What’s the next big step after the billion-dollar idea? When it comes to building a sturdy foundation for your business, it is important to work out the logistics in your follow-through. How detailed is your implementation going to be? And will it correspond with your original intention from when you first started out? Business expert Nicole Holland shares the secrets on how to leverage your existing resources and properly execute your vision.Nicole was named by The Huffington Post as one of the 50 must follow women entrepreneurs in 2017. Her diverse work expertise has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur and The Huffington Post. She is known for helping brick and mortar businesses connect with their ideal markets.
Executing Your Billion-Dollar Idea With Nicole Holland
Our guest is a business expert who was named by Huffington Post as one of the 50 Must-Follow Women Entrepreneurs in 2017 with features in Forbes, Entrepreneur and the Huffington Post. She is known for helping brick and mortar businesses connect with their ideal markets. She is here to share her hard-won wisdom with you. Welcome, Nicole Holland.
Thank you so much, Mitch, for having me. It’s such a pleasure to be here.
We both made a new friend because we have a lot in common.
It’s been so fun talking with you and I’m excited to see what we get into.
Nicole, I’m very excited about your story because I know you have an incredible story. Let’s go back to the beginning and tell us how all of this started for you in business.
It is a long story. I was born to be an entrepreneur and we hear this a lot. I always had a big personality. I always had a vision. There are pictures of me in diapers serving tea to other kids that are sitting at my little play table. I loved creating experiences for people my entire life and I loved being the ringleader, the master, if you will. “I know this is how I can make this great for everybody.” That beingness, that’s just who I came out in the world to be, and it carried with me throughout my childhood into school. I would do different projects about helping people, awareness, and teaching. I would want people to have a takeaway experience from whatever production I put together, whether it was in sixth grade where I did a presentation on childhood cancer because my little brother had cancer. All of the things I learned about what it’s like and the biases, I put it into a presentation. I was very clear, when people see this presentation, this is what I want them to take away. I would organize events and things like that. That went right through my childhood and into my teens.
Then life became a little bit real. I didn’t have the greatest home life. I didn’t know that I didn’t have a great home life because it was just normal, but there was a lot of abuse. There was a lot of stress and turmoil, and I eventually couldn’t take it anymore. I learned to manipulate my situation from a very young age to make things better for me. I never did anything bad. I’ve worked later on with young offenders and kids who’ve been in crisis situations and I always used to teach them like, “You are a master manipulator because you’ve had to be. You’ve had to navigate your circumstances, but let’s reframe and use your manipulative powers for good and not evil.” That’s how I feel like I was able to manage and deal with a lot of situations that came up because of my experience and getting through them. When I was sixteen years old, something happened in my household and I saw it as an opportunity to get out. I wound up getting emancipated and moving out on my own. At that point, at sixteen years old I was trying to finish high school. I was living on my own. I had bills to pay. I had a fulltime job. I wound up living in a not great part of town and there were drugs and guns and some scary stuff that I wasn’t used to and expecting. I just couldn’t hack it and I wound up dropping out of high school in eleventh grade and managing my life and getting by.
For a number of years, I lost a lot of myself in that it wasn’t about doing what I enjoyed, it was doing what needed to get done in order to survive. I was in survival mode for quite some time. Then I got out of survival mode, still fairly young. I lived a lot of life in my early years. By the time I was 23, I figured out a way that I could start my own business. I had been working overseas. I was doing corporate training. I love creating experiences and I love creating quality experiences. As I was working for others as a freelancer, I realized I can do this better. I can give a client a better experience, I can provide higher quality of resources, and I can do it for a fraction of the price of what these people who I’m working for are charging. I started freelancing. I wound up starting my own boutique, a corporate training firm, and built a business overseas. I left that business when I decided to come back to North America and then wound up getting a diploma in massage therapy and a life coaching and all these things. I started a holistic practice. That was fine, but then I wound up moving again. Basically, without all the detail, that’s how I lived my life for a long time.
Are you 90? How did you do all that?
