In this episode of Island Thrive, Paul and Dave chat with Isabelle Mercier-Turcotte of LeapZone Strategies about tried and true practices to business success. Isabelle shares her insights on the timeliness of education-based marketing. She recommends business leaders focus on educating their clients while listening more closely (than ever before) to their needs.
At the heart of this episode is uncovering your X-factor, that is how to get your clients “to know, like and trust you” while you navigate common business challenges, such as overcoming fear, building your culture and making tough trade-offs for example, saying goodbye to the mammoth client. Despite these business-specific growing pains many face, Isabelle reminds us to treat ourselves like our million-dollar client.
The key is how are you positioning yourself so that you don’t have to scream louder so that you can actually be more helpful. So the people that have gotten outside of their little office or their fear possibly of putting themselves out there have done well because they’ve created trust — know, like and trust.
Click here for the full transcript
Paul: And welcome to Island Thrive. My name is Paul Holmes our co-host, and with me, as usual is Dave Monahan, the President of Smart Dolphins IT. Dave, how are you today?
Dave: I’m very good. Thanks, Paul, how are you?
Paul: I’m doing well. When we talked about this episode we thought, “who’s somebody that we know who’s a Vancouver Island businessperson that can really raise the energy level and get us excited about the year ahead.” We’ve come out of this tumultuous period and we thought, nobody better than Isabelle Mercier Turcotte so she joins us this morning… How are you Isabelle?
Isabelle: I am excellent, and I’m thrilled to be here with you both.
Paul: Well, we’re super excited to have you. And for those who don’t know Isabelle, she is a Brand Positioning Strategist and Business Growth Catalyst, and Co-Founder and CEO of Leapzone Strategies, and host of Leaptv.com. And really cool business, we can see- you can’t see because you’re listening and not watching, but we can see they’re very cool posters and cool office that she’s working from. We of course have Zoom backgrounds that have nothing to do with our office because it’s not nearly as interesting. However, Isabelle why don’t you tell us a little bit about what Leapzone Strategies does?
Isabelle: Yeah, what we do is we help. And we’re very passionate about this…we’re so passionate about that we have a conversation about what I’m about to say breakfast, dinner, lunch, and snacks. What we do is we help entrepreneurs build brands and businesses that are in growth mode that are scalable and that actually make life better. And so if you were to look at our business, it’s basically three sides to our business, there’s a branding business within our businesses, there’s a marketing business, and then there’s a coaching part, basically to our business. So most of our clients, if they were to hire different teams to do what we do, they would most likely have to hire three, four, possibly even five companies. Whereas with us, when we look under the hood of a company, of a brand, we look at it from a branding perspective, a positioning perspective, a systems and organization’s perspective, and as well as a performance perspective, meaning coaching the C-suite, the leaders as well as the team, so that they can actually function well as an aligned unit, so that they can serve more people and create more impact.
Paul: I’ve heard you described Isabelle as a no-nonsense dynamo including in your speaking, and of course I heard you speak several events in the past, you’ve been referred to as one of the most inspirational branding, marketing and customer experience keynote speakers. How on earth did you get into speaking and maybe tell us a little bit about that.
Isabelle: Yeah, I stumbled upon speaking, I certainly wasn’t thinking I was going to be a speaker. Now, my dad was in radio, he’s passed away now, but he was a radio talk show host, and my mom had a business at home, a hair dressers salon, so I did definitely inherit the gift of gab. However, in my work, suddenly I was asked to come and speak to a group, a small group about positioning and about branding, and then I thought, “Oh, I don’t want to do that. Why would I do that? And then I thought, why would I not do that?” This is a thing, positioning and branding can actually make or kill you…It can make or break your business. So why wouldn’t I want to communicate that more… So it started by just having a couple of circles around somewhere in a small space and me talking and answering questions, and then eventually it just became larger and larger and larger stages, all the way to two TEDX talks now under my belt, which is a whole different Oprah Show, I’ll have to say. But yeah, and now I have a variety of very popular talks that I give on a regular basis in large audiences and also small local events.
Dave: Is Leapzone targeting Canadian companies. Are you local or you international?
Isabelle: We are definitely global. We do have clients all over the world. I would love to have opportunities to speak in Australia and in other parts of the world. I have spoken in the US, I’ve spoken in other parts of the world, but Australia never… So that’s a little something that’s on my bucketlist. But definitely we have clients in Israel, we have a whole set of products and services that are evergreen online, so this is also why we have clients a little all over the world. And of course, my heart is near, near on the island and near Vancouver because there’s amazing businesses on the island and in our region that deserve to make it big, that deserve to be talked about and be helped, and so as much as I love to help everybody meaning, no matter where they live, what’s in my backyard is super important.
Paul: I’d love to go to Australia one day as well. You know what, some days I feel like I’d love to go to the next town… right?
Isabelle: Baby steps, right?
