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Suzanne Banta

#015: Why You Can’t Market Yourself Out of Operations Problems

Listen to Episode 15

Okay. It’s time for us to bust some really bad myths like the one that you can market your way out of operations issues. Stay tuned. 

Welcome to The Client Whisperer™ Show. I’m your host, Tony Banta, and I am the Client Whisperer. I’ve spent over a decade running multiple six- and seven-figure client businesses and I’ve learned that the secret to success in a client business comes down to one thing: leadership. Bad client behavior is the enemy, and with the right curriculum, infrastructure and mindset, you can lead your clients to great success and scale your business the easy way. 

So, you have operations issues, huh? Maybe you’re the only one doing all of your client fulfillment. Maybe you’re doing everything in your business, maybe clients aren’t getting everything they need and that’s creating drag on you, on your mindset when your business clients aren’t getting great results, at least not in the numbers that you expect them to, or that you think your competitors are. Yeah – some interesting notes on that later. 

Maybe you’re frustrated or, let’s be honest, burnt out by client demands and unclear expectations and boundaries. Maybe you don’t have that in place. Maybe you only realize that a client’s crossed a boundary when it’s too late and you feel like you can’t walk that back. 

Well, you’re not alone, first of all. And the fact is that prevailing logic in the marketplace is dead wrong because so many people are there to tell you that you don’t have a problem. Just keep marketing, keep growing, keep selling. I’ve heard gurus and experts say this all too often and it’s really damaging advice. And honestly, I’m really tired of seeing client business leaders show up on my door having listened to that advice for too long and they’re in a state of almost total burnout. 

Mind you, I’m not tired of the people that show up asking for help. I’m tired of the fact that they’ve been sold the lie that it’s possible to market your way out of operations. The entire industry. And if you go back to some of the origins of the coaching movement that launched programs like Clients on Demand and and all of these various programs I’ve been in, programs like that, I’ve probably met a bunch of my listeners in masterminds and groups that taught us how to promote our business using ads, using lead magnets. Right? 

The fact of the matter is that all of this logic is built on the idea of keeping you on the Facebook ad train, keeping you on the marketing train – and that’s great marketing, super important. I have some phenomenal marketing consultants that help us in our business. I have some phenomenal team members that help do a bunch of the marketing work for me so that my time gets to be high-leverage. I have a mastermind that I’m in and one of the things that we cover there is marketing. I even have advertising partners that we work with. Marketing is super important, so let’s not treat this as a straw man, but marketing isn’t everything. Eventually, you have to lead clients. Eventually, you have to run the rest of the parts of your business or else they will run you. 

If you don’t believe me, try not – I’ve never done this by the way, and please don’t do this – but try not paying your taxes for three or four years and see what happens. I’ll bet you’re not in business for very long after that, so marketing your way out of operations problems is really bad for another reason, and it’s that the problem compounds. If you have operations problems, that’s symptomatic of the fact that you feel overwhelmed, you feel pulled in a bunch of directions, you feel like you’re the only one that can do too many functions within the business. You feel like the business will stop running if you don’t do X, Y, and Z. If you have operations problems, then you have clients who aren’t insignificant numbers rolling into a backend of your program. You don’t have long-term client revenue. 

You don’t have high lifetime client value. You only sell one program and the majority of the people will leave after the period of time of that initial program. This is what operations and client fulfillment issues look like. What does it look like inside of your head? Looks like you’re torn in a million directions. It looks like you feel like your clients aren’t getting results unless you carry them on your back, or maybe you’re just tired of carrying them on your back and you just don’t care anymore and you’re just selling them and you’re not even sure if they’re going to get results. You just sell some of them in and you’re lacking the passion that you once had for the work. These are the symptoms of operations issues, so if you’re experiencing these issues, then a big part of the problem and why it will never work for you to market your way out of it is this: 

There are only two ways that marketing can help you solve this equation, because marketing is further upstream than where this problem is happening. There are only two ways that marketing helps. One way will help, but probably not for long. The other way will absolutely not help. There are only two ways that marketing can possibly interact with your operations. It’s the people that it attracts, right? So there’s only the type of people that it attracts and the quantity of people that you’re attracting. The type of people that you’re attracting, you can make marginal improvements to your operations by attracting higher-quality or different people into your program. That’s absolutely true. You can put in place better sales filters and, in fact, it’s one of the conversations that we have with just about every client, is how do we optimize your sales filters so that we maximize for the success that they’ll have inside of the program? 

