Episode 114: How to Start, Stay, and Grow in Business

Robyn joins the podcast to discuss the personal evolution required to grow a business successfully


Building a business is an ongoing journey. Robyn joins the podcast to discuss the personal evolution required to grow a business successfully.
Robyn Sayles is the CEO and Founder of Launching Your Success. For more than 16 years, she worked in corporate training and sales for big corporations. Now, she helps ambitious entrepreneurs launch the success of their companies, teams, and projects using the power of a personal brand.


Chris: (01:27) Robyn, welcome to the podcast. Glad to have you on. How are you doing?
Robyn: 01:31 I am wonderful. Thank you so much for having me.
Chris: 01:34 Yes yes. I’m excited to have you on. Of course I had the privilege to meet you in Tampa, right?
Robyn: 01:43 Yeah.
Chris: 01:44 Wow. All the study halls are just blending together in my mind. It was such a good crowd and I know that you are one of my a-ha folks and I absolutely love all of my a-ha folks. And that is somebody who’s listening and the nugget, they catch it, and it’s like hey wait a minute. It makes sense.
Robyn: 02:08 We did. I could barely contain myself. I had such big a-ha moments in the back of the room.
Chris: 02:13 Yes, I love it. So give our listeners a little bit of insight on as a person and what your business is.
Robyn: 02:20 Sure. I run a company called Launching Your Success. We focus on brand and communications coaching, and training. I’m particularly interested in and focused on the intersection of where personal brand meets performance. And so because I have 16 plus years in corporate learning and development, sales, and sales management, I tend to work with sales and customer service teams on the corporate end because they really understand the impact of personal brand on performance and the value of differentiating yourself in competitive market places. And then with one on one coaching, it’s usually with small business owners, entrepreneurs, content creators, people who have big ideas. Like big community changing, world changing ideas that they haven’t quite figured out how to articulate their message in a way that connects with that ideal client. And so I really help them get super clear on their value that they bring to the table, and communicating that in a way that really fits their authentic voice rather than putting together something that feels scripted or kitschy.
Robyn: 03:44 We go for timeless storytelling and brand messaging rather than flashy trends, and just really get to the heart of helping people connect with their ideal client. I tell people all the time, I don’t care how super weird or bizarre or ultra niched your area of expertise is, there is literally somebody on Google right now looking for you. So my job is to help you figure out the right words and phrases that are going to catch the attention of that person who’s already looking for you.
Chris: 04:21 Yeah, and it’s becoming more and more important. Because like you said, that person is looking for you, and when they find you, you need to connect with them immediately through what they experienced on your website. Tell me this Robyn, was this something you can trace back to your younger years and say hey I’ve always been passionate about design and story, and just I didn’t know what that looked like? What were some of the previous years? What do they look like for you?
Robyn: 04:49 Sure. You know I used to joke that sometimes if you looked at my resume, on paper it didn’t make sense, but now I think it absolutely does make sense. Because the through line running through all of it is communication and understanding how people communicate and relate to one another, and being able to get ideas across effectively. So before I was in corporate I was in retail doing customer service in your local friendly neighborhood mall. And then before that I briefly was in journalism, so I was an editorial assistant for what we call a weekly tabloid paper. So not your daily newspaper, but the thing that comes out at the end of the week that tells people where to go and what to do. That was a lot of fun and I learned a lot about communicating quickly and concisely in that job. And before that I was an actor. I was a theater major in high school and college. And out of college we had a theater troupe. We did a weekly improv show. And we also did performance art theater at renaissance fairs and street festivals. So our specialty was being able to interact with the public and pull them in and make them a part of the production. And I tell people constantly that my improv training has served me way better than any formal business training I’ve ever received.