Paul: And this is why we’re so excited to have you. Because we know that you have this really successful Vancouver Island business. And that’s what we do here on Island Thrive. We bring business leaders on and we love our island and we’ve had so many great leaders and they listen, and… So we’re super excited to have you… I’m going to dive a little bit into strategy because that’s obviously a big part of your business, and you probably have a thousand stories from the pandemic, but I wonder if you can distill that down to maybe a couple of good strategies or even maybe just one or two good strategies that people have used during the pandemic, that you’ve seen that has really helped businesses excel during this difficult time.
Isabelle: Yeah, I mean, one of them in particular is more educational-based marketing. I have a talk called helpfulness is the new hustle, and I truly believe that being helpful beats hype any day. It beats anything going on in the world, and the people that have been most successful have ramped up their master classes or their educational-based marketing for free to be helpful and to also seed particular products or services that they offer that would make a big difference for their ideal clients. So I think it’s a question of… a lot of people say there’s a lot of noise online, yes, there’s a lot of noise online, there’s a lot more businesses, and due to the pandemic one, there’s a lot more businesses that are being created, or at least people that are going into self-employment because being self-employed and having a business or two different things, but there’s a lot more opportunities to have people help you solve your problems. The key is how are you positioning yourself so that you don’t have to scream louder so that you can actually be more helpful. So the people that have gotten outside of their little office or their fear possibly of putting themselves out there have done well because they’ve created trust- know, like and trust. And they’ve created ways for people to learn from them. A lot more people are operating from home, a lot more people maybe in transition right now have lost their job and are looking at what do they want to do next? What’s their next chapter?
So there’s more problems to be solved out there, and a strategy is to one, educate people, but it’s also listen. What are the problems that are at the top of mind and that are stopping your ideal clients or your potential ideal clients from sleeping at night, so that you can actually create things and products and services and educational-based marketing to really answer those problems. Because we all know here that people are going to buy. A lot of people say, right now, people don’t have any money, not true, some that’s true, there’s always exceptions to the rules, of course, but there is more money to be invested now in learning and in solving problems than there was a year ago. So people are going to buy the people that need your solution, they will absolutely buy. The question is, will they buy you because you’ve created know, like and trust, or will they buy someone else because they’ve created know, like and trust.
Dave: I love that. I mean, we could have a whole podcast on this one topic. Yeah, exactly, and I ironically this podcast is exactly what I think you’re describing. We’re trying to put ourselves out there and get the connected community and educate people on the variety of things, so I just want say we did not prompt you to say that to promote our podcast, but yeah, I think so that’s an idea, I think people are aware of. What are some of the main challenges? What do you think stops people from putting themselves out there beyond maybe just fear or maybe that’s it?
Isabelle: One of them is fear, for sure, fear of judgment, because when you take a stand, branding by the way, is not a logo, it’s about taking a stand for something, and when the moment you take a stand for something, well, of course you’re going to divide the room and most people are afraid to divide the room when that’s precisely what branding is about, you have to divide the room. It’s either people are going to go, “oh my God, where has she been all my life, or where has this product been in my life? You don’t want the gray zone, right, you want the polar opposite. People that are going to be loyal and follow you to the moon, or people who don’t really care and won’t do anything, but the middle zone is huge. So they’re afraid of judgment and they’re afraid of yeah, being disagreed with online, and to that I say if you don’t piss someone off, you’re not innovating. Now, I’m not suggesting for you to wake up of every morning with a goal of pissing people off, however…
The goal is if you’re innovating and if you’re actually doing good, then there’s bound to be people who are going to disagree with you, so there’s fear. The second part is they fear that what they have to say is pedantic.
Isabelle: Yeah, and you know what? This happens to me all the time. I think that what I have to say, I work with small business owners, I work with large global giants, and I’m like, “what would I have to bring that would help a local or global giant?” The thing is, people don’t always look for things that are new, they connect with you because of your perspective, so if you stand behind your perspective and you don’t fear communicating the good, the bad and the ugly, and you’re actually being truthful and honest, you will automatically gather a lot of people and attract people who resonate with you. How many times have you heard something five million times and suddenly, Jodi Pazz says it and now you’re like, “oh my god, it’s landed.” It’s about perspective, and so don’t be afraid to say what you have to say, share what you have to share, because although you may think that a thousand other people have shared similar- your perspective, your lens to life, your past experiences, make it that you have a unique way to communicate for people to go, “oh my God, I want me some of this.”
Dave: That is so great. I’m going to get every single one of my employees to listen to this. This year, we’ve decided to double down on our thought leadership, we call it, and we’ve got a bunch of techs here, a little dirty introverts. And this is exactly what I’m sort of try to say to them, maybe not a quite as well, certainly not as well, but people want to know us, it’s not necessarily just what we know but who we are, and I just love that.
Isabelle: There’s one piece that can help with this a lot internally, and when we had 22 employees in our early 20s in one room in Gastown, what we did to get people’s opinions and get people to really take part of building our culture, ’cause it’s not about Isabella and Margarita building a culture. It’s about Isabella Margarita’s core values that are in alignment with a bunch of other people who believe in what we believe and have them participate in building that culture. So we had our brand foundation, vision, mission, purpose, core values, all in separate little pieces of paper into a propeller hat at the time it was a propeller hat, and so every huddle every day, we would pick one of those pieces of paper, and we had to talk about how we are being that, how we are not being that and educating our team. So it wasn’t just Isabella’s role to educate the team, it was everybody’s role to educate the team. And that has created a culture where there was one moment where we had to let go of a client that represented 75% of our revenue, and let me tell you, that was a big decision.
