Think In Color 2023 has officially come to an end! We’re glad and grateful that you took the time to listen to our lineup of brilliant women and BIPOC creators and innovators in the industry. We hope that, by the end of the event, you felt inspired by our speakers’ journeys and learned how to build an effective virtual community, diversify your services, and scale your business, among other things.
Although many topics were covered at the event, we’ve done our best to bring the highlights to you. Read on to learn our key takeaways from each speaker.
- Creating Cozy & Collaborative Virtual Communities
- Funds In The Funnel: How To Maximize Sales With a Customer-Focused Funnel
- Growing Both B2C and B2B Businesses for Multiple Revenue Streams
- Crafting a Visible Personal Brand with Video
- Memberships — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
- Head of the Table Panel Discussion
Cicely Blain, Anti-racism Consultant & Founder of Bakau Consulting
Session description: Although remote work existed before COVID-19, the pandemic intensified the need for businesses to shift to a virtual setting. By extension, businesses that wanted to maintain a close relationship with their customers set up virtual communities where like-minded people can learn from and help each other. However, it can be hard to make a virtual community as close-knit as a physical one.
In this session, Cicely Blain shares their experience building their virtual community, Living Room. They shared their approach to creating a cozy and welcoming vibe in a digital space, developing inclusive and safe communities, and using digital tools to meet people’s needs.
Know who your audience is and what they want
Before creating Living Room, Cicely had to figure out the people they were trying to create a digital environment for. Because their work is rooted in anti-racism and anti-oppression, Cicely knew that this community would mostly cater to people like DEI practitioners, consultants, and HR professionals who do similar work.
Next, Cicely had to figure out what these people really wanted.
“I thought about, ‘What are these folks yearning for, particularly in this pivotal time where so many things are shifting and they’re being called in different directions?’
Folks are definitely yearning for community, a sense of solidarity, and connection when there’s a feeling of isolation. [They’re also] looking for resources and looking to learn.”
Be relatable to your audience
The best way to get people to join your virtual community is to give them something they can relate to. For Cicely, that relatable thing was their living room. They wanted to recreate the exact same cozy and comforting feel that their actual living room gave them.
“I thought, ‘What do I want people to feel when they come into this space?’ And I thought, well, I want them to feel the same way they might when they come into a physical space that’s cozy and wholesome and inviting. I wanted people to feel relaxed, content, supported, connected, and seen.”
Cicely imbibes this vibe into the community by:
- Starting off each virtual meeting with 10 minutes of reflection. They ask a simple question on the screen to help attendees do some self-reflection.
- Playing a soft, R&B-based playlist to help people relax and ease into the call.
- Approaching each call like they’re having a light-hearted conversation with their closest friends. Even while recording videos for their online course, Cicely might be doing their makeup or making a cup of tea in the kitchen.
Offer several ways for community members to get what they need
Even though members of a virtual community are ideally like-minded folks, they likely have different needs, strengths, and weaknesses. As a business, you’ll need to figure out different ways through which you can meet the needs of your community members despite their differences.
With Living Room, Cicely met their community members’ needs by:
- Providing different forms of engagement (e.g. chat forums, live discussions, comprehensive online courses, etc.);
- Defining collective values and community guidelines;
- Allowing people to show up as their true selves;
- Removing unnecessary stressors, such as time constraints and meeting agendas;
- Considering accessibility needs (e.g. disabilities and neurodivergence), etc.
Ellie Diop, Content & Funding Coach at Ellievated Academy
Session description: To build a successful business, you need customers to buy your product or engage your services. However, many businesses make the mistake of creating content they think their ideal customers would want, instead of what their customers actually want. In this session, Ellie explains how you can grow your business and maximize sales by creating a funnel that attracts your ideal customers and caters to their needs and wants.
Every piece of content matters
Building a customer-focused funnel is like forging a relationship with your customers. The best way to do that is to create content that is informative, relevant, helpful, and valuable to them. A customer-focused funnel consists of five stages:
- Relationship + retention + REPEAT
On the importance of creating content, Ellie says, “Every piece of content you create is a member of your sales team. So whatever you posted three months ago is still doing the job of moving people down this funnel… Showing up consistently with a similar tone creates something predictable for your customers to understand so they can move through this funnel.”
Clarify your brand
If you don’t know who your products or services are catering to, no one’s going to buy from or hire you. So before building a funnel, clarify your brand’s mission and purpose, starting from your ideal customers. Ask yourself:
- Who do I serve?