I’m actually 42 but into my 30s, and then I wound up. One thing led to another, and I loved working with young people who were angry and had troubled backgrounds because I could relate to them and so I could help them to have a better life. I can inspire them. That I took a real liking to, and I wound up doing coaching with youth and families for a while in communication. “It doesn’t have to be this difficult. Let’s find a way that everybody’s needs can be met,” and stuff like that. That’s what came out of the coaching. Then I wound up taking on a job and I was in jobs then for many years until I quit in December of 2014 and started my business here. When I quit, I just knew I had to come back to getting back to me and to helping people win and have an experience of life that they enjoy, that makes them happy, and that brings them prosperity. It has evolved over the last few years since I started. I wound up coaching around marketing and bringing people together and becoming a trusted advisor to specific marketing strategies like podcast guesting and coming full circle to where I’m consulting now and helping business owners, listening to them and what their needs are, and helping them develop a plan of execution based on their strengths and their target objectives.
Nicole, your background is a telltale sign of an entrepreneur searching for the highest level of fulfillment, which is a little bit about what I talked about in the introduction, how we’re all in the enterprise of discovering and fulfilling our greatest desires. That’s what I see you having done in this path that you’ve been on since high school, since having to eject yourself from a family situation, as horrible as that can be. Literally, having to deal with it immediately, you didn’t have time to mope and worry about what color your iPhone case is going to be. You had business to conduct at sixteen. That’s pretty amazing and my hat is off to you. Understand that I say it out of respect because I know if you solve those problems at that age that you could probably solve any problem anybody brings you. That to me is wisdom and I’m thrilled to hear that part of your story.
Thank you so much.
One of the things that we talked about in your introduction was the thing that you do now specifically for helping brick and mortar businesses connect with your ideal markets. That’s exciting because certainly we have some brick and mortar retailers listening to the show and I know that what you’re about to tell us is probably applicable to almost any business owner who’s listening now. I can’t wait to hear you explain exactly how retailers can better connect with your ideal markets. Would you like to give us a little lesson on that?
It applies to any business owner. A lot of times we come to see problems that we need to solve from a headstrong place of, “If I figure this out, then.” It’s a very strong doing space of problem and looking for a solution. After we identify what the problem they perceive to be is, like not getting enough leads, not getting enough people in the door, not getting enough whatever, then it’s like taking a snapshot. “Here’s where things are right now.” Then we dig into the mission of the company. We dig into the strength of the company. We dig into what makes them stand out and what makes them different from others rather than looking at competition at this point in a way of, “The competition is doing this, and this one’s doing this and this is what we’re doing.” In a comparison model, it’s more about, “Let’s go inward,” and focused on, “What about you? What was that passion? Why did you start this business? What was your intention all along?” We come back to the basics because, as business owners, we can get so caught up in the running of the day-to-day stuff and putting out fires and dealing with what is that we lose sight oftentimes of our original mission. Revisiting that and saying how much of this is applicable today is very telling. From there we start looking at what matters most. Oftentimes, people get caught up in keeping up with the Joneses or keeping up with what other people are doing and forget what their big mission is.
I’ll speak about service providers, maybe not retail so much, but service providers who offer packages of their photography or their design work and stuff like that. They may be undercutting themselves because they’re looking to get that client in a comparison shopping situation. I try and help them to look at what do they want. Let’s strive for the goal. Let’s look at what would be the best outcome and the best scenario, rather than looking at how can we win, and staying that course and focusing on how we get only what we want and say no in an empowered way to anything that’s not what we want. That’s scary. That’s hard for business owners, especially when you have the reality of all of your overhead, etc. Based on those things, once we uncover what we want, then we can look at branding, packaging, and at marketing. How are you getting out there? Where are your ideal customers and clients spending their time? How can you get their attention? That may be through different social media channels, that may be through publicity, or that may be through podcast guesting. Podcasting is a huge thing right now. In my opinion, there’s no one right way that’s going to work for everybody. It’s very custom. When we get into thinking that we have to do it this particular way because this person who’s an expert in teaching is telling us that in all of these people are succeeding, it doesn’t necessarily mean we should be doing it.