It was very scary, I spent countless nights stressed and not sleeping and crying, and I didn’t know how to best…I wanted to get rid of this client, but I didn’t want to have to get rid of my team. But at some point, one of my employees in picking a core value, the core value that we picked that was fun. And then his name was Leah Quan. I will never forget this amazing employee, she said, “I just want to know, based on our core values, why is it that we’re still working with this client because they violate five of our seven core values.” And my first thought was, I was a proud mama, ’cause I thought look at the culture that I’m building. A culture where people speak up, a culture where people are not afraid to disagree with me or challenge me, and then I said, “because your leader is a bit of a chicken shit, and that’s why.” And then we talked about that, and then literally two months later, not only had we tried to elevate this client, we had given them an ultimatum and they did not meet the quota, therefore we let them go. They did not know we were going to let them go, ’cause they knew how big they were for us, they underestimated the guts that now I had found again. And within a few days, we had replaced this client by an amazing client that we would never even have seen as an opportunity because of the other client that took all of our time and our effort and our stress and everything, so that kind of drives the conversation a little bit, but I thought that this could be helpful to add.
Dave: Absolutely, I love it. We’re big fans of that culture and core values. The ideas of pulling one out of the hat… I’m going to borrow that too.
Paul: I’m really looking forward to the hat, Dave. Maybe we could get a Dolphin to bring in a different hat in each week. There is really a lot of opportunity cost in dealing with the big clients, the overly demanding client, and that’s quite an incredible story Isabelle. I do know a lot of people struggle with that. A lot of businesses, they have the giant and they want to do everything they possibly can to serve the giant, and they’ve, often times then gone out and done things that are different than what they do for other people, or you see strains on the relationship because things aren’t happening the way that they’re happening with everyone else. And it’s just such a common story, isn’t it? And I think I sleep for having the guts to be able to deal with it and the way that you had and I know that that’s a huge challenge. Other than just shear will, is there any other strategies around dealing with the 800-pound gorilla that is dragging your business down and you’re kind of too fearful to let them go?
Isabelle: Yeah, you know first, the one thing that we did first before letting them go is to give them a chance is to actually go, “hey listen, you’re not be getting the best of our team because you’re forcing us basically to operate this way or this way.” I did not start my own business to be a slave to another business that would be the complete opposite of being self-employed and having your own thing. So we got really clear about what we were willing to live with and what we were not willing to live with and operate with. And then we communicated that with them and we gave them a period of time to actually rise to the equation. We felt like not imposing, but we felt like having them helping them operate more the way we operate was not going to just be good for us, it was also going to be extremely good for them. But you know big mammoths sometimes are just stuck in their ways, and that’s what it is. And so we gave them an opportunity to rise, they did not take it. Therefore, we had to follow through.
If I had not followed through, I would have completely gotten rid of a lot of trust within my culture, the culture that I’m creating, and as well, it would have sent and even more signal to this client that they can own me even more. Right, so first, elevate, give them a chance to make it clear that if this and this and this doesn’t get better within a two-month period or a month period or whatever period you feel appropriate for your organization, then we’re going to have to part ways. In which case they know, they knew, they were like, “well, we didn’t actually rise,” but what they did not expect is for us to follow through.
Paul: This sounds a lot like parenting advice.
Dave: You can’t fire your kids though.
Paul: You can’t but you can create consequences and then actually deliver on those consequences because when you do that once they’re going to take you seriously the next time.
Isabelle: That’s right ’cause what the trade-offs become, there’s a trade-offs for every decision, even if it’s an amazing decision. I traded off a ton of freedom, from going from a 700 square foot paid off condo in the in Vancouver to a 55-acre equestrian estate with a retreat center for entrepreneurs here on the island. Was it a fantastic decision for us? Yes. Was there major trade-offs for us? You better believe it there was. Right, but it’s which trade-offs are you most willing to live with? And at Leapzone, we call those shit sandwiches, and so their shit sandwiches everywhere, which one are you okay to eat and which one are you not okay, to eat, right?
Paul: Yeah, yeah, I wanted to circle back a little bit to your educate and listen advice, ’cause I think that’s so brilliant, and you had mentioned earlier that this idea around educating, obviously people are scared to go out there, and I think that’s fairly obvious, but the pedantic nature of things- that really caught my attention. And working in IT, it’s hilarious, because we have a baseline knowledge which is just an ordinary IT work as a baseline knowledge that most people don’t have. And we don’t think about that, we think, “well, everybody knows this. Everybody knows that, right?” And I think that’s so true in almost every industry right? And we bring on these speakers to this podcast, for example, and they talk about their business and Dave and I just learn all sorts of new things about their business, to them, it’s just an ordinary day while everybody knows how commercial mortgages work, right? No people really don’t.