- What do I help them solve?
- How do I do that?
The answers to these questions form the foundation of all your business decisions. Ellie proposes a simple template for this: I help [YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE] to [YOUR PURPOSE] by [YOUR PRODUCT/SERVICE]
Drawing on her experience with growing her business, Ellie says, “For me, that might be ‘I help women to build successful businesses by teaching them strategy and funding skills’… For so long, I had this on a sticky note up in a corner, so every time I went to create a video, I remembered who I was talking to.”
Build your social media following
Social media is one of the most effective digital channels for building brand awareness and generating leads for your business. It’s so effective that most people will browse through your brand’s Instagram profile (or your other social media pages) before they visit your website.
Hence, you need to invest time (and possibly money) into your social media content to increase its visibility. Some ways you can do that is by:
- Creating educational, engaging, and shareable content (especially videos)
- Running paid ads
- Collaborating with influencers with a similar target audience as you
Use lead magnets to build out your email list
As you’re creating content, your goal is to get as many people off of social media onto your email list. When people subscribe to your email list, they’re giving you a way to communicate directly with them — which is more valuable than hoping they randomly bump into your posts and videos as they scroll through Instagram or X (formerly Twitter). That’s where lead magnets come in.
Ideally, with lead magnets, you’re giving out value for free in exchange for people’s contact information (usually their name and email address). But you can ask for other things too. For example, at the start of her business, Ellie offered free 1-on-1 classes to people in exchange for testimonials. She used those testimonials to get her first batch of paid clients.
“You’ve gotta look at, ‘What is an area that I can deliver great free value that’ll get someone excited?’ and make that your main attraction. [In my business], I made a shift recently where instead of pushing you directly to a product, we push you to a free offer, which is the free masterclass. Then we sell on the backend. The results have been great.”
Retaining existing customers is easier than acquiring new ones
With each new lead you get, you go through the process of pushing them down the sales funnel — which is a lot harder than convincing an existing customer to buy from you again. So focus on customer retention just as much as, if not more, than customer acquisition.
To retain your customers, here are some steps to take:
- Deliver high-quality customer service
- Use customer surveys to collect feedback
- Gather testimonials from satisfied customers (offer incentives, if possible)
- Create a second offer that fills market gaps
On creating a second offer, Ellie shares, “I created my first business credit class for $15. Then I started hearing feedback on what [my customers] need next. Then I created the Business Credit revamped. Then I created the Business Credit masterclass, and then the entire bundle. What happened is, a majority of the people who bought the first one bought the second one to fill in the gaps. [Then] they bought the third one because as they were advancing in their knowledge, they needed more.”
Jessica Chen, Global Communication Expert & CEO at Soulcast Media
Session description: Businesses, in general, have three major sales and revenue determinants: their products/services, the content they create to describe those products/services, and the channels through which they distribute that content. In this session, Jessica discusses the power of LinkedIn in helping businesses connect to both customers (B2C) and other businesses (B2B), how to craft your content to speak to both audiences, and how to expand your services and offerings to suit both groups.
LinkedIn is a powerful platform to distribute content and grow your visibility
While many business owners and professionals have profiles on LinkedIn, they don’t consider it a platform where you can grow your visibility and distribute content. Instead, they regard it as a platform for updating resumes, finding new jobs, and only connecting with people you know.
In reality, LinkedIn is a social media platform, just like Instagram and X (formerly Twitter), and it should be treated as such. The only difference is in the kind of content that you post.
On LinkedIn’s appeal, Jessica says, “The beauty of this platform is this: You’re reaching a particular set of audience who is in a mind space of professional development and eagerness to learn.”
Jessica also explains how she grew from talking about her experiences as a journalist in 2018 to becoming a certified Top Voice and a LinkedIn instructor in five years. She chalks this up to posting consistently on the platform and connecting with a wide variety of audiences that can benefit from her offer: helping people learn better communication skills.
Tweak your messaging to suit both B2C and B2B audiences
Many business owners believe that they can only gain visibility if their content only caters to individual consumers. This isn’t true.
The power of LinkedIn is that it allows you to reframe your messaging to cater to both B2C and B2B audiences. The offer itself doesn’t have to change, but changing the language you use to describe your business can improve your visibility and attract both individual consumers and businesses.
“I have found that, if I want to speak to my B2C audience, I use language like ‘you’, ‘your’, ‘and have you ever thought about…?’” says Jessica. “My language is direct so the person that reads the content feels like it’s personal.