Let’s go a little bit deeper here. Let’s say somebody has a retail store or has a business and they are serving a bunch of clients. In my world, the first thing that I would do is I would try to understand what the highest value or the purpose of the individual is. In this case, if it were a retailer, I would say, “Why did you go into business? What was it that you were trying to accomplish?” Once they explained that, I would say, “Great. Let’s see if we can match up your highest purpose and your highest abilities with the exact people who need those.” It is in that process that in many cases you could take a retail environment that is very general and appeal to very specific people and having them find even micro markets in that community that would be a good match for the store. In my opinion, it starts with understanding that core purpose, that core mission, and then putting it out there in the form of the way you either communicate or market. In my world we use radio a lot, but a lot of people think they’re too small to use radio. Clearly, you have some experience here. What do you think about that?
We’re on same page there. If you’re not speaking your truth in your business, in your life and anywhere, then you’re getting a lot of static. It’s the same in radio. If you want to be heard, you need to tune the dial to the exact frequency. If you’re putting out a message that’s not tuned into that frequency but you’re trying to reach the people listening to that frequency, then you’re just static-y. By getting clear on that, you then figure out what’s that highest value to your ideal customer or client and then speak to them on their channel. What’s in it for them? Why are you the best and not only the best, the only business that they should be considering for this? What makes you their must-have? When you identify that and you know what their language is and what their desires are, there’s no end to the different ways that you can serve them. It is again coming back to what matters most to you and what matters most to the people you want to attract most.
There are some distinct advantages to having a local retail operation over somebody who’s marketing only on the internet. I’ll give you a few that I’ve thought of. I’m sure you have many. I had a chiropractor buddy of mine and he was struggling to get clients. I said to him, “Are you ready to do a little hard work here?” He goes, “What do you mean?” I said, “It’s going to cost you $100 and a couple of hours of your time for every day for the next five days. Are you willing to do the work?” He goes, “Sure. Just tell me what to do.” I said, “Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to print up a coupon that says, ‘Free chiropractic examination and adjustments. Come to this office and here’s the address.’ At that point, I want you to print up 300 or so of these flyers. I want you to go out every day and put them in mailboxes up and down the retail neighborhoods that surround your office.” He goes, “Yeah. I’d be willing to do that.” I said, “Good.” That’s what he did and that costs $100. He got his kid to help and they had some fun with it. In a matter of a few weeks, he had five or six new clients. There’s got to be a dozen things like that that you can do locally to help people identify and then reached your target market. Any other ideas?
There are hundreds of things like that. It’s funny because big marketing companies now are focusing on fads a lot of times without remembering what it’s all about at the end of the day. The first marketing book I read as a teenager when I realized that’s what I wanted to do, it’s a full circle because there are many different paths they took in different ways, but it’s Guerrilla Marketing. If you can think out of the box, if you can think about, “Who’s that client I want to reach? Who’s that customer I want to reach? Who’s that person that I want coming into my store every day, all day, the same person, different faces, different names? Who is that perfect person that is going to just love me so much and be so loyal and never go anywhere else?” there are so many ways to reach them. A lot of it is that out of the box grassroots connection. People are craving that more now than ever before because of all the internet and fast pace. People still want that human connection. If you have a brick and mortar, you have such an advantage over the internet. However, people oftentimes get caught up in the messaging and the stories and the news and all that.
I was at the National Retail Federation Retail’s Big Show. It was their 107th Annual Conference. I believe there were 36,000 people there. It was amazing. It was cool because what we’re learning is that technology is giving retailers more of an opportunity to connect with people at a deeper level and serve them in a more personal way. Whereas a lot of times people think technology is the end of the retail industry and technology is putting us out of the business, it’s not true. It doesn’t have to be like that. When you know what your highest value is, when you know who the perfect person is, how you want to connect with them, how you can serve them best, and you uncover what’s going to keep them coming back, you can leverage different types of technology and new media to get their attention and keep their attention.
To add to what you just said, the advantage of being a retailer and having a small market, meaning your local area, means that you can spend money online much more frugally than people who are marketing to an entire nation of folks. You can use Google and you can do local marketing on Google. You could go to the post office and you could basically buy every person in a zip code for $0.12 per drop. It’s amazing what you can do if you’re local. Having a local market and having a confined small market is huge in terms of an advantage. I mentioned radio before. I don’t know if many people think of radio as a viable option, but you can probably go to a local radio station and spend about $200 a week and have your message on the air five times a day and you could drive people into your store and basically say that if you heard this message mentioned, “Mention my son John and get a free cupcake or get a discount on what you spend.” You’d be surprised how powerful radio still is to this day. It seems like there’s an amazing amount of technology and tools that local retailers can use. When I go into a restaurant and I get a check and someone does not hand me a pen and a little form to fill out my email address, I laugh. It’s such a missed opportunity.
