Shifting your market: Sometimes you might be selling to the wrong people. If you find that you’re not meeting your revenue targets, then you might want to consider going after a higher end market. A lot of times people will sell to beginners because they want big numbers and a huge following but appealing to the masses won’t get you to the success as quickly as getting very clear on solving a problem and speaking to a market that’s not being served.
As a part of my series called “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ali Brown, Founder + CEO of the women’s business empowerment company We Lead. Ali is one of the most recognized entrepreneur coaches in the world, having built a coaching + consulting enterprise that ranked in the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing private companies in the U.S.
In 2020 she launched The Trust: the new, premier global network for women entrepreneurs generating 7- and 8-figure revenues.
Ali is a frequent traveler with her Australian husband Brett and their twins, and they are currently based in Scottsdale, Arizona in the U.S.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I never knew that I would be an entrepreneur. The first six years after college I hopped around from job to job before landing a role at a small advertising agency in NYC. During that time, I came to realize that if I really wanted to be able to change and improve things, I would need to be an entrepreneur. In 1998, I quit my job to begin freelancing and completely immersed myself in business books on topics ranging from marketing to success. A computer that was gifted to me by my younger brother led me to discover how I could use online marketing to build my business.
Those first few years were very difficult for me. I had trouble finding enough clients, didn’t know how to market myself and I was broke. One day I had a wake-up call after realizing I didn’t even have 20 dollars to withdraw from my account. I knew I had to keep going because I knew this was my path and calling. I took it day by day and began to hit some steam and land bigger clients.
As I continued to build my business, other women would inquire about how I was doing it. They would ask me questions about how I market myself, how I get clients and everything in between. I began to teach all I knew! My following gained and my expertise grew in the areas of marketing, business and success strategies for entrepreneurs. I began teaching offerings of online courses and programs then expanded into seminars, events, private mentoring and consulting.
From there, my following began to grow even more, and my business expanded tremendously. I had the honor of being ranked on the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies, I was dubbed one of Forbes’ Women to Watch, I was a winner of the Stevie® Award for Women Helping Women and I was featured on the season finale of ABC’s primetime show Secret Millionaireamong other things. This led me to today, where I now work exclusively with women entrepreneurs who run businesses within the seven and eight figure range.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
Since I’ve been running my business and working for myself over the past 20 years, I have many interesting stories to share. I have to say one that I get the most feedback on sharing is a story about my twins. After I had them in 2013, I suddenly felt like the business that I had built didn’t fit me anymore and I wanted to make some big changes.
I’d already, to be honest, reached most of my business goals. Now it felt like time to tune into what I personally really wanted and needed. What was my true purpose? Was my current enterprise truly serving that? I explored options including selling a portion of that company. But in the end, it was best to start dismantling much of what we’d created, in order to make room for what I couldn’t see yet but felt so deeply was where I needed to go.
When people ask me, ‘What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?’ It honestly wasn’t starting my business, or even having my children. It was giving myself permission to do what I needed even when no one else around me really supported that.
When everyone around you is looking at you like you have lost your mind — but you know in your heart where you need to go and who you need to be — you have to be OK with that. I know there are still some people who don’t understand to this day. But I’ve never been happier. And it wasn’t until I could let go of a lot that I was able to make space. In that space, I was able to receive ideas for the future, including founding The Trust.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
When I first got started, there weren’t any women role models that I was aware of that were doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. I don’t have one specific person to name but I will say that I learned by looking at the successes of many men and women in business.
I examined how successful men ran their businesses. I studied their marketing principles, business basics, how they thought about money, how to hustle and the models of business that they used that were most appealing to me.
Then I took some principles that I saw other women in business doing well, things like attaching a mission to their business, having a meaning and a purpose for their work, creating flexibility for themselves and being the masters of finesse.
It’s in my combining of these two tracks of both men and women that led me to the success I’ve been able to achieve today. I learned them very separately and I want to honor both men and women for how they work. Studying the processes of what they both excel in and applying them to my own business has played a huge role in my accomplishments.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
This is actually a quote that I coined and I always remind my clients of it too, “They’re going to be talking about you anyway so you may as well, ‘go there.’”
This quote is relevant to not only me but to any woman in business. It’s something that a lot of powerhouse women should hold onto because I want us all to be bold. Say what you want to say and do what you desire to do. Typically for women, a lot of times when they aren’t making a move it isn’t because of fear of failure… More often than not, it’s the fear about how it will be responded to by other people in their industry.
A lot of times when I dig deeper with women entrepreneurs who are held back by something, it all comes back to this quote and it’s a great reminder to be daringly bold. Say the thing, do the thing, raise your prices, take the stage, whatever it is for you — just go after it.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?