Chris: 06:27 And you know what, it’s funny the intangibles that, I don’t want to say you pick up, but the intangibles that are revealed to you that you have along your journey. You could be in, like you said, in a corporate setting, retail, whatever, and whether it be a hobby on the side or just something, it will illuminate something in you that you’re like oh, wait a minute. I never thought of that. And for me, I had a similar path where it’s just like I looked at my resume for years and was just like what does electrical engineering have to do with marketing automation? I’m like, what is the connecting point? And it took a while. And one day somebody asked me, as I was explaining what I did, they just kind of looked at me and was like “Oh, so you’ve always been in automation.” And I was like, “Oh I guess you’re right.” It has, it just changed. I went from programming missiles to business but it’s the same logical approach. And then in that, one of the things that drove me away from engineering was the lack of connection. I really like connecting with people. So that is another one of those intangibles that … You can’t teach somebody connection. You can give somebody pointers but some people are natural connectors.
Chris: 07:47 So just picking all of these things up about yourself along the way and then you realize a vehicle that you can put it in that’s valuable for others to consume and engage with, it’s amazing.
Robyn: 07:59 It’s so much fun. And especially when you figure out how to pick and choose the right puzzle pieces to craft a career for yourself. Every day I wake up and I’m like cool, what’s the universe going to throw at me today?
Chris: 08:14 Yes. So Robyn tell me this, we all know, all the listeners know, and all the business owners know that there’s that point in your journey where you’re just like you know what, maybe I miscalculated this thing. Like as much as I enjoy the branding, the story piece communicating, maybe I’ll just go back to A, or maybe I’ll just start doing B, or maybe I’ll just quit all together and pick up C. Can you tell us what that point was for you in your business journey?
Robyn: 08:45 Sure. My best friend jokes that what’s going to be written on my tombstone when I die is, maybe this’ll work. Because that’s kind of how I approach everything. When I started this business … August will be the five year mark for Launching Your Success.
Chris: 09:04 Wow, congratulations.
Robyn: 09:06 Thank you. And when I started I really expected and I built the business around workshops about being the lead seller, if you will. Like that’s the thing I lead with. That’s the thing that I’m going to get the most bites off of, that’s the most work I’m going to do because I really understood that world. I was the person running training departments in the corporate world and I understood what it was like to bring in a facilitator from the outside. I understood having to go through legal authorization and accounting protocols and all of the things you have to go through in order to bring somebody like me into your organization. And so I have the benefit of that as I now pitch myself to these organizations. And I just really think that there is nothing … E-learning and mobile learning will never replace classroom training, because there’s a special kind of magic when you put a group of people in a room together and have them working towards a common goal. And you just can’t replicate that in a virtual setting.
Robyn: 10:15 So I really expected that that was going to be the bread and butter and it would allow me to hold space to do some one on one coaching on the side. And as my business has evolved over the years about two and a half years into it I just had more and more people coming to me wanting coaching. And then I had originally set it up on this sort of one and done type of service. And then I had my first coaching client go “Well how do I keep working with you?” And I was like, “I don’t know. Let’s figure it out.” And now all of the sudden the scales of my business have tipped almost completely where a majority of what I do is one on one coaching. And although workshops are still a large part and still certainly they represent the biggest financial piece of the pie, those sale cycles are so long and I don’t have the stress of keeping that pipeline intensely full, because I have all these wonderful coaching opportunities and now we’re coming up with new products and solutions for these content creators and these entrepreneurs and these world changers beyond just coaching.
Robyn: 11:37 And so the more I get to work with individuals and figure out how we’re uniquely qualified to help them, the more our services are expanding on the one on one side much more than I ever would have imagined that they would.
Chris: 11:55 Wow. So you were engaged with, and very much intentional with your shifts in your business with respect to the feedback in which you were seeing in the market.
Robyn: 12:09 Mm-hmm (affirmative). When people tell you what you are, you should listen to them.
Chris: 12:14 Absolutely.
Robyn: 12:17 That was a big lesson for me to learn. My clients were basically saying, this is what you are to us, this is what we need from you. And I was like no, but I do workshops.
Chris: 12:26 Yes, right. It’s the classic battle of how I want you to see me and how you’re seeing me. Sometimes the pride, the entrepreneurial pride, will not allow someone to hear how people are seeing them because they’re so sold on being who they want their audience to see them as. And you don’t lose. You don’t lose with listening to your audience and understanding what they’re saying, because in that they are. They’re saying hey look, I have a problem and I see you as the solution to it. And that’s literally what we’re in business for.