You mentioned Google, there are Facebook ads. People are getting up in arms right now or at least at time of recording because of announcements from Facebook, but Facebook always make algorithm changes and then people go into this fear-based like, “Everything’s going to fall apart.” Facebook is another great advertising opportunity for local businesses because you can be so specific about who your ideal customer is and targeting them. It’s awesome because you and I can sit here and talk ideas all day long. The biggest problem that people have is implementation. They get these ideas but they don’t have the team to execute or they’re trying to execute on something that they don’t understand how it works, and that’s where I come in.
That’s where you need a strategist. You need somebody who can uncover these things with you, help you map out a plan and then just like you did with the chiropractor, step-by-step. “Here’s what you do and then, let me know once that’s done and then we can assess the ROI and we can look at what’s the next step and what do we need to put in place.” Ideas without execution are ineffective. This is where I know you support people with. One of the awesome things you’re doing now is supporting people with following through with programs that they purchase and things that they’ve committed to that have just fallen off. It’s like that as well with these ideas for marketing. People will say, “I’m going to do this,” but they don’t see the results because they don’t understand the execution piece of it. Then they just let it go. Sometimes they’re sitting on a goldmine and they just don’t understand how to mine it.
Nicole Holland says, “Ideas without execution is ineffective.” Nicole, let’s get back to what you were saying before about execution. I love the way you put it. You basically start small, you do one thing and then you move to the next thing. You say that’s what you help your clients with, is that right?
It is. I help them start small with something that’s a right fit because Facebook ads isn’t for everybody. Some people could leverage radio in ways that other people couldn’t. We want to always look at what’s the best use of their resources, what are the opportunities, and what would help them shine in the greatest light. We discover what are those things and then start executing and implementing on a strategy. Depending on the size, some companies have very large marketing departments and very large marketing budget so we can work on three or four things at a time. Whereas a local mom and pop shop doesn’t have that budget generally or bandwidth, so we have to identify what’s the best way. Also, we look at packaging. We look at what are their offers, especially in restaurants.
This is huge in restaurants, as I’m sure many audience have seen, if they’re not a restaurant owner yourself. You go into a restaurant and some are so specific of what they do well. They focus on what they do well. When you’re thinking, “I’m interested in this type of food,” you know you’re going to that place and only that place because it’s the best for what they do. Then you go into restaurants. I have one just up the street from me and it breaks my heart because I see they’re doing everything wrong. They’re trying to appeal to everyone and they’ve got all different types of food. They don’t do anything well and that keeps people outside.
Oftentimes, we’ll look at what people are selling, how they’re selling, what that messaging is, and the packaging of it. Oftentimes that means raising prices. Sometimes that means pulling prices down. A lot of times pricing is arbitrary or it’s based on cost but not based on value. We look at what’s moving, what’s not moving, what they love carrying and selling and promoting, and what they not have so much excitement about. That’s another aspect that we look at. It’s holistic in that I want to know who you are as a business owner and who you are essentially at your core. What are your values? What is your mission for the business? What’s your vision for your lifestyle? What’s working right now, what’s not working right now, and what would you like to start having work right now? We take that overview from a very deep level and have a complete picture and then we can start focusing on one thing at a time or as I said, if we’re going to go marketing, there’s already a good team in place. It’s just about tweaking what they’re doing, and then we can do that. It’s very client-centric and it’s very holistic.
It’s a great way to approach any problem, particularly in business. What about retailers who are running close to the line? They’re not able to spend a lot of money on marketing or advertising and they need some help. Where would they start? What advice would you give that person?