Isabella: In fact, to add to that, I have a perfect example that I have missed a massive opportunity at the beginning of Covid myself, why? Because I’ve been working virtually for over 15 years. So for over 15 years, I’ve been using these tools like Zoom of course, 15 years ago, Zoom didn’t exist, but tools like Zoom, my team is from all over the world. I have tools on my phone to communicate with my team, like they’re in my office, even though they’re not. So to me, it is business as usual. So for that portion, not for every portion of my business, of course, having a retreat center that has had to close, of course, I’ve felt it in different ways, but had I not assumed that most people know this information, I could have within three weeks, created an online program about how to set yourself up. And the people who know, love and trust Leapzone would have chosen to learn from Leapzone rather than to learn from someone else, that was precisely because I did not realize that that was not the norm for most people.
Paul: It’s funny you mentioned that, ’cause that’s exactly what we did. Because we started doing all of our training that we were doing in-person and started doing that online, and we kind of had this conversation internally, do people really know how to use Zoom? Well, I don’t know, and we were already doing Teams training even at that point, which is Microsoft’s hub, you’re probably familiar with that, but what I put together a little presentation on how to set up a Zoom meeting and how to use it, and we had over 100 people show up to a webinar on that. So I was really surprised, and of course, I’m sitting there going, doing the presentation going, “oh, this is going to be pretty boring, people probably already know all this stuff.” And at the end people are like, “oh, that’s so great, thank you so much. You answered so many of my questions.” And I think to myself like, this is just stuff… Similar to you, I’ve been using Zoom for many years, right? And so I just kind of go, “well, everybody knows how to use this, and everybody’s doing this and that’s just not true, right?
Isabelle: If you look at… If we take a different analogy for this, let’s take a brain surgeon, for example. Imagine if brain surgeons were like, “F, you know what? Everybody knows this. That’s ridiculous. I don’t need to teach this.” How ridiculous would that be? Well, that is the same for every subject in the world, right unless it’s a subject that is so 1971 where it’s not even in use, nobody ever needs it, then that’s obviously not something that you want to talk about, unless you have an amazing spin to it that would now be current and help businesses or people impact their lives. But unless, unless it’s an old something that you never need anymore, it’s not the case for anyone, not even new, not even you, not even new, not even anybody listening here today.
Dave: This year we’re trying to do a lot more video just…We have great conversations with our clients to talk to in a quiet little office, why not share the essence of those via video. So we’re doing a bunch of that, and I was actually struggling yesterday, I had a little bit of video block and writer’s block, because I don’t want to be part of the noise, as we mentioned earlier, there is a lot of noise out there. So how do we find the difference between what you’re just saying, putting ourselves out there and be confident while also not just creating noise?
Isabelle: So that is a positioning question, so that is all in the positioning. And so if you say, “hey, do you want subscribe to my newsletter?” Versus, “hey, do you want free advice?” So this is a very simple example here. Who wants to be yet on another newsletter list? Nobody, but who wants intelligent and free advice from people…Many people. So it’s in the tantalizing of your titles, and here’s what you want to hear from your clients… I hear this a lot, “Isabella it feels like you bugged my house.” That is an indicator….
Paul: I feel that way about Facebook.
Isabelle: I feel that way about Google. But when you hear this from clients, “oh my God, you’re live today, you’re live today. It felt like you bugged my house meaning, it feels like you’re speaking directly to me.” And that is the key here, is to find ways to communicate a title, a subject, in a way something that you want to talk about in a way that people are going to go, “wait, wait a minute. Back up the bus. I want to know more about this.” And people tend to want to be creative with titles and now be relevant, be resonating and say like, if I’m a small business owner, if I saw something that said, “three massive mistakes that most smart small business owners make and how to fix it.” Now, what does that do? It says there are three mistakes that most people make in business, and even if they’re smart, “I consider myself a small business person, hmmm I wonder if I make these mistakes.” See what happens in the title is there’s the what, there’s the danger that I want to know if I’m participating in this danger, and there’s also an egoic label that gets me to recognize that you’re speaking to me.
Right, so egoic labels can be new mother, vegans, yogis – those are egoic labels. And that’s the equivalent of you going in a room and going, “hey, people” and nobody really listening and they you go “hey, all the Johns in this room, please come to the stage. Suddenly it’s like, what, what did I hear my name? Where do I need to go to the stage? Oh, I’m there.” Suddenly there’s a bunch of Johns on stage, right? So it’s about positioning.
And as a kid, I did not really like my mom, I love my mom, but my mom was a position everything to me Isabelle. Whatever you want, you need to position it to me. If I wanted to do gymnastics and ice skating and something else, I had to come to her with a chart, with the chartboard and post-its, and I had to actually give her give her a pitch of why I want this instead of that, why she should pay for half of this with me. And I did not like this when I was a kid, because Genivene, one of my friends, all she had to do was to go to her mom and say, “I want some skates.”And she had skates. By the time I earned my skates, they were sometimes out of style, why? Because I had to participate in this whole getting my skates, but today, I can pretty much position anything to anyone with the right reasons, and I’m so grateful for her, for her way that she educated me for that, I was educated. I was born in a hairdressers salon, well not physically born, but raised… And I was born at the hospital, but raised in a hairdressers salon where I heard my mom position services, colors, products to clients every day. And she wanted me to understand what it feels like to propose something that is yours. See it’s easy to work, easier to work for someone else’s business, easier to promote someone else’s products, the hardest business model on the planet is when you are your own boss and you’re selling not a product, but a service, and the service is tied to your genius, that is the hardest thing to sell, because then the fear of…what’s the term when people say, “who am I to actually teach this?”