Robyn: 13:08 Yeah. And it was certainly a moment of drinking my own Kool-Aid as well. I had to bring in somebody else to do for me what I do for other people. Because we can’t hold that mirror up to ourselves, we’re too close to it.
Chris: 13:23 Yeah, I think that’s a really great point. And it’s no knock, I know a lot of people struggle with that. Because it requires some transparency, some vulnerability in a sense, but at the end of the day not so much because how can you expect to be able to see you better than someone from the outside? Like you said, you’re too close. And a lot of times Robyn that’s the one piece that I see hold a lot of people back. They could be great at marketing. They could be great at this. So since they think they’re great at it, they try to be great at it in their business. And it’s like you know what? You’re actually greater at someone else doing it, and you providing direction. When it comes to you-
Robyn: 14:05 Absolutely.
Chris: 14:06 Right.
Robyn: 14:07 Yeah. I am not much of a sports fan. But I find sports analogies to have the most universal appeal. And so whenever I’m working with a business owner … Business owners in particular and entrepreneurs, when they’re struggling with this, I’m like who is your favorite sports athlete? Because I guarantee you they have a coach.
Chris: 14:28 That’s right.
Robyn: 14:28 And they still practice. There’s still somebody who is holding them accountable for their skillset. I don’t care how much money Kobe Bryant made or Lebron James, or whoever is the leading baseball start at the moment, it doesn’t matter, they still have to practice. Somebody’s still holding their feet to the fire. Somebody’s still helping them sharpen their saw. And so why do we in the information business space think that we’re any different?
Chris: 15:04 I agree. Everybody needs a coach, and everybody needs someone else to help them build their business. You just have to have it. And it’s one of the hardest thing because for me I know personally, I understand all the tech, and one of the biggest things for me to let go Robyn was my website. It was just like … But I know exactly how I want it coded on the backend. I want it to be able to this. But when I realized, you know what? I’ve got to be the quarterback here. I have to be the quarterback here and call the plays, and put other players in position to take it to the end zone for me. Instead of me saying “Hey, I have it all. I’m going to throw it, then I’m going to catch it, and then when I catch it, I’m going to run.”
Robyn: 15:56 In the moment it sounds like the right idea. It sounds totally reasonable as the right idea. And then once you get far enough away from it, like once you step back and you can see the forest for the trees you realize how ridiculous it sounds. Like why did I possible think that I could and should do all of this? And then when you break down the numbers of it. For me, I guess because I have a sales background, you could give me all of the emotional and rational arguments in the world, but I had to break down this is what my time is worth per hour and if I’m spending an hour toying around with some piddly detail on a website or on a marketing email, is that really the best use of my time? How am I going to recoup that expense instead of hiring someone else to come in and do it? And that’s the only thing that they have to worry about. They don’t have to worry about the 15 other things that I have to worry about in that same hour. And I can go apply my time and my value to the things that I’m good at. And create more time to help more people.
Chris: 17:00 Yeah. I think calculating the value of your time is one of the best exercises anybody can do because it’s one step closer to understanding your value and communicating it effectively. A lot of times when people struggle with pricing, when they struggle with positioning, and flat out asking for the sale, it comes from that. Just a lack of understanding the value of your time. And when you know it, like you said, you’re like wait a minute, on average based on my client work, and the amount of time it takes for me to complete projects and the amount of revenue that I make I’m at about $150 per hour. Now if you knew that and someone says “Hey, I just wanted to pick your brain, can I take you out for coffee? You know what, I’ll even give you $50.” You immediately know, wait a minute, $50 for an hour with this person that may not transact into anything bigger, or stay focused on projects that are paying me $150 or more. I think it’s a great exercise. It’s a great exercise that everybody should do or at least have done once in business. Anybody that has done it will probably say yes, I’m glad I did it too Robyn and Chris. I’m glad.
Robyn: 18:15 I hope so. And it’s certainly something that I keep bringing in more and more. Even with creators that I work with. It was an obvious thing to bring in in working with business owners and entrepreneurs, but I find that I’m bringing it in with creators as well to help them see the value of delegating and saving their time for the things that they’re naturally built to be gifted at. And use their time a little more wisely.