What I’ll say might be controversial, but I’m just going to speak my truth there. What happens a lot of times is when we’re struggling in business, we get into a scarcity mentality. “If we do this, then we could lose this.” We’re trying to play the odds and that’s a bad place to come from to create a solution. I believe Einstein said, “You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.” If you’re finding yourself in that space, the first thing is to assess. “Is this what I want? Do I want this business to succeed?” or “This is not working for me. I just don’t want to do it, but I don’t want to give up. I don’t want to be seen as a quitter. I don’t want this. I don’t want that.” If you’re coming from that “I don’t want” space, if it’s not working, it might be time to sit down and ask yourself, “Is this something I want to continue?” Is this something you can let go of and free up that space to do something that does inspire you?”
It’s something where you are realizing, “No. This is what I want. I want this to work more than anything in the world and I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I’ve been pouring everything into it. It’s my life and I don’t want to give it up, but not because I don’t want to give it up because I’ve poured everything into it, but because I don’t want to give it up because I believe in it. This is me. This is an extension of me. This is what I want. This is a step towards creating what I want to be known for in this world. This is the legacy.” If you have that belief in what you’re doing, then it does cost money to get the right advice.
I see this over and over. In fact, I had a call with somebody not too terribly long ago and she’s got a failing business and wants my help. Her biggest complaint is people don’t want to pay her, but she doesn’t want to pay me. She just wants me to get my free help. I’m like, “If you believe that you don’t have the resources to invest in getting things to work, then you’re probably going to keep in that struggle.” It’s a mindset start. Then look at is there something you can do differently? Maybe it’s shutting down one day a week because if your profits aren’t there, maybe your overhead is more. Would that allow you to have a little additional money that could afford you an expert? I’m an expert, but I’m only one. There are millions, I’m sure. Find yourself somebody who understands the aspect of marketing that you don’t. The thing is when we become business owners, we have to wear a million different hats. A lot of times we’re doing things because they have to get done, but they’re not the best use of our time and they’re certainly not for the benefit of our business.
Just another example, I went for a massage at this beautiful spa that I had no idea about. I don’t use Groupon very much, but one day right around the holidays I was like, “There’s this Groupon thing. I forgot about that. Let me see what’s going on.” I saw that there was this spa package and I was like, “That sounds nice and I’d love to learn about a new spa in the area.” I just went for the experience and it was wonderful. The institution that did the treatment was amazing, the space was gorgeous, and it was only a 30-minute drive from my house. I had no idea it existed. I was sold on the table. I’m coming back. I don’t care what it costs. This is it. This is amazing.
I was speaking with the owner when I was booking the next session and I almost had to convince her to allow me to book a next session. She wasn’t engaging, she was off-putting, and there was no invitation to, “Would you like to book another session?” Nothing. I wound up giving her my card and I said, “Listen, I don’t normally just push my card on people, but I’m a marketing specialist and I would love to have a conversation with you if you’re interested. You’re using Groupon, obviously you’re looking to get more people in the door. If you’re interested, I may be able to help you with some good ideas that will bring a lot more revenue in.” She was totally not interested. It may not have been a fit and that’s fine, but what I find is people who have an idea that, “This is one thing I’m going to do. This one thing works for other people and so I’m going to do it. I’m not welcoming any other support from somebody who might know more about this one thing that I do.” Does that make sense?
Again, we’re talking retail here. You go into a store and you see bad attitude, you see not helpful, you see no way to try to capture the connection itself. It just makes me crazy sometimes. I wrote a blog post about it some years ago. I always think that in Massachusetts, we’re not as service-oriented as the people in the South. When I was traveling, I lived in Texas for four years. When I was in Texas, I used to receive such incredible service even at fast food restaurants. I used to go to Boston Market for a chicken sandwich and these people would come by and offer to refill my soda. I was shocked. “What are you doing? They don’t do that where I come from.” In fact, you can never even get somebody out from behind the back of the counter.”
You’re right, it is paying attention to those things. I also want to adjust one of the thing you said. Knowing how to market is a commodity and I believe you go on YouTube and pretty much figure out or just if you want to find out how to do a Facebook ad, but having and building a plan is an expertise. When we hire people, I would like to hire people with an expertise that understands the process that if necessary, if I’m running low on funds, I could find out how to do those things. Everyone, if you have the ability to spend a little bit of money, get someone who could help you with the execution plan. If you need to do it yourself, hold yourself accountable and make sure that you do it particularly if you paid for that plan.
