Build A Moat; Keep The Tire Kickers Out

Tire kickers — people who ask for proposals without ever intending to buy from you — are wasting your time and dragging down your close rates.

If you could wave a magic wand and undo all the proposals you wrote for tire kickers (who never intended to purchase anyway), your overall close rate would go up, and you’d have saved a bunch of time.

Well, we don’t have a magic wand.

And we can’t go back in time to save you from writing those proposals.

But what we can do is protect Future You from time wasters, tire kickers, and proposal writing by building you a moat.

That’s one of the reasons I love selling paid discovery and project roadmaps. Roadmaps act as a moat, protect your time, and keep bad-fit clients away.

Once you’ve launched a roadmap service offering, it’s easy to position it as the recommended (or required) way to start working with you.

That way, when a lead or prospective client asks you for a proposal, you can politely nudge them onto the track with a short message about how you best work. Here’s an example of what you could say:

Thanks for asking for a proposal. Currently, the only way I start working with new clients is with {my roadmapping service}

Over the years, I’ve discovered that my client projects are much more successful when we start our work together with a small discovery-focused project to identify our target goals and outcomes and define our ongoing strategy before writing a proposal.

Beginning with an initial discovery project is what I’ve discovered works best for my clients, team, and business. As such, this is the only way I work with new clients.

If you’d like to get started working together, you can purchase {my roadmapping service} right here (<link>). Once you purchase, you’ll receive an email with the next steps to schedule our kickoff call.

Here’s the thing

Will some people object to your building a moat, selling roadmaps, and protecting your time? Absolutely.

But what I’ve discovered first-hand is that the people who get the angriest about your moat are the same tire kickers who ask you for proposals and then never end up buying what you’re selling.

So is it a bad thing if those non-buyers end up stuck on the opposite side of your moat from you?

I think it’s a win.

After all, when you start selling roadmapping:

  • You’ll save time
  • You’ll start selling strategy instead of implementation
  • You’ll get paid for what you’ve been doing for free all along (writing proposals)

If you’re wondering how you can get started selling roadmaps (and build a moat for your business), then you should check out Quick Start Roadmapping (

Quick Start Roadmapping has everything you need to start selling, running, and delivering strategy-focused roadmapping projects for your clients.

You’ll receive the book, email templates, questionnaire swipe files, video overviews, and more resources with your purchase.

Read more right here:



Specialization Alone Won’t Get You To Where You Want To Be

Today, a thought exercise. I want you to imagine a small but growing agency (“Tiny Nibble”) and think through their specialization, opportunities, and challenges.

To start, let’s say that Tiny Nibble has specialized and niched down on a specific market and expensive problem. With that, they’ve:

  • Picked a specific target market to focus on
  • Specialized in solving a specific expensive problem for their clients
  • Developed processes for a done-for-you service to solve that expensive problem for their clients (“We specialize in solving X in just three weeks for a flat, one-time fee”)
  • Focused on optimizing their processes and delivery so they can delight their clients

Altogether, is that enough to differentiate them from their competitors? Command higher rates? Succeed in their market? Grow and thrive?

I’m not confident that it is.

After all, what’s to stop one of Tiny Nibble’s competitors from:

  • Picking the same market
  • Specializing on a similar expensive problem
  • Developing a similar done-for-you service offering
  • Optimizing their processes and delivery to delight their clients

Sure, it might take them a year or two to get traction and grow. Still, once it happens, Tiny Nibble faces a challenging situation: their competitor is now offering a pretty identical service offering for the same market.

To a buyer, what are the differences between these two providers? They provide the same outcome, have similar positioning, have identical service offerings, and look mostly the same.

Tiny Nibble has become — alas! — a commodity.

What’s the most likely end-state of this commodity competition? Well, if Tiny Nibble and its competitors have similar positioning, specialization, and service offerings, then what’s left as a differentiator?


If so, good luck, and enjoy that quick race to the bottom 📉.

Remember Tiny Nibble’s marketing message?

We specialize in solving X in just three weeks for a flat, one-time fee

One challenge that Tiny Nibble is experiencing is that their positioning devolves down to:

“We do X for a fee!”

If your messaging is “We do X for a fee!” you have positioned yourself as a commodity in your market.

And if that’s the case, it’s elementary for a competitor to come in, play the Amazon card (“Your margin is my opportunity” — Jeff Bezos), copy what you’re doing well, and steal your profits.

How can you differentiate yourself from your competitors?

To stand out in a crowded/competitive market, attract clients, and differentiate yourself from your competitors, your need to show that your expertise goes far beyond just providing a service you specialize in.

You need to consider how else you provide value to your clients.

  • Because of your deep insight into and experience providing your services over the years, you can help your clients understand why they might need to take a particular approach (or not) for their project.
  • Because you understand the benefits (and costs) of different approaches, you can communicate with your clients about the various benefits they’ll experience or how a particular process will help given the current situation.

Phrased another way, to differentiate yourself, your need to start selling strategic services.

Selling strategic services is an excellent way to decommodify your business.

