Why Serve-first Is The Unexpected Path To Growing Your Online Business

23 Apr, 2021 By Bobby Klinck
Are you serious about growing your online business? Then be sure to check out my post "Why Serve-first Is The Unexpected Path To Growing Your Online Business." It's not what you expect...

In the online marketing space, most entrepreneurs are obsessed with revenue. Everyone wants that six-figure or seven-figure launch. But there’s way more to business than revenue… like serving the hell out of your audience so that they become raving fans. 

Now I realize that talking about being a serve-first entrepreneur sounds kinda crazy in a world full of Lambos, mansion, and private jets (spoiler: they’re rented). 

But the way to build a business that will be around for the long haul is to focus on serving your people.

Let me be clear, being a serve-first entrepreneur is NOT about tactics. Instead, it means approaching entrepreneurship from the right framework and mindset.

Actually, the serve-first way isn’t new at all. In fact, I hear a lot of people talking about serve-first entrepreneurship in the online space. More often than not, it’s about differentiating ourselves from the private jet crowd. But in reality, most people aren’t living up to the true sense of serve-first entrepreneurship.

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Serving People Well

I can trace my grasp of the serve-first concept back to how my father ran his business, a chain of drug stores. He had this view that the customer always comes first. In his office, there was a sign that said:

The two rules of business:

  1. The customer is always right.
  2. If the customer is ever wrong, refer to rule number 1.

Of course, we know that the customer isn’t always right. Customers do ridiculous things sometimes. 

But the point of this idea is that your customer is the center of your business. Serving your customers well is the path to success.

Your revenue is a function of how many people you served and how well you served them. If you don’t serve them well, you’ll be on a hamster wheel trying to find new people to buy from you. But if you serve them well, they’ll be back a second, a third, and more times to buy from you again.  They’ll even refer people your way.

Serve-first Is Not Just About Making Service The Priority But Also Serving First

Now, serve-first has presuppositions. It’s not just about making service your top priority but also serving first. 

What that means is I don’t worry about serving people before they buy. When I serve people who haven’t bought from me yet or may never buy from me), I’m investing in a relationship. 

This is the type of investment that turns people, even those who won’t ever buy from me, into brand advocates. They help me make sales by sending people my way who do need my products.

Building Reputation And Goodwill

By serving people first, I’ve gained the reputation of being a serve-first entrepreneur. And over the years people have noticed that I do things differently. I was serving, I was giving, I wasn’t looking at entrepreneurship in a standard way.

Let me be clear, this isn’t something I do perfectly. There are things that I’m still working on and practicing. I have slip-ups, but I’m constantly thinking about this concept. Because I’ve focused on serving, I’ve built up a lot of brand goodwill. In fact, 60% of my Online Genius Template Library product sales come from people who aren’t even affiliates. They heard about me from someone else, and because of my reputation, they come to my page and buy. That’s the power of doing the serve-first way the right way.

Not A Tactic Or A Strategy

Now, let me be clear… serve-first isn’t a tactic. That’s the problem. Too many people think that this is a gimmick.

It also can’t be a strategy. It has to be who you are. It has to be how you approach everything genuinely. People know when you are being genuine. They will see it in how you do things.

An Easy Way To Connect With People

A couple of years ago, people asked me about how I find ways to connect with people on the internet. They noticed that I have a different approach to building connections.

And I do. But it’s because I’m just trying to serve people. When you’re doing that, it’s easy to connect with people because I’m not interacting with them thinking “How do I make money?” in the back of my head.

I’m interacting with them thinking “How do I help them?” And guess what? When you do that, people want to connect with you.

What Serve-first Isn’t

In reality, a lot of things that entrepreneurs do aren’t the actions of a serve-first entrepreneur. This may be a touchy subject, and some people may get pissed at what I’m going to say, but here are some things many entrepreneurs do that aren’t serve-firsts.

  1. Declaring yourself as a serve-first entrepreneur

It’s not as simple as saying “I’m a serve-first entrepreneur.” Your actions need to be in line with being a serve-first entrepreneur.