Chris: 18:47 Yeah. It’s just amazing. I just had this vision Robyn, as you were talking. Now you’ve got me in the sports field. And it’s like, internal to ActiveCampaign we had Bill Joy. He was on the podcast too and he talked about coaching and how to be coachable. His term was coachability, how to be coachable and how to coach others. And as we’re talking, I do, I see a progression in business from the player to the quarterback to the coach to the owner. And some people will make it all the way to the owner where they have everybody kind of doing everything for them, that’s fine. Some people, maybe they stay in the player mode. Some people make it to the quarterback, some people make it to the coach. Whatever level that you desire to operate in your business, the same is required of you. And that is of course additional help and to understand the model. Understand the best model for you to be able to operate in your zone, in your zone of genius. And be willing to say no and let go of those things that don’t benefit you.
Chris: 19:54 Robyn, I have to admit, I have enjoyed this. This was not my topic Robyn. I promise. I wanted to talk about email open rates, but this has been so good and I think that a lot of times in mediums like this it’s better to just kind of let the flow go. And I think that you said a lot of things already that maybe I didn’t realize that our listeners needed to hear so I’m glad. And thank you for kind of going with the flow with me in that aspect. But, I do want to stay true. I want to stay true to what we agreed upon. And Robyn I was able to again, connect with you at the study hall. And you had an a-ha moment and you were able to take that, put it into practice, and get some results. I just wanted you to share with the listeners what that was.
Robyn: 20:45 Sure. So the timing worked out brilliant. Myself and my chief collaborator who does a lot of copywriting and things for me, we were both in attendance at the Tampa Study Hall. And it was about two weeks out from when we were going to launch a pretty big campaign. So I had a large speaking engagement and we wanted to offer some resources and get people to take advantage of them right away. And so we started with a text opt in, an SMS opt in, and then we had four emails immediately behind that and then a fifth later follow up email. And based on what we learned in the study hall, I think the first big a-ha where I literally threw my fists up into the air in the back of the room was you were enlightening us about open rates and how you’re always going to have your best open rate on that first email and then it’s going to go down from there.
Robyn: 21:56 And we had originally had our follow up email structured so that it was more of a sort of bland, thank you so much, blah, blah, blah. If you’ll forgive the term, our first email that we were going to send was a nothing burger. And then … Oh I was telling you guys about concept of the pickle. I picked that up from my retail days. So you when you order a sandwich at the restaurant, they don’t tell you it’s going to come with a pickle, and then the plate arrives and on the plate with your sandwich is a slice of pickle, and it’s a nice little surprise. And so in customer service we used to talk about what’s the pickle? How can we give people the pickle? The thing that they weren’t expecting and they get to enjoy along with whatever it was that they purchased or subscribed to. And so for me I wanted to make sure that I gave this particular audience a pickle. And we were going to do it in our second email, and then after hearing that bit about open rates and how you should really have your best content in that first email because that’s the one that’s going to get the biggest open rate, we flipped our order of the emails and we put the pickle in the first email. So I’m looking at our stats and that first email has a 64% open rate.
Chris: 23:17 Wow.
Robyn: 23:18 Yeah.
Chris: 23:22 Wow. I love it.
Robyn: 23:23 And then we expected them to take a nose dive, but I have to tell you we got so excited after attending study hall. We were like, let’s reevaluate everything. Let’s look at the copy in each email. So across all five emails we maintained an average open rate of 45%, which was totally unexpected.
Chris: 23:47 Love it. Love it. And just to provide just a little insight to get the whole story, come out to study hall everybody. Activecampaingn.com/events.
Robyn: 23:58 Oh my God, I tell everybody go. If it’s coming to your town go.