“[With a B2B audience], instead of using ‘you’ and ‘your’, I’m now framing my talk by saying things like, ‘the team’ and ‘the organization’. It’s more positive-driven and [less personal].”
Position yourself as a thought leader to appeal to B2B audiences
Unlike individual customers who only want a great product, B2B audiences want to be sure that you’re the real deal. So to get their attention, you’ll need to position yourself as an expert or thought leader in your industry, even if your offer is generally geared toward B2C audiences.
For example, if you’re a photographer, you can create and sell a photography course to your B2C audience. But to get B2B leads, you can publish thought leadership content about being in the arts industry or about building a business as an artist. Or if you offer 1-on-1 classes teaching individuals how to be more productive, you can appeal to B2B audiences by posting content about improving workplace productivity.
This way, you can go from selling B2C products like e-courses and 1-on-1 classes to offering speaking engagements and workshops.
XayLi Barclay, Thinkific Expert and Visual Content Coach at Start Shoot Grow
Session description: As a business owner, it’s easy to feel invisible, especially if you sell in a saturated market or industry. But you can overcome that by building a personal brand through video content, be it short TikTok clips, Instagram Reels, or long-form YouTube videos. In this session, XayLi explains how you can use video content to promote your online course, get sales, and solidify your brand in the minds of your customers.
You don’t need too much to get started
When creating your first video or doing your debut livestream, not everything has to be perfect. You can start with what you already have. At the start, people forgive your video quality and poor editing skills because they know that, with time, you’ll get better.
XayLi herself started with her laptop, a simple white backdrop, and a run-off-the-mill ring light.
“This is where I started, even when Thinkific approached me to be one of their experts,” she says. “I didn’t wait till I had the newsroom set to start teaching people. I used what I had because I knew what I wanted to teach wasn’t only around how amazing your set could look.
Now, I have a full built-in studio in my home, but this is where I started a few years ago.”
Get more resources as you grow
As you get more visibility from your videos and generate income, you can start to build out your set and upgrade your video equipment. For example, you can get a better camera/webcam and tripod stand (worth between $500 and $1,000), a green screen, eCamm Live, a teleprompter app, and an Adobe Premiere subscription for editing.
Speaking out equipment and set upgrades, XayLi explains, “[At this stage], you can have multiple camera angles, and so on. You can start investing in those things because you’re making money. We [often] think that we need to look good before the money comes. No. You need to get out there, and then the money will come.”
When you start making enough money, you can start outsourcing your video recording, editing, and distribution to freelancers or an in-house team.
Focus on one thing at a time
It’s easy to believe that you need to do everything to scale your business: post on every channel, hop on every trend, and talk about several topics. This isn’t necessarily true. It’s much better to focus on one thing at a time as you build your personal brand. Not only does this prevent you from burning out, but it also lets your audience know what to expect from you every time you post a video.
According to XayLi Barclay’s “Rule of 5 Ones”, here are the five things to focus on when defining your digital strategy:
- One product or service
- One target market
- One lead conversion tool
- One main traffic source
- One business goal
Teri Ijeoma, founder of Trade & Travel
Session description: When done right, memberships are a great way for businesses to forge deeper relationships with their customers, as well as generate extra revenue. Teri Ijeoma created a membership program for Trade & Travel and she now has over 35,000 people in her courses and 185,000 email list subscribers. In this session, Teri shares the benefits of creating a membership program, and explains how businesses can set up and use memberships the right way.
Know when to transition from a free group to a paid membership model
If you’re not a very popular business, chances are you’ll need to start your membership program by offering value for free. Teri started hers with a free Facebook group. However, as you grow your community, you need to know when to transition from a free community to a paid membership model.
Here are some signs to look out for before making a pivot:
- Your group is growing in size, but your members are only paying a one-time fee for your offer — as opposed to paying for the additional benefits your group provides, e.g. year-long customer support, etc.
- Group members start their independent meetings or sub-groups, making it harder to manage the group administration.
- You’re hiring group moderators or coaches to offer consulting to group members, without generating additional revenue from your members.
Your membership program is a product in and of itself
Many businesses that create online courses also create membership programs as add-ons to those courses. While a membership program is an excellent way to make your course more valuable, you should treat it as a product itself — not a mere add-on.
Speaking about her Trade & Travel membership, Teri admits, “In the beginning, I thought the membership was an extension of my course. That’s not true — the membership is a product all by itself. It should have its own team, promotion, marketing schedule… you should think about it as a product itself.”
