Case Study: From 4 Clients to Six Million Fans Worldwide
What if you could stop wasting your time on social and learn a skill that will get you in front of millions of your ideal clients quickly (and for free)?
It was summer 2013 and Samantha Hess was in a dark place. She had just left her husband of 13 years and though she was sure of her decision, she felt a lingering sense of yearning. Of being unfulfilled. Her loneliness was compounded by the lack of satisfaction she felt with her office job at a security firm and she found herself craving a change.
At around this time, she read a story online about how someone set up a stall at a farmer’s market offering “Deluxe Hugs” for $2 to tease a fellow hugger who was giving his away for free. The article talked about how the guy selling hugs had a lot more clients than the one giving them away. And a couple of days later, when Sam read about The Snuggery, a professional cuddling service meant to promote the use of non sexual touch, the two ideas collided and a lightbulb went off inside her.
She decided that the answer to her sense of both professional and personal unfulfillment was the same: she was going to be a professional cuddler.
She immediately got to work building a website (something she had NEVER done before) and trying to find legal waivers online that made sense for a professional cuddler.
There were none.
She cobbled one together from those she found for yoga studios and rock climbing gyms and paid a lawyer to fill in the pieces and make sure everything was kosher.
Then, three weeks into it all, Sam got laid off.
The “weird” factor
Suddenly, she had no choice but to make Cuddle Up to Me work. She had to find a way to become a professional cuddler and charge $60/hour or she was going to starve.
She got to work printing business cards and flyers and walked around Portland dropping them off at laundromats, studios, cafes, etc. She pinned flyers to telephone poles and hoped.
In her first month of business, she got one client. The following month, she had 3.
But she felt stalled.
The ‘weird’ factor and unknown nature of her business meant that even the folks who desperately wanted a cuddle and saw her posters, etc were too skeeved out to actually contact her and set up an appointment.
“People needed to hear about me many times and from trusted sources before they could bring themselves to imagine hiring me,” Hess recalls.
Then a TV station out of Seattle called her. And things began to happen…
The Seattle newspaper piece led to her being featured in Portlandia, a high profile local media outlet.
And because when the media loves you, the media loves you more, that led to her being featured in the Willamette Week in their “Best Buy 2013” edition (where they actually created a whole new category for Cuddle Up To Me because Sam didn’t fit anything else). All of a sudden, Sam’s business, which had seen a total of maybe 5-6 clients so far was put in front of an audience of 400,000.
Her inbox exploded!
“I got 2,000 emails from that feature!” Sam says, “It was overwhelming! That piece actually translated into one of my longest-standing repeat clients– someone I still see today.”
The Willamette Week piece led to several more outlets picking up the story, but things got SERIOUS when Sam got featured in the Oregonian, which did a full spread on Cuddle Up To Me.
Suddenly she was doing 4-5 interviews a DAY with media from around the world. For 3 months STRAIGHT!
Samantha Hess had become the world’s leading cuddle expert.
Thanks to her media presence, in just over a year after launching her business, Sam released a book out, shortly thereafter, she is launched a retail space where people can come in for cuddles, and she’s launched Cuddle Nation, a certification program that will empower like-minded entrepreneurs to make the same leap she did, but with a lot more support.
In other words, Sam Hess took an idea and turned it into an international movement.
Do you think she could have done all this by opening a Facebook account or tweeting every day?
And yet that’s the advice most business owners receive.
“Get on social and promote your stuff”
Or “Content marketing”.
Which is not to say social doesn’t help build your brand – it does – but it’s the long game.
How to hack credibility, exposure, leads and traffic with a single activity (that takes 15 minutes)
When I launched my online course in 2014, I faced the same dilemma all lean startups do: how to market my business and get the word out without breaking the bank. I dabbled in some paid Facebook ads. I posted like a maniac on Instagram. I tweeted till I thought I’d pass out. But I simply wasn’t getting the results I needed.
Then I realized something social media experts don’t like to talk about.