That doesn’t mean that we’re only letting in high-level people, right? It means that we’re filtering for those psychological indicators, for those mindset indicators, pre-indicators of success. Very different, because let’s just hypothetically say that you work with business owners – and now I’ll use a lifestyle example in a second. If you work with business owners and you, right now, are allowing businesses from $0 million to $500,000 in revenue into your program, you could very easily just cut it, right? Put something in your app, pre-filter them, and if anyone’s lower than $100,000 cut them, but that lacks a lot of nuance. There’ve been times when I left one company, I left with a pile of cash – I left my previous company with plenty of money, but I had zero revenue, right? So I was coming into something with all of the right mindset factors, but I had zero revenue. 

So that’s not a very nuanced cut. You’re going to filter the wrong people out and you’re going to not have the right people because you’re going to miss people who are pre-revenue. Now, if you can’t help people who are in that spot then that’s a different story entirely, but those are all arbitrary versus filtering for people who are going to do the work, who have a willingness to do the work. Right? A lifestyle example would be weight loss. If right now you’re helping people that have 10 to 100 pounds to lose, you could make that a lot easier on yourself by just saying 10 to 30, right? Just examples. Depending on your methodology, it could be easier to get the person with a hundred pounds to lose quicker results. Right? But the same thing is true there. If that’s easier, then you just do an arbitrary cut. 

But these are not the factors that are going to lead to someone’s success in your program. And they’re especially not the factors that are gonna lead someone to be a long-term client of yours. And that’s the important part. So, as it relates to your program, why can’t you market your way out? Well, you can apply some better filters. You can attract better clients a little bit. But if these symptoms are indicative of your operations, nine and a half times out of 10, 95 times out of a hundred, when we look at a client’s operations, we don’t see problems that come from marketing. Rarely are there problems that come from marketing. And usually, if there are, it’s that real client stories haven’t been shared enough, because that’s one of the best primers for clients coming in to really get what it’s going to take for them to do the work. 

So it’s almost that you just haven’t indoctrinated, right? You haven’t spent enough time sharing information before they come inside of your program, which is the biggest problem we see, not that you’re attracting bad people into the program. That’s usually a really big misconception because you can do wonders by training people and helping them grow inside of your program. Do wonders. Next, the other way that sales and marketing can impact what’s further downstream in your operations is the quantity and so often people talk about just sell more, sell more and then hire, make it their problem, right? Here’s the problem with that line: if you have operations problems and that’s showing up in clients not getting results or clients needing a lot more help, what happens if you add more? If every client you bring on has an average of two hours a week that pull you into an emergency and you’re bringing in one client a week now and people are telling you to market your way out of that and to bring three people in, then every week you’re going to be increasing the amount that you’re in the hole by six hours, four additional hours every week. 

Let’s say it’s a 10-hour program, that means in 10 weeks you’re going to have 40 hours’ more cleanup work to do beyond what should be necessary for your clients. That doesn’t sound sustainable. That doesn’t sound fun to me. If your lifetime client value is low, if you’re selling a program for $5K and your average lifetime client value is $7,500, meaning that you’re only generating on average $2,500 more than front-end sales per client. And I have the top 50% of my – top 30% of our clients – this is not real for all of our clients certainly, but the grouping in the top 30%, we have high five-figure lifetime client value. Just to put some of this in perspective of what’s possible. The only reason clients stay that long is because they’re getting value and because they’re happy. Those clients stay for years and that’s why those numbers are so high. 

I’ve had clients for five-plus years. That’s why the number is so high. What does this mean? It means – and I share that just to show you what’s possible in all of this, right? If you have a $7,500 average client value and your initial product is $5,000, what happens with your math? What happens with your business model? If that goes up to $1,250, $1,500 you could generate on average, and that’s not impossible to do, you roll someone into a back-end mastermind at $1,500 a month, you don’t need that high of a percentage for that to average out of them staying if they stay, and that’s what this is contingent on. If they stay, if they’re getting value and they stay because your operations are dialed in, it’s not that high of an upsell rate that you have to go to before you’re having clients in huge numbers that you can sell on your front end, at a lifetime client value that’s a lot higher. 

That’s a much healthier business. Not to mention the fact that you have incredibly higher monthly recurring revenue, which is super powerful because then you’re insulated from the whims of marketing. You’re insulated from Facebook having a bad month, you’re insulated from you know, we’re coming off the heels of the holiday season – how many of you don’t have offers that perform well around the holidays, right? Well, monthly recurring revenue doesn’t care about that, it just gives you that insulation. You’re totally fine. 

