Softness. Such a lovely word. It brings to mind pillows and clouds.
Feathers, warm towels, and cuddly kittens.
But I doubt “softness” is a term you’d associate with a struggling business, so it’s probably not a “solution” that’s crossed your mind.
Whether you’re finding it hard to win customers, attract prospects, gain traction, or even break even on your efforts, read on.
Although chances are that this story is NOT for you, if it is … well … then … you really need to hear it.
A few months ago, I agreed to help a member of a Facebook group I’m in by answering her questions about a course she was creating.
The call started fine … a little bit of chit chat, and then came the questions. I was eager to help!
She asked my opinion about the title. “It’s not really something I would be interested in,” I said. “But I might be interested if you covered this topic.”
“No,” she said. “My expertise is in this, and this is what the course will be about,” she said sharply, putting me in my place rather quickly.
The entire call proceeded like this, with her knocking down my opinions, one after the other. It was as if my opinions were baseballs, and she was an All-Star hitter, slamming each opinion out of the park as it came her way.
That sure didn’t feel good.
Towards the end of the call, she asked if there were topics or features or activities I’d enjoy in a course like hers — things she wasn’t already planning to include.
By this time, I was a little hesitant to voice my opinion. But I did it anyway: “It would be great if you could add a live, group component to the course, so that classmates could gather and you could illustrate some of what you’re teaching in a real-life, real-world setting.”
She didn’t like that idea, either. “I don’t possibly have the time to host groups,” she huffed. “Plus, then we get into the situation where everyone thinks they’re the expert. You can ask a non-expert a question and get one answer. But if you ask an expert the same question, you’ll get an entirely different answer.”
I knew she’d have a rough time with her course because she seemed to have zero concern about what potential customers actually thought and wanted. (Yes, I’m in her target audience, which is why I signed up for a call with her in the first place.)
The problem, I knew, was that she lacked softness. She lacked openness. She lacked humility.
I felt bad for her, but what could I do?
Tonight, several months after that call, she posted on the Facebook group saying that her sales page and course were ready — could people please take a look and give her feedback?
I read through the feedback people were already giving, and saw her responding in the same, harsh, haughty way she responded to me.
One group mate said, “Um … what popped out at me is this one word that you used. I’m not sure many people will understand it.”
“My avatar has a wide vocabulary. If there is just one word on a 25-pages-long sales page that would discourage my potential buyer, I am glad. I used it to repel those who do not qualify.”
Another comment from a group member: “I’m not an expert, so this is just an amateur’s perspective, but maybe you need a few more photos….” This helpful soul also provided a link to her site to give the course creator an example.
The course creator’s reply?
“I see that you do like using a lot of pictures. I did not want to go over the top to distract them from the information they get in the text.”
Are you picking up the haughtiness, the subtext here? “Your site is over the top with images, which distracts readers from the information you’re trying to provide.”
Another member wrote: “I wonder if you might make it clearer above the buy buttons how the offers differ, and show more value-added with the higher-priced option?”
The reply: “The price difference reflects the extra session with me.” She proceeded to elaborate, explaining what the member “should have” gotten from the text.
Yet another: “Is it recommended to have a 25-page sales page? It seems a little long for me, but I’m just getting started….”
Guess what her reply was?
“I don’t know what others recommend. This is how I want to sell my course.”
THEN — after reading all of this, I started to feel … I don’t know … perturbed. Disturbed. And a little sad for the course creator. I mean, yes, she’s unpleasant. Yes, she’s harsh and rude. But still, I know how much time and money and effort she’s put into her course. I’d feel terrible for her if it failed.
So I decided to jump in and share MY feedback.
I should have known, even though I hoped otherwise … she kicked back on most of it.
Me: Maybe play around with the font; it’s really hard for me to read, even on my large monitor.
Her: This is the first comment on the font. My goal was to use something stylish, simple, and slim.
Me: Maybe put the before and after images next to each other, and then label them BEFORE and AFTER, so readers don’t have to work so hard to figure it out.
Her: Since we read left to right I put the pictures in chronological order. This is one of the criteria my clients need to fulfill–understand the visual part without being treated like children.
Me: The page is too long, and has too much stuff, in the wrong order. (I did elaborate, explaining the problem and the order I think would work.)
Her: I built this sales page so people can learn about the importance of the topic. At the same time I want to position myself as a subject matter expert. I put several persuasive switches throughout so the page is not only about what I offer and the price.
I responded to her comments with a “thumbs up” and a “good luck!”
Even typing this post now gives me a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I know that this gal is going to have a really tough time selling her course. The sales page is terrible. And she refuses to listen to ANY advice.
This incident brings to mind something I heard a coach say during a live, group coaching call. It was a powerful moment that resulted in a lot of raw feelings and tears for the student being coached.
“Here’s what I’m sensing, the coach said. “You’re not going to like it at all. But I’m going to tell you the truth of what I’m experiencing. This is not THE truth. This is just my truth of what I’m experiencing. I really need you to hear this….”
After a long pause, he said, “Softness. Softness is what you need.”
Softness is what the course creator I told you about needs. Softness is what I need. It’s what we all need.
Softness is the way to connect with people, serve them, and win them as customers for life.
If your site isn’t performing as planned, if any of your content isn’t performing as planned, look at it from your prospective customers’ eyes.
Open your eyes. Open your mind. Open your heart — to softness.
Do you sweat the small stuff? Do you want your online presence to inspire trust and confidence? Do you grit your teeth when others don't care enough about YOUR web experience? Are you all about creating an excellent website and excellent content that makes it easy for people to get to know, like, and trust you and buy your stuff?
I think we might be soul mates. And I'd love for you to join my tribe.
When you do, I'll alert you to new blog posts, new programs and products, and new ways for you to create excellent, frictionless, online experiences that lead more people to YES! I promise to be relevant and real, and to send only thoughtful content and advice.
Renae Gregoire is a content mentor and clarity expert changing the world one outstanding leader at a time. The coaches, consultants, and experts she works with have big visions for creating transformational change--if only they could create that content! Her work typically involves a blend of strategy and wordsmithing, with a heavy focus on the reader's perspective. Renae is also the creator of the Blog Post Inspiration Deck, the Blog Your Brilliance online program, and the Content Coaching Club.