Instead of being just another pair of hands to handle implementation, you’re positioning yourself as someone who can both contribute strategic insight into how to best approach a project and who can address the done-for-you implementation.

And just like that, you’re no longer an apples-to-apples commodity comparison with your competitors. Because you offer strategy-as-a-service, you’re differentiating yourself from your competitors.

But how can you get started selling strategic services?

One of the best ways to start providing strategy-as-a-service is by selling project roadmaps as a service offering.

Project roadmaps are paid discovery & strategy projects sold at a fixed fee (no proposals required). You meet with the client, discuss their situation/problem/challenge, and define a strategic approach to solve their problem. (You’re most likely already doing most of this discovery and strategy work for free when you write a proposal or meet with a lead and talk through their situation.) 

When you start selling paid project roadmaps, you:

  • Capture the value of your strategy work
  • Differentiate yourself from your competitors
  • Position yourself as a high-value consultant

Want to get started selling strategic services and project roadmaps?

Read more about how to get started selling, running, and delivering project roadmaps right here:



What is Search UX?

When was the last time you’ve put yourself in your visitors’ shoes and checked out your website from their perspective? (i.e., searching for a keyword, looking at all the results, clicking your site, and looking at the landing page with fresh eyes)

Today I want to talk with you about an SEO concept I’m increasingly enamored with.

Search UX: the User Experience of searching, finding your website in the search results, taking a risk, clicking your link, and visiting your site.

It’s essential to think through the holistic experience for your visitor:

  • What keyword are you searching for?
  • What does your page title look like in the search results? Is it resonant and aligned? Or dissonant and confusing?
  • What rich results (like this) are showing for your page?
  • When they click, how fast does your page load for them?
  • When they first land on your page, are they presented with helpful information and a clear introduction? Or are they smacked in the face with countless pop-ups?
  • Are you sharing enough of the right information (along with a clear indication of what to do next) so that the visitor can feel they’ve found the information they’re looking for and conclude their search?

That’s what’s Search UX is.

Search UX is about both having a good-looking, fast site and having the right content so your visitor can think, “I’ve found what I’m looking for.”

Altogether, this means you need to think about Search Engine Optimization from the perspective of a visitor and in terms of design, layout, content, and technical SEO.

When I look at the landscape of Search Engine Optimization in The Year of our Lady Two Thousand and Twenty One, it’s increasingly apparent to me that Search UX matters.

After all, if your site is ugly, slow, and has the wrong information, why would Google want to show it to anyone?

One great way to get a professional opinion on your Search UX is with a Website Review ( Altogether, you’ll get:

  • A professional ‘second opinion’ about your website
  • Advice on what to fix along with any low-hanging fruit to improve your site
  • Feedback on your Search UX (and what to do to help Google love your site more)

Wondering what the experience has been like for others? Here’s what Jonathan Stark had to share about his Website Review:

What I discovered was that it turned out that every suggestion or constructive criticism that you gave was about something that I knew I had skimped on or was something that I was unsure of (or forgot to go back and fix!). Having a professional “second opinion” that reinforced my suspicions was super helpful. The actionable advice about how to fix certain deficiencies was icing on the cake! — Jonathan Stark

Why wait? Kick off the second half of 2021 with a professional review of your website AND your Search UX:



What marketing can you stick to on your worst day?

Everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the face. But do you have a plan for your marketing if you find yourself (metaphorically) punched in the face?

Put another way, what’s a tiny bit of marketing you can do (and keep doing) even on your worst day of the year?

What brought this question to mind was a great tweet from James Clear:

When choosing a new habit many people seem to ask themselves, “What can I do on my best days?”

The trick is to ask, “What can I stick to even on my worst days?”

Start small. Master the art of showing up. Scale up when you have the time, energy, and interest.

You want to think about a small, ongoing piece of marketing — a habit — you can have in place even on your worst days. Something you can get in place and then keep in place for the long haul.

That way, you’ll know that you’re keeping up with your marketing and keeping your streak unbroken, even on the bad days.

So, your turn. I’m curious about what comes to your mind as a small marketing habit.

It could be something you’re already practicing or something you’re thinking about starting. Some tiny, atomic bit of marketing you can keep going even when you (metaphorically) get punched in the face.

Tap reply and let me know. I’ll share mine later this week, along with a few (shared with permission) reader responses.



Grit and Stick-with-it-ness

Let’s recap:

  1. You need leads. To get leads, you need marketing. To market consistently, you need habits around your marketing.
  2. The best way to build a habit is to have a documented repeatable process you can follow.
  3. An SOP is a great container for your process. It’s a living document you can read, execute, and update over time.

To succeed with your habit, you gotta have all the parts in place. Let’s set an example goal and talk about how to make a habit:

  • Your Goal: have a hot content summer
  • Your Process: publish and promote one Twitter thread and one email each week for July and August
  • Your SOP: how you’ll research, plan, write, and promote your content each week this summer

How do you make a habit and achieve your goal? You put in the time and do the work. Follow your SOP. Make the content. Publish and promote it. Repeat.

