How to switch up your business without letting down your tribe
I’ll be straight: I have the ‘luxury’ of an online presence the size of a demi-pixel (totally a thing) in the vast vortex of the internet. My ‘tribe’ — my community of customers, clients and subscribers — is small.
I haven’t stopped offering products and services to thousands. You’ll need to look elsewhere for advice in that league.
But I do know when it’s time to pivot, it’s scary to think you might alienate good people who’ve shown up and stayed loyal while you’ve been starting out.
Having a small community of amazing people fosters a sense of intimacy when you’ve worked so very hard to build it. When things have to change, as a values-based solopreneur, it’s tricky to strip out emotion in favour of strategy.
The good news is: you don’t have to.
- All businesses change.
- There’s a natural attrition rate in any group, online or otherwise.
- The degree to which your business changes, and how you communicate that, will influence what happens next in your corner of cyberspace.
This is what worked for me when I changed my focus. Hopefully it will help you in some way too.
5 questions to ask yourself when your business is about to change
- Do I need to say anything?
Is your business shift significant enough to warrant telling people about it? (If current clients or customers will be affected, that’s a ‘yes’.) If no one is immediately affected, consider how important transparency is to you.
- Why am I making this change?
What’s the backstory here? You don’t have to go into tiny details but making yourself appear human rather than like a cash-grab bot will help the situation.
- How will this affect my community?
What’s the most important thing current customers and clients need to know? Will there be a transition period? What do they need to do? How will expectations of your future products and services alter in light of your decision?
- What do I want people to do if they’re interested in what I’m doing next?
People like invitations. Give your community the option to come with you. Make the next action explicit for anyone who’s interested, e.g. sign up here; bookmark my new website, etc.
Also thank those who won’t be joining you, for their support to date. Make the next action explicit for anyone who’s not interested in your new thing.
- Where can I find an example of how to actually communicate this stuff?
Here’s a little something I prepared earlier…
Behind the scenes: the email I sent my community when switching focus
I aimed to be honest and genuine, to reflect the personality of my business and give people the chance to feel good about their choice. This also allowed me to move on mentally.
Your communication should reflect what’s appropriate for you and your community.
(Note: the survey and the list mentioned in the email below are still live — feel free to participate.)
Subject: Your new crew invitation (and why things are changing around here)
Your drink has an umbrella but there’s no sign of rain on the Pacific Ocean. It’s a calm, blue-sky morning. Your freshly-massaged muscles are languid in the heat, easily moulding to sun lounge contours.
Lying nearly flat, putting your hat over your face and stretching fully for the first time in months, the niggling kink in your spine has gone. The deck radiates heat. The snap of ice in your drink is coolly comforting.
The urge to siesta at 11am is powerful. Your inbox is empty. Sunscreen on; phone off. “I’ll just lie here for a few min—“ trails into the loud hush of the waves.
Cruise ships can do that.
Some ships’ cocktail of exploration and all-you-can-eat-and-meet hedonism, isn’t for everyone. But it is beguiling to sail away from a city on the top deck, amid musical fanfare, 14 storeys above the water, just as dusk is falling.
When you find a quiet spot outside a few hours later, with only the sea and stars for company, it’s a little miracle. The next day, your obligations may extend as far as ‘massage, 9am’. After that, it may truly be beer and skittles.
A cruise ship keeps you comfortable. You can do a little or a lot. It’s your guide through unfamiliar territory; it enables ‘taster’ adventures in far away lands. It opens doors to possibilities it’s acceptable not to take.
After all, you’re on holiday. You may be more masterful here than while wheeling through everyday responsibilities. Here, in the sun, amid miles of watery nowhere, you can vow to do nothing — and succeed.
But here’s the thing: to get to the deep reward of the cruise experience,
what lies beyond the entertainment — you have to get off the ship.
Not for the organised, hustle-onto-the-bus-with-everyone-else tourism. You disembark for the pack your wits and go exploration.
(Of course, some will just hang out near the buffet, regardless of the exoticism at the other end of the gangway.)
If you never get off the ship, there’s a strong chance you’ll end up back where you started. Your waistline may expand but you’ll have a narrow appreciation of where you’ve just been.
I don’t want you to sail in a circle.
The hard part
I realised recently We are the Treasure Hunters has had the cruise ship feel for a while. It’s colourful and promising. Possibility and exploration are at its core — and those elements will always remain.
However, advocating finding your best self when you’re multipassionate has a ‘life, the universe and everything’ feel to it. That’s a magical journey to a myriad of places — and beyond the blog and subscriber-only notes, I haven’t given you a way to do this with me.
I haven’t given you a way to get off the ship.
Doing the work to find what illuminates and enriches you from the inside out, is deeply valuable. That ethos still underpins this venture but the remit is too big.
When your strengths get clearer, you have to let some things go. It’s difficult but necessary. That’s how we’ve arrived in an off-the-map port today.
The captain has returned to the bridge.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re changing vessels and charting a new course.”
Less cruise ship, more racing yacht.
Same attitude, different direction.
Ultimately, we’ll be getting down to business. In a renegade kinda way.
If you only want to sail this far together, you don’t need to do anything and there will be no hard feelings. Thank you for your company through stormy seas, calm days and departures from the itinerary.
I hope I’ve made you smile and given you a few ideas about how to celebrate the richness of multi-passionate you! (If you enjoyed the quests, they’ll still be showing up occasionally on the Book of Faces; .)
But if you have a taste for adventure in business — and you champion style and substance — you’ll enjoy where we’re heading.
I’d love solopreneur creatives and coaches to join the new crew . Ideally you’ve been in business for more than 1 year, so you’ve got your ‘sea legs’.
You’re beginning to understand how and why you want to serve your audience/tribe/community. You also know you can’t do it all by yourself.
What does the crew get?
I’m an editor for entrepreneurs. I want to help you impress your ideal clients and keep your business growing.
Of course there’s a deeper mission too but…spoilers.
You’ll hear about story crafting and why it’s important — without the ad nauseam marketing buzz. I’ll share tips, tricks, tools and talks.
We’ll cut a fine line through the noisy ocean by refining our stories; by honing our digital works. We will make quality our guiding beacon and learn from those who’ve charted these waters before.
We’ll have fun.
There may also be intermittent references to a shipboard parrot that swears in Italian.
Are you in?
Next steps if you want to join
1. I’m still refining your welcome gift and want it to be just the thing you need — so first.
2. Then join the new crew here . (Yes, it’s free. Cheers for sticking with me on the seagoing metaphor!)
Bonus points for forwarding this email to a friend you’d like to bring along.
Here’s to our adventures so far, and all that still await us, wherever we may be.