So this is why marketing doesn’t help. You have to fix operations problems. And if it’s a point where it’s a thorn in your side, if it’s raised to a point where you’re feeling the strain, you’re feeling some of the problems, then you realistically need this sooner rather than later. And here’s what this looks like: you need to, number one, clarify the model that you’re working. 

If in the example that I used, if every client you have requires extra hours, then how much time do you think they should require inside of your program per week? You could certainly hire coaches, hire consultants, hire admin people to spend those hours with them. But you could also ask the question, why? Why do they, on average, need two extra hours? And don’t buy the BS surface level things that people say or things that are easy that people in your mastermind might be saying – “Oh, clients never take action. Oh, clients are the worst.” These things are never true. Clients who don’t take action, they don’t do it for a reason. They don’t do it because you weren’t clear on what they needed to take action, but even more than that, if that’s costing you extra time, that’s a really good indicator that there’s a boundary issue there, and that boundary issue goes much deeper than a client not taking action because the right boundaries, the right program design – and this is the second issue – after you’ve clarified the model, that this is the way that you want to be helping clients (and if it’s not, we should be talking), you should be putting that on the front burner. 

We should be having a conversation about that at Send that problem over to us so that we can chat., it’s also in the show notes, but once we’ve passed through the model and we know that you’re working with clients in the right way, the next question is, do you have the right sequence down or setting the right boundaries in place to use, or curriculum dialed in? What’s happening inside of your program beyond just the model of a group program, the model of working with clients one-on-one, the model of training plus support calls, whatever your model might be in?

And I’ve seen a lot, but the best ones usually are hybrids, by the way. So don’t get too hung up on, you’ve seen it done this way and that’s why you modeled your program the way you did. But the curriculum matters a great deal because the more dialed-in the curriculum, we see one-on-one client time as waste. Not waste because it’s not valuable, it’s extremely valuable. But any time that you’re spending with a client, even one-on-one or in a group context, identifies the fact that the client has questions and they need extra help beyond what they’ve been taught, beyond the training that they’ve been able to experience, and there are really important things in there. They’re really important questions. 

That’s what you need to be looking at. That’s the second thing that you need to be looking at inside your program. Dial that in, look at every single client interaction, see it as waste and say, how could we make it so this client interaction never had to happen? How can we plug that in, go for it, plug in? 

What’s next? Well, what’s next is you need to get yourself out of some of them. So you need to hire a team member, and unfortunately, you can’t hire team members and have their job description be to figure it all out. That’s the job of a partner. That’s the job of an executive. You have to throw thousands, tens of thousands of dollars at that kind of a problem and not a year, either. Tens of thousands of dollars for a quarter for somebody to solve that problem at that level if you want them to solve problems for you. 

It’s a lot easier, though, when you know that those first two things are true. A lot of your work can become predictable. You can validate those by seeing what happens with the clients and then you can distill it down to the essential tasks and processes that have to happen for every client, every week. You can document those, you can do those yourself or you can do those under close supervision of an admin watching them do it and then you capture it. You record it. What does the procedure need to be? What are the steps? Doing some of those things. Now you’re insulated. You have those things captured easily. Hire administrative team members, hire the next coach, the next consultant, the next person on your team because you’ve already figured it out and you’ve captured it, now it’s done. That’s your way out of operations. 

It’s not easy. I’d be lying to you if I said it was, but it’s manageable, it’s not awful either, and these are the steps for you to make it. I believe in you. If you’re having operations issues and, and I mean this, I really want you to head over to We do client fulfillment audits. It’s one of the things that we do with our clients, where we actually look at the back end of your program and we do it ridiculously inexpensive, right? Why do we do that? Because this is so important. Once you get clarity on what’s going on – and some of these three things that we talked about are three of the many things. 

We have about a 12-point checklist of different things that we go through as well as analyzing your curriculum, the client data inside of your program, all of these things, and sometimes the lack of client data is an indicator in and of itself, right? But at the conclusion of that, we’ll be able to show you the right data you need to be tracking. We’ll be able to give you feedback on your model and what’s working or not working. We’ll be able to look at that and help you see where the waste is inside of your business, inside of your client fulfillment. And then it’s manageable. It might not be easy, but it’s manageable to be able to go in and one by one, eliminate that weight. One by roll things out that further separate you from that burnout that you’ve been dancing near. 
So,, head over to have a conversation. Help’s close, and it’s reasonable. Talk soon.

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