Less than 2% of women-owned businesses break beyond the million-dollar mark. I wanted to not only change that, but I wanted to help those women to surpass well beyond those numbers. I want to open up women entrepreneurs to the idea that they CAN make a difference and a big impact in their industry and beyond.
Another pain point for women entrepreneurs who reach the 7-figure or 8-figure revenue marks for their businesses is they often don’t have anywhere to turn to ask important questions like, How do I scale my business to sell? How do I engage potential investors? Women business owners need a safe haven where they can ask these questions, learn and grow with each other.
More women than ever are now hitting the million dollars plus mark in business, and many of the networks for women who have reached this height of success don’t match up to what a lot of women are looking for. They’re either outdated, not addressing the real issues that women in business care about and are few and far between. I wanted to create a space that could encompass the solutions for successful women entrepreneurs and allow them to network with other women who are near the same achievements in their business. The Trust is a premier network for women entrepreneurial leaders in a world of one-size-fits-all business memberships and rudimentary programming, we hold higher standards for who we are and the women that we serve.
We aim to elevate the connections, opportunities and conversations globally for female business leaders and to support their efforts to create change in the world.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What sets The Trust apart from other women’s networking companies is that we are not targeting the women business owners who are just beginning their journey.
Rather, we are looking to help nurture and inspire the women business owners who have already grown their business to the 7–8 figure revenue point. I truly believe that the companies helping the women business owners who are just starting out are so necessary and important. However, it’s the women who have already established themselves as top-earning entrepreneurs who need the assistance. When I actually did a deep dive into who was serving these women in particular, I discovered that they are a widely underserved group.
A lot of The Trust’s members are looking for a place to call home. One member put it to me like this, “I’m tired of being the smartest woman in the room at these events. Everyone’s following me around for advice and I’m happy to help, but where do I get fulfilled? Where do I get nourished and nurtured? Where do I get fed?” These are the messages that keep me going because that’s exactly what I wanted The Trust to be.
When you first started the business, what drove you, what was your primary motivation?
Money was my primary motivation. I believe this is the case for a lot of people and more entrepreneurs need to be honest about that. I know that’s not the popular answer, but I am going to be straightforward that I wanted to make more money. I wanted to work for myself and I thought that I could have more fun in my day-to-day by starting my own business. That’s what led to me starting my first business as a copywriter.
As I gained confidence in myself, as I stepped into my power, as I found a business model that worked for me, that’s when the vision was revealed. I think that is the truth for more women than men. I really feel like once we have established that foundation of our success is where we are, the universe, God, (whatever you want to call that) starts to show us a bit of the vision and what we are capable of. That’s when the magic really starts to happen.
What drives you now? Is it the same? Did it change? Can you explain what you mean?
Currently, what is driving me is the fallout from the pandemic, and how that fallout has largely cost women their careers. Namely, minority and Black women. This tells me there is still so much work to be done. Our country needs to continue to support and nurture women-owned businesses. I believe women-owned businesses are the future, which is why I am so excited to see what the women of The Trust achieve in 2021.
Now more than ever women are pioneering a new model of leadership. We’re in the tunnel but entering into this new golden age where we are going to be working in a different way. It’s been evolving for the last twenty years or so, but it’s a more balanced approach to leading a business. That’s lighting me up and exciting me more than ever. There are practical and logistical challenges to be addressed with this new model but it’s a game changer for business.
I am excited to see where this is going, and I’d like to see more women stepping into this new leadership model. We have to stop waiting for outdated frameworks to solve our problems. We are the ones inventing new models, new solutions and pioneering that change.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
In 2020 I launched The Trust. The Trust is a premier global network for women entrepreneurs generating 7 and 8-figure revenues. Our mission is to accelerate the power of proven women leaders who are in the position to scale up and create impact. There’s no handbook for how to build your business and that’s where The Trust comes in. We help women who are looking to scale and need guidance on deciding whether or not to take on outside investors, how to manage rapid growth, leadership development and other best practices as they build their businesses.
In the past few months, one big distinction I’ve noticed is that our group has a really profound personal power that the women business leaders have. It’s been percolating even more; our members are very aligned with their inner self and purpose which is very exciting to see. I am excited to see how this translates and comes out in their leadership and where it will take them in 2021 and beyond.
The topic of this series is ‘Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue’. Congratulations! Seven figures is really a huge milestone. In your experience what was the most difficult part of being able to hit your first million dollars in sales revenue?
Honestly, it was just believing that it would not be hard.
It’s no harder to make a million dollars as it is to make a few hundred thousand dollars if you have a few critical pieces of the puzzle in place.