Likes don’t pay the bills, sales do.
So instead of trying to build the audience (something I realized I didn’t have much tactical knowledge about), I chose to focus on content and go to where the audiences were already active and being nurtured. I wanted clearly defined audiences — ones that were made up of my ideal clients — rather than broad, all-encompassing ones.
Want contributor status at one of the world’s leading business magazines?Click the image above and steal my pitch for free!
The very first pitch I sent out got me on my local morning news program. I then leveraged the heck out of that clip to land my first 5 course sales and we were profitable in the first 30 days.
Almost overnight, I began to drive traffic to my website. Plus, when I pitched meeting planners as a professional speaker, I was able to pepper my emails with all these credibility-boosting articles I’d written for big name publications.
As my media presence grew, more media came to me organically, growing my footprint without me having to spend a cent. Which led me to get on TV, land my own column in Huffington Post, Entrepreneur magazine, and Inc. Then an editor at Forbes reached out because, “We noticed you’re doing some amazing stuff for other pubs and we wanted to know if you’d be willing to write for us,”
We hit six figures in our first five months in business with less than 100 likes on our Facebook page.
We’ve since grown and now have a team of seven who all have flex time, pay and growth opportunities.
I’m not anti-social media. But my own story (and those of hundreds of my students) seem to underline the fact that there might be a faster, less painful way to grow a business. Especially for those of us who are short on time, budget and don’t have the luxury of working 60 hour weeks. Plus, any media exposure only tends to fuel one’s social media presence.
Here’s a map to do it yourself:
1. Pitch your local newspaper and morning TV programs first: Local shows are much more likely to do a segment or article on a business or entrepreneur in their city. Once you’ve got some media, it’s easier to get more.
The opportunity: Morning news tends to be 3 hours long – that’s 15 hours per week in 4 minute chunks. They’re hungry for content and looking for guests to come in and educate and entertain their audience. Guess who can help fill that gap?
2. When you get press, you gain instant credibility: Think about the amount of effort it takes for you to gain even 100 Facebook followers (only eight of whom will actually see your posts according to FB’s latest algorithm). Plus, if you sell something high-ticket, chances are prospects are Googling you. When you have press, that’s what will show up on the first page of results, reassuring nervous buyers and letting them know you’re the real deal.
The opportunity: When you get on TV, you can include a link to the clip on your website, your email signature, your e-newsletter and your press page. It says that your opinion and expertise matters in a way that mere likes or followers do not. I found prospects who were considering working with me tended to be pre-sold when they saw that the press considered me an expert in my field.
3. You never start at the bottom again: Unlike starting a fresh Twitter or Pinterest account for each business you launch, you will be able to feature all your press logos on your “about the founder” page forever after. Just like Richard Branson never starts from scratch when he launches a new venture. How do you think he built that name recognition? Hint: it wasn’t with a “like my page” campaign.
The opportunity: Just as established founders don’t have to prove each concept from scratch, you too get to ride the media credibility train and bring your past successes to lend credence to your latest venture.
If you’ve read all the way to here, you’re clearly serious about growing your business. This isn’t some dabble-hobby project.
So how about I take that commitment and raise you some credibility?
Want to establish your chops as a thought leader in your space by becoming one of Inc.’s expert contributors? Well, I personally interviewed James Ledbetter, editor-in-chief at Inc. magazine and got him to tell me exactly what it takes to get his team’s attention.
Just so we’re clear: this means you land your own column with your photo and backlinks to your site. Not a one-off mention – instead a platform that puts you in front of 16 million monthly readers with material you’re probably already producing for an audience a fraction that size.
For a very limited time, I’m offering you a chance to steal the pitch that landed me my own contributor column. I’ve even broken it down and turned it into a template that will take you 15 minutes to fill.
Use this and you’ll be ahead of 95% of the folks who pitch Inc.’s team and get the editors’ delete finger.
Several of my students have successfully used this template and now regularly write for Inc.
It’s your turn.
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