Dave: Fake it until you make it kind of thing.
Isabelle: Well there’s a term…Oh, well, there’s a term…it doesn’t matter, most listeners are like, they’re all screaming the term right now because they know right? So what that does is when you practice positioning your offerings, whether it’s a dollar offering or a hundred thousand dollar offering. By the way, the larger the amount of dollars it is to fix a problem, the bigger the problem needs to be, and the more on the surface, the problem needs to be for your ideal clients, right? But when you know how to position something and name something in a way that is tantalizing and people are like, “oh my God, she’s talking to me, I want to know more about that.” Then it doesn’t become about you being one more thing on the noise, it becomes about cutting the noise as opposed to adding to the noise, and that goes back to the dividing the room as we talked about earlier. Does that make sense?
Paul: Yes, and now you’ve got my head into that term ’cause I can’t remember what the heck it is.
Dave: Me too, it’s driving me crazy.
Paul: It’s the fear of….
Isabelle: Imposter syndrome. The best of the world have impostor syndrome.
Paul: It’s so true.
Isabelle: Yeah, when you know how to position something in a way that people go, “my God, that makes so much sense.” At Leapzone we have our X-factor, what makes us different is our methodology, so we have a particular unique proprietary methodology. Everybody has a framework, everybody has a system, but nobody really knows that they have one or they haven’t named it. We went through an exercise to actually go “our methodology is the Leapzone trifecta: positioning, personality, performance. Within these three pivotal pillars, there are 8 areas for growth, and if a business is suffering in any of these and most are suffering in all eight key areas for growth, then the more the difficulty to grow, the difficulty to operate even is the highest. So instead of just saying, “we’re good coaches and we have a lot of experience” we put this infographic in front of people and we explain our methodology, we explain what we do, why we do it that way, how it’s bringing results and that we address all these points from money and KPI, mindset and inner game, sales and marketing, systems and procedures, systems and organization, time management. Those are all part of our methodologies. You’ve heard of time management…I don’t own time management, but my equation is unique to Leapzone. So instead of just having to talk about how amazing we are, which of course, we’re never going to say we’re not amazing, of course, we’re going to say we’re amazing, it’s about other people saying how amazing we are because of the transformations we’ve helped them do or create, but it’s also by having an intelligent way, a smart way of explaining what we do in a way that gets people to go, “you had me at this” right? And usually that’s part of the X-factor, and the X-factor is a tipping point when people love, trust you and really want to learn from you. When you bring them your differentiator, the key difference that makes you different from anybody else who do what you do. And by the way you think you do things differently than others. Because you know what you do and you know what John does, and you’re like, “Oh, I’m so much better than John.” However, from a non-trained customer mind, if they’re looking for an IT service company and they have three in front of them, and they all seem very similar to them, then of course, the decision will be based on price.
And the last thing you want is to have your client decision based on price, that’s the bottom of the barrel. What you want them is to decide on the best fit, the most value, the most resonating methodology or system. And when you have that which is part of positioning, then you can’t lose. It doesn’t matter what it’s happening in the world, you can’t lose.
Paul: So the cure to Impostor Syndrome is not just being a smart person that knows all your stuff, but developing good processes and being able to communicate those good processes.
Isabelle: Yes, and it really helps. There are still times that even though I have all of this, there are still moments that I feel intimidated by a specific company that’s in front of me. But what I have to remember is – if it’s an engineering company, they’re great at engineering, they’re not great at creating systems and processes and cultures, and a brand that people are going to want to brag about, that’s not their genius. That’s my genius, right?
But yes, you’re absolutely right, Paul, when you have the way to communicate and you have something intelligent that people can actually see the difference between your company and someone else’s company, then it doesn’t solely become about price, and this is all of that we teach in our Build to Rock program, literally. And a lot of people have asked me why I created this program. And I won’t go too much into it by no means, but it’s an online program, and I created this for small business owners because they don’t have the money and the means to hire high-end consultants to actually get to help them. And I felt like the small business community was completely under-served and what was available to them was crap, and so it took me nine months to build this program, it’s been voted one of the best branding and business building program by BC Business, and it’s my passion to make it simple, make it fun for small business owners to actually have the same tools and the same strategies as big businesses have just ran on a different runway.
Paul: I love that. That’s awesome. I wanted to…Oh, sorry, Dave…
Dave: What I think what you’re speaking to is really the difference between a business and a glorified job. If you’re just putting yourself out there as accountant, for lack of a better idea, for example, you’re just another accountant, whereas if you build the unique proposition, that unique process and position yourself differently than you are one of a kind.