Be intentional with your pricing
When transitioning from a free group to a paid membership model, consider what your income goal is and price your offer according to that. At this stage, it’s easy to price your product lower to get more members. But if you’re sure that your membership program is chockfull of value, don’t be afraid to charge a premium price for it.
For example, if your goal is to make $10,000 each month, it’s better to get 500 people to pay $200/month than to get 1,000 people to pay $100/month. It’s true that the higher your prices are, the fewer people will sign up for it. But this also means that you’ll hit your income goals faster, while finding it relatively easier to manage the program.
Diandra Marizet, (Host) Executive Director & Co-Founder of Intersectional Environmentalist
Session description: This panel discussion features speakers Cicely, Ellie, Jessica, and XayLi sharing their perspectives on the importance of inclusivity and representation in the entrepreneurial space, the challenges that women and BIPOC business owners face as they take up space in the creator economy, and how to price their products ethically in a capitalist environment.
Here are some of the poignant questions and answers in this discussion:
Many women of color entrepreneurs are coming into financial stability for the first time. What challenges, emerging issues, and opportunities does that present?
Ellie Diop: Just like there’s poverty trauma, there’s wealth trauma, as well. When you’re the first one in your family to own a 6- or 7-figure business, there aren’t many examples to follow. There’s still a stigma around talking about money, especially when you’re a person of color making more money than most people see in a lifetime.
For example, when I made my first million, I was afraid to move out of my mom’s house. I didn’t want to spend the money because I didn’t know what I’d do if it was gone. I was also afraid to tell my family because I was worried they’d think differently of me.
One thing I’d like to see more of is collaborative spaces like this that remove that stigma and say, “Hey, what’s going on? If you’re stressed about making money and what to use your money for, don’t be afraid to talk about it”. Allowing that stigma to continue is part of why we see people make a lot of money and then go back to where they started.
Oftentimes, in business settings, we feel the need to assimilate, code-switch, remain silent, or put aspects of ourselves aside. We may not always feel that we fit into the notion of professionalism. Has that experience shaped how you serve your community and how do you apply that to the liberating work you do as a DEI professional?
Cicely Blain: With the systems that we grew up in, when we see a certain type of person represented on TV, media, and social media, and when certain online creators get traction while others are shadow-banned, you start to believe that you need to conform to a certain way of being and speaking.
When you find a space where you are seen for who you truly are, by your peers and leaders (even if they don’t have the same lived experiences as you), that’s truly liberating. However, although representation is increasing and more opportunities are available, there’s still a double standard as to how people can show up. Sometimes we internalize those double standards (even though they might not be real) and they hold us back.
For example, on TikTok, many people don’t show up polished and put together all the time. While that’s liberating, I feel like that opportunity is only afforded to certain folks, and there’s a higher expectation for others and how they present themselves.
When do you decide that the path you’re on doesn’t align with where your capacity can go and where your passion can be, and make the decision to transition into full-time entrepreneurship?
Jessica Chen: All of us have a point we reach where we realize that what we were hoping to achieve is completed and we’re ready for something new. For me, I was in a great career that I loved, but after 10 years, I felt like there was more out there. I’ve always been the kind of person to create my own path. So I thought about how I could teach the skills I’ve learned to other folks.
I started out in journalism, which you could say is a “proper” career where you can’t share your opinions, you don’t have your own voice, and you’re just telling other people’s stories. It was a jarring transition to start creating my own voice and showing my personality. That was definitely a learning curve.
How do you approach pricing your products or services to attract people who are aligned, ready to learn from you, and see the value in your offering?
XayLi Barclay: A lot of times we price low, but we overwhelm the person who’s investing — and that is a disservice to that person. It’s easy to think you’ll get a lot of people if you price low, but chances are, you’re getting overwhelmed people that are not ready to take action.
I hired a business coach to map out how much I should be making, and that determined my pricing based on volume. We see a lot of creators who launch a $7 course and make 6-figures off of that product, but they have the volume. If you’re a smaller creator, you need to be aware of what your goals are as a business so you can price accordingly.
If I sell 5 online courses at $1,000 per course, I’ll make $5,000 — versus selling 500 courses at $10 per course. Think about it that way. That’s the process I had to go through.
Watch Think In Color 2023 sessions on-demand
And there you have it — the key insights from the three-hour-long event created for both budding and experienced entrepreneurs in the creator economy. We encourage you to dive deeper into any of the topics that piqued your interest.
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