I love what you said and I want to also have a little warning. When we look at doctors, for example, you don’t go to a general practitioner if you need a brain surgery. That’s a no brainer. You would never go to a GP for a brain surgery, you go to a brain surgeon. You probably check out a few brain surgeons before you choose one because it’s important if you’re going to have brain surgery that the brain surgeon you go to is competent and you believe that you can trust them and that they have a proven track record rather than somebody who just got out of med school and maybe has a shaky hand. When you’re looking for that, when you realize, “I want help. This is like brain surgery, so I’m not going to go to a general practitioner, I’m going to go to a specialist,” meet with different strategists to figure out who gets you and who you have the most faith in because they show, they demonstrate, and they understand what you’re going through and they’re going to support your business because it’s your business and your vision.
Something what I cringe on is there are a lot of people out there who are marketing experts who have a box and they will fit everybody into it. These are the things that a lot of times will get business owners into trouble because they don’t know what they don’t know. They put their faith and they put their funds and they put all their hope into somebody to create a plan for them that only has a surface understanding of specific techniques or specific tools. I’m very well-known about podcast guesting because it’s one of those techniques that I was using that I love and that I teach about that’s effective, but if it’s not for everybody. I don’t go into a situation with clients and say, “Here’s why you need to do podcast guesting.” I first want to understand what their needs are and what their strengths are that we’ve already talked about, and then decide is this a viable opportunity for them? It’s not about me. It’s not about what I want or I would do if I were in their shoes. It’s about truly understanding what they want and constructing that roadmap to get them from where they are to where they want to be with the budget that they have with tangible wins and measurable outcomes. Does that make sense?
Absolutely. I have to tell you, Nicole, this has been such a great show. I’ve enjoyed this. You’ve given us a lot of actual actionable advice. If they’re thinking about trying to raise revenue and build their business, you’ve given us some great information. We’re at that point in the interview where I get to ask you a couple of cool questions. The first question is my favorite question of all. The reason I like it so much is because it’s a different way of finding out who I’m speaking with. Here’s the question. Who, in all of space and time, would you like to have one hour to enjoy a walk in the park, a quick lunch or an intense conversation with?
Without a doubt, my grandfather.
Tell me why.
He was always my champion. He was somebody I have always respected. He never finished high school. I don’t even think he went to middle school. He was in the Coast Guard during World War II. He was a boxer. He came from a very large immigrant family and took care of his family. He was at a USO Christmas dance, I believe, where he saw my grandmother. “I took one look at her and knew I was going to marry her.” He’s hardheaded as hell. Even though he was on a ship, he spent the next however long wooing her, writing to her, and making her fall in love with him. They got married in 1945. He always was so devoted and committed to making his family happy and succeeding himself. He was a self-made man. He taught himself everything and started his own business. He’s just amazing. He passed on very unexpectedly some years ago. I connect with my grandfather anytime I want. I believe that. We all are in connection. We all are more nonphysical than physical, but to be able to hug him, to have lunch, to take a walk and just hear his voice, that would be amazing.
Thanks for sharing that. Here’s the grand finale, the change the world question. What is it that you were doing or would like to do that truly has the potential to literally change the world?
I believe I’m doing it. Every day, that’s what I strive to do. If I can impact one person in a way that they see things through new lenses, they are inspired and excited, and they celebrate. I do this with all of my clients. When I check in, the question is not what’s going on, it’s what can I help you celebrate? We need to focus in more on the little wins. We get bogged down in what’s not working and it’s important to celebrate everything that is working no matter how small it seems. The more we do that, the more great things happen. That’s what I strive to do.
Nicole, you are a fountain of wisdom. We have learned so much and I can’t thank you enough for spending time with me. I enjoyed our time together.
Mitch, so did I. Thank you so much for the opportunity.
I can’t wait until we get a chance to talk again soon, Nicole.
Same here, Mitch, and we’ve already got some dates on the calendar, so I’m super excited.
Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
- Nicole Holland
- Guerrilla Marketing
- National Retail Federation Retail’s Big Show
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