  1. Thinking about how you’re gonna make profits over how your service will benefit people

If you’re always asking, “How am I gonna make money from this?” first before how you can possibly help people, that’s not serve-first. If that’s the case, it’s an indicator that serving doesn’t come first.

Now I’m simply going to tell you that I have no problem with making money. We need to make a good living. It’s not wrong to sell… I sell a lot. But you’ve got to look at whether your focus is on helping people or making money.

  1. Using manufactured urgency

I’m gonna be stepping on some toes with this one, but a lot of tactics that we use in online marketing aren’t serve-first.  

For example, if you’re using fake urgency, creating fear of missing out (FOMO) through one-time upsells, or offering big discounts on something to make people buy now even if it’s not the right time for them, that’s not being a serve-first entrepreneur.

Serving people is about having the right offer in front of them at the right time for them… not for you.

Let’s be honest, creating a sense of urgency is about making more sales. It’s trying to force people to buy for fear of missing out on that one-time offer even when they don’t need it right now (or may never need it).

  1. Using unrealistic messaging

Now I’m really gonna step in it… but using messaging that is focused on minimizing challenges, busting objections, and saying this will work even when you haven’t proven it worked for anyone besides you is a big problem. 

If you’re selling a course about how to create a product and then sell it, and you tell people it’ll work even if you don’t have a following, I call BS. It probably won’t work for them, and you need to be clear about this.

Unrealistic messaging is about getting more sales by minimizing their objections and challenges to convince them to buy.

  1. Using guilt after trying to make people commit

Another practice that’s not a serve-first characteristic is using guilt. This happens in a lot of contexts. 

For example, in sales calls, they try to get you locked in, make you commit to doing things, and then make you feel guilty. They say things like, “If you don’t buy now, you’re gonna be in the same place six months from now.”

Really?!? That’s just not true. There’s a good chance that there are other things they need to do before buying what you offer.

So, we’ve gotta ask ourselves, “Are we pushing too hard?”

  1. Setting unrealistic timelines

If you say “I’ll help you build your business in 30 days” or that you’re giving your customers three months of support even when you know they’re gonna need six months on average to get their results, it’s not serving your audience.

The serve-first way is to give them the support they need to get results and factor that into pricing the product. 

Again, you’ve gotta ask yourself if your timelines are focused on serving your audience or making you more money because you can continue selling ongoing support to them that you didn’t tell them they needed earlier.

  1. Believing that selling is serving

You’ve probably heard the popular saying that “selling is serving.” While I agree that selling can be one of the best ways to serve, it’s not because you’re selling that you’re serving.

Selling is only serving if you’re selling something they need at that time. If you’re using tactics like what we’ve mentioned above to create a manufactured sense of urgency to make them buy, that’s not serving. Trying to convince them to buy even when they’re not ready is giving them false expectations and it’s only serving you.

These tactics are about making money, so don’t say you’re a serve-first entrepreneur if you’re doing these.

Wrapping Up

Being a serve-first entrepreneur is about shifting our mindset about how we do business and asking ourselves a different question instead of “How am I gonna make money?”

Of course, there’s wiggle room for that because we need to make money to be in the business. I can’t create all this training and other stuff for my audience unless I’m making money in my business. So, I’ve got to make money to be able to serve people.

What I’m saying is that if your starting point is, “How can I best serve my audience,” you’re always going to be thinking through these things.

When I think about my business for the long term, I know that the best way for me to build it is to figure out how to serve more people and how to serve them better. If I do that, the profits will follow. I don’t have to worry about the other stuff.

I challenge you to ask yourself these questions. Are you thinking about things through the lens of service or through the lens of making money? What kind of entrepreneur do you want to be?

I’m hoping that your answer is going to be that you want to be a serve-first entrepreneur and that you make that decision.

If you’re looking for training that can help you build, market, and grow your online business as a serve-first entrepreneur, you should enroll in my FREE program, BADA$$ Online Marketing University.

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Bobby Klinck

Harvard Lawyer and Online Entrepreneur

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