Could you share the number one sales strategy that you found helpful to help you reach this milestone?
This has changed and evolved over the years but when it comes to sales you want to show people the possibilities. When I was doing more teaching and problem solving alongside business owners, I had to put a big focus on showing people the possibilities. I had to meet them where they were at and demonstrate the possibilities of what they could achieve based on what I achieved and what other people had achieved.
Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”. Please share a story or an example for each.
- Figure out how to solve a problem for people: You have to determine what you’re doing to solve an issue that people are having in the market. What is lacking that you can change? For example, I created The Trust because I saw an underserved group of women who needed a place to connect with other likeminded and equally successful entrepreneurs.
- Nail down the model: You have to get specific and really figure out what your business model is. How are you going to make money? To put this into context, you have to figure out are you only offering services on a one-time basis or is it a monthly retainer? Are you launching a course to help people solve a problem that they have? What is the system you are putting in place to generate revenue for your business? Once you nail down the model a lot of things start to fall into place.
- Turn up the dial: This is the point where you want to accelerate the process. Get more customers or clients by advancing your marketing efforts. For example, you might want to invest in things like search engine optimization, paid ads, public relations or even a great word of mouth referral from your most loyal customers.
- If your model isn’t scalable — add higher priced offerings: Once you get to this point in your business, you might find that the model you have isn’t scalable enough. This is a good sign that you need to add in higher priced offerings. For example, think about how you can go beyond and add in services to reach a more niche audience. Instead of offering only your regular services, go beyond that and put together a higher-ticket course or membership program for people like you who want to grow their business. When you’re serving the masses, you have less opportunity to scale but when you get specific and include higher offerings, that’s where the magic happens.
- Shifting your market: Sometimes you might be selling to the wrong people. If you find that you’re not meeting your revenue targets, then you might want to consider going after a higher end market. A lot of times people will sell to beginners because they want big numbers and a huge following but appealing to the masses won’t get you to the success as quickly as getting very clear on solving a problem and speaking to a market that’s not being served.
What would you advise to another business leader who initially went through years of successive growth but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?
Typically, when I’ve hit a plateau or I’m feeling like I’m kind of flat energetically or my clients, having incremental increases is not going to help. It means they’re not thinking big enough, think 10 times bigger and often that will start pulling you forward to get over your hump or standstill. Take a deep look at what you are resisting. Examine that, explore it a little then go big on it.
In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?
Some products or services you can directly target your audience with. It’s a direct hit. You are solving a problem that they have with what you’re advertising. You can solve their problem, your courses, your products, your offerings, your services, whatever it is.
For others though, it’s a bit of an aspirational sale, or an emotional sale. You’re getting them excited about what you’re saying or what they’re seeing and pulling them in. Using the example of Chanel, they don’t solve a problem. Chanel is an aspirational brand. You know what they stand for. You get excited when you see something and that drives you to make a purchase.
I’m not a fashion brand, but people get my vibe. They see something that I’ve posted, they hear me say it, they listen to my podcast, Glambition radio, and most importantly, they resonate with it. It’s more of a frequency sale. And when people resonate with your frequency, they’re pulled into what you’re offering.
Based on your experience, can you share a few strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?
One way small business owners can have a huge advantage is by actually having a relationship with their clients and customers. Little things like sending birthday cards, handwritten notes, little gifts, things in the mail, physical things go such a long way. People don’t even realize it. It’s the small things like making time for them on the phone, having somewhere that they can dialogue with people, giving them a call to see how they’re doing. These basic, basic things are a completely lost art. We have become so immersed in the tech. We are forgetting the humanity of doing business which can be our biggest, biggest advantage.
As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?
More than anything, what I’ve seen is that it’s more of that personal relationship. The more you put into being personal and nurturing the customers you have, the longer they’ll stay around. It’s based on the relationship versus the actual service or product. Building connections will pay you back tenfold. Treat your customers how you would want to be treated.
Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Getting more women to lead (and make a lot more money). If I can get more women to lead and be powerful leaders, they will influence more people than I could ever do alone.
You see, a lot of the problems in today’s world are caused by the wrong things being done with money. Money isn’t always used in the best means possible and when it can be in the hands of women with great intentions a lot of amazing things can (and will) happen.
My movement would be to get more women to lead, generate money and own assets while having the ability to make decisions that influence our world in a positive way.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I’m very intrigued by Tulsi Gabbard. She has a way of bridging the gap between the incredible partisan divide that we’re experiencing right now that other leaders should absolutely model. I would love to have a conversation with her! We need more leaders who like her have critical thinking and aren’t blindly following ideologies.
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!