delivered to every channel that your business has. Also, get your customers involved by informing them of what happened and what is being done to address it. Lastly, it helps if you provide updates constantly.

  • 2. No Excuses

    Be prepared to take full responsibility over what has transpired even if the circumstances behind it were not of your doing or beyond your control. Aside from admitting to your accountability for the mishap, you should also explain clearly to your customers why things happened without shifting the blame to someone else. Lastly, your message should not only be an apology but also include an assurance that everything will be better next time.

    Let’s take a more recent example of what NOT to do when facing a controversy: Channel Awesome. Regardless of how true the allegations of sexual misconduct and managerial incompetence were, what the guys at that website should have done is provided a sweeping apology for all alleged infractions, not two poorly received announcements about how they were “sorry that you felt that way” and calling all accusers as liars and vengeful people. In the end, the website is hemorrhaging subs at their different channels while it is believed that only one out of 40+ producers has not left the site after the entire fiasco.

  • 3. Be Compassionate with Your Statements

    The way you word your public statements will matter even more if after tragic events. When Malaysia Flight MH370 disappeared, the company informed every relative that-missing flight has been found beneath the Indian Ocean.

    Seeing that a text message is hardly personal these days, especially since it is informing relatives that their loved on might be dead, the company received major criticism from both netizens and the mainstream media for how they handled the situation.

  • 4. Keep Your Employees Involved

    Damage control is something that not only the marketing and management team be responsible for. After all, they will be the first people to bear the brunt of all backlash if everything goes out of control. Make sure that every employee knows what role they have to play in handling the issue.

    This should avoid any problem arising from your employees saying one thing or another that can confuse people or aggravate things further. If you’re looking for a good example, just take a look at what department stores do before they open up during a Black Friday sale. More often than not, the management will give employees the information they need such as how many stocks are in supply and where to get them to minimize confrontations with frustrated customers.

  • 5. Offer an Effective Solution

    Even as you are salvaging the reputation of your company, you should also find ways to make things right with your customers. Such solutions can range from full refunds to assistance to affected customers. The point is that you have to show that you know what’s going on and are doing your best to alleviate the situation for everybody.

    Of course, the quality of what you offer matters as poor solutions tend to make things worse. For instance, when things were going out of hand in a Tumblr community event in 2014 called Dashcon as presenters bailed out and hotel staff were demanding for the rent money, the event management thought that they could alleviate frustrations by handing out hotel mints (which were free from the hotel, by the way) and an extra hour at a children’s ball pit set up in the lobby.

    No refunds, no alternative events, nothing. The fact that no other Dashcon has been held ever since is proof that the entire event and the controversy that followed were not properly handled by the ones running it.

In Conclusion

In an ideal world, you should not have to perform any of these things just to maintain the goodwill you have with the public. However, there is just no telling as to when your business might encounter a scenario where it will make mistakes. How you and the rest of your team handle situations beyond your control will determine if you can come out of the ordeal with your reputation mostly intact or not.

Have you encountered failures or controversies when running your business? What strategies did you use to make the most out of your predicament? Let us know in the comments below!







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If you enjoyed this episode you may also love listening to:

Part 1: Buying Back Time

Part 2: Multiple Income Streams

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