Isabelle: Not only are you one of a kind, but then it allows you to even if you don’t think you may want to sell one day, even if you think you might just be self-employed for the rest of your life, the previous business we had was a branding agency, solely branding and creative studio, and we didn’t build it to sell it, we built it, we thought we were going to be in love with this for the rest of our life with that same equation, and at some point we had been there, done that, and we just didn’t feel like tweaking it anymore, we just wanted to let that go and start something new. And instead of dismantling it, we were able to sell it because we created it with ways and processes in a system that was scalable and duplicate-able that others could use rather than just me, myself and my brain and my genius, right?
Paul: Isabelle, you mentioned earlier around building trust, the importance of educating, and we talked about that a little bit, we delved a little bit into positioning, which is great, and I think that’s hugely important. Especially right now, you also mentioned though, you had two points, the other point was listening, and I thought I’d circle back to that and get you to elaborate a little bit more, what exactly do you mean when businesses need to listen? And maybe you’ve got a couple of strategie
Isabelle: Yeah, totally. A lot of clients ask me, help me create a product, what product could I create? What new service can I create? And my answer is always, “what do your clients need?” Because you could create all the products in the world that you want, but if they’re not needed and if the problem isn’t to the surface for them, then you’re going to create a bunch of things that are never going to sell it. So listening is about asking your clients what are their biggest issues. My team and I are creating a new way of presenting information, a different way of presenting information for Chamber of Commerce or a small networking events. Well, we’re starting with those for now. What we want is we want to go in with a theme, a very clear theme that I’m going to talk about for 15 minutes about, and then, but the price of admission to come to this speaking gig or event is that they’re going to fill a small questionnaire, and there is going to be three pivotal questions. One of them will be, what is the biggest issue you’re facing right now? Right, and then I’m going to talk about mindset and depending on what the subject is about, and then the rest of the hour is going to be people getting coaching, asking their questions. I already have them so if they’re shy to ask the question, doesn’t matter I have the question. So why are we doing that? Precisely for the subject we’re on right now, because I want to know what is going on right now on the island, off the island in small business world, what are they struggling with? So that I can figure out, one, how to have them immediately in that particular talk, but also what is the next piece that I want to create to be helpful and to be current with what I’m creating, right?
So our brand is about making life better, so I don’t just want to talk like on a webinar, on a brick wall while people are just listening for an hour, I actually want to say, “here’s a 15 minute bit of subject and now let’s answer some of your questions, let’s get some free coaching here, let’s get you moving the needle forward in a positive way.” So the universe, God, whatever you believe in, has given us two years in one mouth, and we do a lot more talking than listening, I have to say me included, by the way. What I say here, I’m not above any of this, I work at this constantly.
Dave: This is very prevalent in the IT industry. I think we’re very focused on, we know IT so we get very product-focused opposed to customer focus. We’ve struggled with this at Smart Dolphins at times, and it is a different skill, you’ve got to really set out to do it. So again, any advice for people with that mindset or have it?
Isabelle: Just go on to a Facebook Live and ask your clients, just poll them. Do a little Google form, send it to all of your clients and prospects just say, “hey, we’re wanting to know what’s most on the surface for you?”
Also, people talk about social media a lot, and they talk about how important social media is, and it is but what’s important in social media is we’re just dealing with this with a larger organization that we’re working with right now. They want to post post, post, post, and people are starting to engage on these posts, but there’s nobody engaging in the engagement. Social media is about being social. It’s not about selling and promoting, it’s about being social, it’s about answering questions, it’s about being of value. And in fact, there’s a company in 2009, the big crash of 2009, there’s a pool, like a swimming pool company, who was about to go down because as you can imagine, if you can’t put food on your table, you’re not going to buy a swimming pool for your backyard. But what they did is they went, “you know what, if we’re to go down, we’re going to go down helping people.” So what they did is they gathered all the questions that they’ve ever been asked in working and installing pools and talking to prospects, and they created a blog, and this was many, many years ago, 2009, they created a blog and all they did was every week, create a blog post answering a question, and not only did they survive, they are now the fastest growing swimming pool company in North America, because they were helpful, they listened, they answered questions, answering questions. That means you’re listening, right? So if anything, don’t even poll your clients, just go from past three years experience or your experience, what are the questions you’re getting the most, and then just every week, come online and answer these questions, and then you’re going to create more engagement and more interest than you ever thought possible.
Paul: Isabelle, I wish I could bottle up your energy and just take a dose every morning. This is great.
Isabelle: This is me being super calm.
Paul: I definitely feel like this has been fantastic but I feel like we should pivot a little bit here and just talk about where we’ve come from, I was originally going to ask, what are some good strategies that companies have been using during the pandemic, and I feel like that almost doesn’t matter now because we’re kind of on that we’re certainly more than half way through or we need to start thinking ahead, I think, to what happens after, and this… It might be a long road back to normality, but I feel like people should start down that road if they haven’t already, and I wonder if you have any particular advice for companies as they maybe they’ve kind of hunkered down, maybe they’ve scaled back, what’s a good general advice for business owners as they try to build back towards whatever the new normal looks like, in your opinion?