Don’t break the chain. Put in the time, don’t worry about the results. Focus on what’s under your control (doing the thing). Don’t worry about what’s out of your control (results depending on someone else).

  • Publish one thread/week, don’t worry about getting followers
  • Write 250 words/day, don’t worry about getting subscribers
  • Pitch 1 podcast/day, don’t worry about getting onto podcasts

And as with any habit, remember to be kind to yourself. Somedays, all you can do is show up and do the bare minimum (e.g., putting on your running shoes and then taking them off, walking into the gym and then turning around and driving home).

Those days still count. The streak is unbroken. On to the next day.

In other news, Juneteenth is now a federal holiday. About damn time.

Let me wish you an early ‘Happy Juneteenth Day.’



Marketing Habits, Matryoshka Dolls, and SOPs

How do you get better at a marketing habit? The trick is realizing you’ve got three things stacked together like a Russian nesting doll:

  1. The core habit you’re looking to build (e.g., guest on 2-3 podcasts/month). This is the vision, the goal, and or the outcome you’re working towards.
  2. The process you’re following to execute on that habit. These are the steps you’re taking when you execute your habit (e.g., research podcasts, find an email address, send intro email, repeat tomorrow).
  3. The specific tactical steps you’re following within that process This is the Standard Operating Procedure ( you follow when you’re working on executing on your habit.

With me so far?

These three pieces are stacked inside each other, like a nesting Matryoshka Doll (Russian Doll/Stacking Doll). You’ve got the core habit (e.g., get on podcasts), but inside that you’ve got the general process you’re following, and inside that you’ve got your specific Standard Operating Procedure.

Why is the process or SOP necessary?

First, separating these three bits gives you clarity on what to work on, optimize, or fix. Have you picked a habit? Do you have clarity on your process for your habit? Have you written an SOP? If you’re missing one of those pieces, you’ll struggle with your habit.

If you’re running into friction or not seeing the outcomes you want, it might be that the habit you’ve picked is the wrong one for your market or it might be that your process or SOP for the habit is janky or half-baked. If that’s the case, instead of thinking, ‘UGH. Time to switch habits,’ you can start to investigate improving your process for that habit.

Second, SOPs give you a repeatable playbook to follow. When it’s time to execute a marketing habit, you can open up your SOP and follow the process.

That means when you sit down to work, you won’t have to spend time remembering/figuring out what exactly you need to do. Instead, your SOP gives you a checklist-esq process to follow that you can iterate/optimize/refine over time.

Let’s say that you’ve decided to follow my advice from Chapter 4 of Get More Leads (, and you’re building a Content Beachhead (a collection of articles/videos to reach and attract your ideal clients on a platform they spend time on).

In that case, creating your Content Beachhead is your core habit.

Executing that habit will focus on researching your audience, creating the content they’re looking for, and then publishing/promoting your content.

That’s the process you’re following.

To make that process as easy as possible for you to follow and execute, you’ll want to document the steps you’re taking each time you execute on that habit.

That’s your Standard Operating Procedure (aka, the three sexiest words in the English language 😏).

When it’s time to work on and execute your habit, you won’t need to spend time remembering what to do. Instead, you can pick up your Standard Operating Procedure, remind yourself of the steps to take, and then get to work on your habit.

What I love about this division is that it provides clarity on what to work on optimizing when stuff goes wrong:

  • Are you struggling to execute your habit? Work on improving your process to know what steps you need to take.
  • Are you executing on your habit, but it’s taking longer than you’d like? See if you can refine your Standard Operating Procedure, so your process takes less time moving forward.
  • Are you executing on your habit but aren’t seeing results? If you’re doing the thing, executing on your process, and shipping, but it isn’t working, think about if you’ve picked the right habit for your target market. It might be that you refine your habit to reach your target market better.



How do you get started building a marketing habit?

How do you get started building (or rebuilding) marketing habits? Better yet, what can you do to make those habits as easy as possible for future you to stick with?

Well, first, you need to pick a habit to work on. Maybe that’s doing some podcast outreach or creating a content beachhead to engage with your market where they already are (more on that inside Get More Leads

No matter which approaches you decide on, you want to end up with ~1-3 regular marketing activities that you’re engaging in and building up as a habit. Some will stick for the long-haul; others will fade away after a few months, giving you room for new habits.

Alright, that gives you the big picture focus. But what about implementation? How do you avoid (or overcome) the challenges that come up when you get started working on these marketing habits?

To dethorn that rose, you want to take a few minutes and write down some notes (and answer a few questions) about the marketing habits you’re attempting to build. Here are the questions I like thinking through:

  • What are you attempting to do?
  • What would a small success look like?
  • What resources will you need?
  • What challenges might you run into?
  • How much time do you need to set aside (and how often) to work on this habit?
  • What could go wrong (and what will you do to get back on track)?

Together, your answers to these questions start to give you a plan for building a marketing habit.

But how can you make those habits as easy as possible to build and stick with, even when the going gets tough (or the brain gets distracted)? More on that topic in tomorrow’s letter.



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