Chris: 24:02 Yes. Because it was one of those things where it is often overlooked, but it is. We frame it as you’re buying people’s attention. You’re giving them something of free value and in return they’re giving you their attention. And how you capitalize or cash in on that attention is whatever information you’ve requested. So it’s an email. So if I have captured your email address, at that point of capture I have the most attention you will ever give me. That’s just what it is. The excitement is at an all time high at that point. So dare I waste that attention on what you qualified as a nothing burger email. It only deflates … There’s this curve that we talk about, it’s either a cliff or a slope. A smooth ski slope. And your engagement is either going to drop dramatically or it’s going to have a smooth taper. And for you Robyn, it seems like you guys have found that smooth hill taper where it’s not so dramatic from like 55 to 30 to 10. It doesn’t drop below 45, so that is amazing.
Robyn: 25:17 Yeah. And so we’re also looking at email number four dipped the lowest. And so now that’s a big indicator to us, okay let’s go look at the content of email number four and figure out what they didn’t like about it. Because it went back up again for email number five, so clearly something. Email number four was our offer email. And I think maybe for this particular audience the offer was a bit too hard for lack of a better term. Maybe we could have had a softer offer, or made the benefits of the offer a bit more compelling. Because they’re not disengaged with us, they were just disengaged with the content of that email. Because email number five the open rates went back up again. So that tells us a lot about the content and the context of our emails that we’re going to start dissecting going forward. I also want to make sure I share the other big a-ha that we got from the ActiveCampaign Study Hall, was letting people binge content. And I really attribute that to our successful open rates as well because we were going to have this stuff drip out day one, day two, day three. And when we heard you go why make them wait, we were like, why would we make them wait?
Robyn: 26:48 And I think it was particularly impactful because this was over the course of a conference, and so I spoke on the first day of the conference, but then I was still around engaging with these folks for the next two days. And I literally had people flag me down in the hallways and go “Oh my God, I’ve been loving all of the emails.” They were consuming them on the spot.
Chris: 27:12 I love it.
Robyn: 27:14 And so we got immediate feedback and then even at a meeting like a month later I had a person shout across a table “Oh my God, I’m loving all of your content.” They had been through the whole email series. So that was a huge one for us. And we’re completely … Not only are we reevaluating email campaigns going forward to make sure that we’ve got that bingable element and we’ve got our pickle in the very first email, but we’re going back at previously created automations and going okay, can we retrofit these to make them more bingable, make the content a little more consumable?
Chris: 28:01 Yeah. No, that’s great. And again it’s one of those things as marketers, we have to commit to two things. One is always understanding the shifts of the market. What is happening within our society, within our market, that is influencing people’s behavior? And then two, looking at our marketing. Measuring it to optimize. You saw, hey four drops and five comes back up. So that means it’s not that they’re not interested in what we have to say, it’s just whatever we’re saying in that one email that we have to fine tune. That’s the magic. That is it. I mean a lot of people look for a one stop shop in marketing, and it’s not. It’s a journey, and it’s an evolution, and it’s ongoing. And you’re always tweaking, you’re always learning, you’re always shifting, you’re always measuring, and you’re always optimizing based on what you measure.
Chris: 28:56 Robyn, this has been absolutely … I knew it was going to be. I knew it was going to this Robyn. I knew it. But if people want to find out more about you and your business and connect with you, where can they go?
Robyn: 29:09 They can go to launchingyoursuccess.com, and I am also all over social media at either @launch_success or @robynsayles. R-O-B-Y-N S-A-Y-L-E-S.
Chris: 29:24 Great. And I’m going to give you a shameless plug here. Everybody when you go to her website I want you to pay special attention to how the design and the messaging are aligned. Okay, that’s all I’m going to say. But just make special note of it, because in short I think this is a trend that Robyn’s website embodies that we are going to start to see more of as we see more people capitalize on story branding online using their website. So hats off to you Robyn and team for doing such an amazing job on your website.
Robyn: 30:00 Thank you so much Chris.
Chris: 30:02 Yes. And thank you for coming on. Again this was great. I really appreciate you talking the time out to come on. It was great connecting with you in Tampa and even greater now that we have you on the podcast forever. This is history.
Robyn: 30:14 Yay. It was so fun. Thank you for having me.
Chris: 30:16 Yes. Thank you and I’ll see you online Robyn.
Robyn: 30:19 Thank you.