Isabelle: Yeah, one of the principle that we… That has brought us to where we are today, is wanting to treat ourselves like a million dollar client, and what I mean by that is, and this is going link in a variety of different ways in a moment, but we were always so easy to drop our own business and what we need to do for ourselves to help others, and so to alleviate that, we consider Leapzone, one of the biggest client of Leapzone, therefore Leapzone is on our production board, like I would help a client every week I help Leapzone every week, so every week we have meetings to discuss what is our next step, what do we need to stop doing? What do we need to start doing? What do we need to elevate? Start, stop, setup, but we invest time for our business on our business weekly, and that is something that most people don’t do, and it’s the one thing that they should absolutely do, so that is treat your own business and your own self like a million dollar client. The other part is to utilize is not the word, leverage is to leverage your loyal fans for anything that you need, Gopro does this really well.
They actually leverage all their videos online, they’re not done by them, they’re done by their biggest fans and biggest ambassadors. So like it takes a village to raise a child. I think it takes the community to grow an amazing business, and that doesn’t cost anything, it doesn’t cost anything to connect with your clients and prospects and ask them to participate in giving a review, in talking about a transformation that you’ve helped them create a before and after a case study. Have them do a little…I get my haircut and I love my hairdresser, I do a photo with a page I wrote “I love my hair.” Right, and I just take a picture and post it. So that is me being an ambassador for them. So it’s about utilizing ways that don’t cost anything, but add a lot of value, so in my presentation called Helpfulness is the New Hustle, I talk about the threesome of awesome. And one of them is out-teach. You cannot beat a McDonalds, you cannot be the budget that they have to promote themselves and the noise that they create – you can’t beat them, but what you can do is you can play on a different runway, so if you out-teach yourself and not teach your competitors, then I talk about out-winning, and then of course, I give examples of out teaching and out winning, it’s all about acts of kindness, acts of teaching, acts of being of service, and acts of brilliance.
So think about ways that you can create a ripple without it costing you anything. And where my upbringing, in my education, I was in school at Concordia University in set design and special effects for movies and theater, and you know what? They give you 5 to create a set that’s got to be a traveling set that has to be all of this and a bag of chips, and they give you five bucks for it. I thought that sucked at the time. Now, today, I’m like, brilliant, thank you. Because it’s allowed me to find ways that don’t cost anything, and when we work with our clients, they pay a tuition to work with us. So our role is to find ways for them to work and promote and do what they need to do for free, so that they don’t add to their tuition of working with us. Right so find ways to involve your biggest advocates at the advocate and ambassadors, so that they can actually play the game with you. Right.
Dave: I think one of the things here is working it into a regular process, we have client meetings, and if that goes well and people are positive, just simply asking for a referral is an easy way, or a reference or testimonial perhaps. So those are simple examples of what I think what you’re saying.
Isabelle: And, Dave, when (I’m just going to put you on the spot here) is the best time to ask for a referral?
Dave: Every time. No, probably when they’re happiest I would think.
Isabelle: At the very beginning. Yeah, most people they need… And you’re right, many times is a great answer, I can not beat that. Yet, most people think I’ll wait until we’ve done a transformation with them to ask for referrals. No. Ask them when they’re excited… At the very beginning. At the very beginning. That’s when you have to start asking for referrals. Even when I promote a webinar, I’ll promote a webinar. They’ll register. The first email that they get is, “hey, thanks for registering, here are three and a half reasons to show up, and hey, by the way, forward this to someone that you know, help me spread the word, right.” So that there’s more people who find out about that, so asking for referrals, asking for testimonials. I often will do a little video testimonial with them, I will have my base questions that I ask, I will interview them, and I position it where, not only is it good for me because they’re going to talk about how great we’ve been at helping them, but it’s also good for them because it’s allowing me to promote them to my community, so I don’t position it as, “hey, do you want to do a testimonial with me?” I say, “I have a great opportunity for me to actually promote you and highlight you in my community, are you interested in having that conversation?” Again, it’s all in the positioning, it really does go back to that.
Paul: And when you can find those win-win situations, it’s just so great because they benefit, your business benefits. If everybody wins, why wouldn’t you just go ahead and do it right, so that… I love that, that’s brilliant. We’re getting very close to an hour, so I do want to thank you again for joining us as well, and we had a big long list of questions we haven’t got to, so we will have to have you back at some point to in the future.
Isabelle: A six-part help business series. I am totally game for that.
Paul: I thought we’d maybe close, so if you had to sort of in summary, give some advice or share some wisdom, maybe some encouragement for business owners that are out there that are listening, in terms of moving forward from where we are today, what would you say to them?
Isabelle: First, I would restate to literally treat yourself as a million-dollar clients as your best client because that will give you…It’ll force you to invest time working on your own processes, your own innovations and things that you want to create for your ideal clients. So that would be one of them for sure. I would also say, don’t ever forget that what you have to say, assuming that you don’t want to be like someone else, assuming that you are yourself and that you want to communicate your point of view, know that people will buy…They will buy, and chances are, they will buy things that are more expensive than what you’re offering them at the moment, and that I’ve seen it a million times over. So do not be afraid to put yourself out there, do not be afraid to make offers why? Because here’s the thing, if you feel like you’re the best person to help this particular person or company with what their problems are, and if you feel like they’re better served with you than anyone else, then if you don’t position your offer intelligently in a way that they say, yes, you are doing them and you a disfavor.
So think of it as you’re doing them a disfavor that way, it’s not about you, it that way we remove you from the equation, and then the fear of being an impostor and all that kind of goes away.
The other thing I would say is, in life, and this is to borrow Greg McKeown’s language, in life, there are vital fews and there are lots of trivial manies. And we get stuck in a sea of trivial, manies. What we think our priorities are are often trivial, many, and so the key is to really figure out where do you want to go, and reverse engineer and go, “what do I need to do, what’s important for me to do today to get to my destination faster and better.” And don’t let other people’s monkeys. When people give you a lot of things in a lot of urgencies, that’s their stuff. I’m very clear with my schedule and my time, and I say no more than I say yes, and that does not mean I’m not generous, I’m extremely generous, but I’m also extremely clear with what’s going to help and what’s not going to help, and extremely clear with what my vital fews are versus my trivial many.
So the faster you are able to figure out what the true priorities are and what the trade-offs are from making decisions, and I talk about that in one of our program called Mindset Mastery Code, it’s all about the mindset of organizing yourself and your team to win, so treat yourself like an ideal client, understand that there’s only a few things that really matter and say no to a whole bunch of other things so that you have more time and energy for what you do want, and then don’t be afraid to communicate and share your genius, because a lot of people don’t know about it, they need it, and they will end up buying what you’re offering from someone else if you’re not most helpful and most communicative about it.
Dave: So I’m a bit of a business book nerd junkie, so I heard a couple of things. One thing from Essentialism, which was great, a big fan of that book, do you have a book list of book recommendations, a few books that you would you suggest people?
Isabelle: Totally. A couple of them actually, it’s called Rework, re-work from the owners of 37 Signals a tech Basecamp, the owners of Basecamp and all that re-work is a fantastic book. Each chapter is a page or two, and it is so potent. In fact, I’m envious. I wish I would have written that book. It’s one of the…
Paul: Jason Fried.
Isabelle: Correct, thank you. Yes, the other one is Unfuk yourself, I apologize for the language, but it fits right in with Isabelle’s language, Unfuk Yourself. It says, “get out of your head and into your life.” It’s a great book to really help you figure something out for yourself, and of course, you can apply that to business. And one of my coaches, his book is called Your Oxygen Mask First it’s by Kevin Lawrence and its 17 habits to help high achievers survive and thrive in leadership and in life. Those are awesome, and there’s plenty of other books, The E-myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber.
It’s amazing, it’s an amazing book, and I was fortunate to be able to interview Michael E. Gerber, as a result of a connection on LinkedIn, and I just said to my connection on LinkedIn, “hey, I see that you have Michael E. Gerber in your connections. Can you connect me with him?” And I ended up with Michael E. Gerber’s cell phone number because he connected with me through… So for those of you who are skeptical about social media, the very minimum, connecting with the people that you want to connect. I interviewed him twice, and I’m really great friend with his wife now as a result of our similarities in business.
Dave: What’s his cell phone number?
Paul: Dave, have you read those three that she mentioned before?
Dave: Yeah, yeah.
Paul: I figured. I haven’t read any of those three. I read the E-myth Revisited…Oh man, probably 15 years ago now.
Dave: That’s a classic.
Paul: It’s a great read, all about getting your head out of your…
Paul:…Out of your business and working on your business instead of in your business. And man, that was great. I feel like we could go on forever, but we probably should let you go. It’s been… You have been very generous with your time and we really appreciate that, I’m sure our audience will as well. I love your bit at the end there about the service, thinking of service, not as a… you’re not trying to sell something to somebody that you don’t think they need, and I think about this a lot because we live in such a complicated world, and people are willing to pay for good quality products. I think so often people are willing to pay for the great service as well because you need help trying to navigate everything, and if they have that trust and they know that you are the one that’s going help them with that, then that’s huge. So thank you so much for that incredible message today, and we really appreciate you being on. I did want to say as well, how can people get a hold of you, what’s the best way for them to engage with you? And to engage with Leapzone?
Isabelle: Well, Leapzonetrategies.com is our website. And on there, Leaptv is all in there as well, I’ve got an area…this is all free, by the way. There’s a tutorial area called Leap tools, there’s a good 50-60 tutorials around a bunch of different things related to branding, positioning, and business. Leaptv is a show that actually is super entertaining and fun and educational to help small business owners really thrive in business and in branding. And of course, we’ve got our… On social media is Isabelle Mercier-Turcotte…try not to find me hard to not find for sure. But we also have built with a deep buildtorock.com, which is our positioning and business growth programs that I was talking about earlier.
Paul: Well, Isabelle Mercier-Turcotte business positioning strategist and business growth catalyst. Thank you so much for being with us today on this show, and we hope you’ll be able to join us again in the future, and we can pick up on all the points we haven’t covered, and we wish you nothing but the very best for your business. You’re on Vancouver Island, and thanks for being part of island thrive today.
Isabelle: Absolute pleasure, and I would welcome the opportunity to come back any time.
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