How wonderful that the discussion of multiple streams of income for mediators is growing. Geoff Sharp of Mediator blah blah asked me to write about it and now Kristina Haymes has jumped into the conversation. Regardless of whether you think creating Multiple Streams of Mediation Income (MSOMI) is worthwhile or even do-able, simply exploring the possibilities will be beneficial for our profession.
Let’s take a closer look
Kristina, an entrepreneur-at-heart like me, correctly points out that there are actually two ways to have multiple income streams: directly from service delivery and passively from information products. Just as we learn in training as mediators, the most successful entrepreneurs will be the ones that learn how to best balance and use both types of income generation.
Streams from Service Delivery
Most mediators I know already have practices that combine several different conflict resolution skills, i.e. mediation, facilitation, training, including me. Although folks tend to be apologetic about it (“I’m doing a bit of this and that”), this strategy has worked for me and for others.
I coach the folks in my membership to be more strategic about multiple streams, rather than happenstance. Unbundling mediation services by separating out the individual skills and applying said skills to solve consumer problems IS a valid way of using a service model to create a new revenue stream.
One example is conflict coaching, which allows mediators to be helpful to people who have a ‘do it yourself’ approach to resolving conflict. Some workplace consumers need a mediator to assist them in preparing for difficult conversations like progressive discipline or performance evaluation. I’ve worked with middle managers in companies like Fleet and Polaroid in that capacity very successfully. It wasn’t mediation but it was revenue earned and a chance to do more later. And, I’m sure there are opportunities in other industries/sectors like the non-profit world to do the same. Check out Cinnie Nobles work as a conflict coach at Cinergy.com
Streams of Passive Income
Here’s where things get interesting. I am passionate about getting mediators to use their expertise to educate the market and build revenue. It represents a well-tested strategy from the business world for creating wealth that can be translated for our use.
Your knowledge, expertise, experience can be captured and shared with others. What prevent mediators from using this technique are lingering negative beliefs and assumptions.
Mediation – old way or the high way
Too often we mediators think that our value lies only at the mediating table. Not true. By writing and publishing information products we can assist people earlier; develop greater acceptance of mediation as a problem-solving tool; and grow the market for all of us.
Far, far too often we mediators think we should give our services away. While I favor having a robust pro bono policy that allows you to serve your community, I don’t believe our services should be free. The old saying, ‘you get what you pay for’ remains true in the minds of many consumers.
Wouldn’t it be great if we gave ourselves a gift – permission to try something different. I choose to believe that if we as mediators gave up our negative projections about growing our businesses (people won’t like me; someone will think I’m crass; I’ll look greedy; it won’t work anyway) and became students of business we’d stop looking at the 12% of our population each year that burnout.
Understanding the Product Funnel
The product funnel is simple a series of information products: audios, e-books,etc that increase in price, value and complexity. My funnel looks like a V, with the broadest part being my free offerings and the bottom consists of my high end product: me.
Products at the top are lead generation tools that are an exchange of value. You provide useful information to the reader and you receive an email address and permission to communicate in return. Those who understand the principles of multiple income streams know that email address is plenty valuable because it could result in hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars in revenue over the course of a client lifetime.
Just as we suggest using I statements as a proactive way to teach others how to treat us, we as mediators can use information products to teach consumers about our process and value.
Information Products are an End and a Means
Info products are the ‘Energizer bunnies’ of marketing because they have so many formats, uses and don’t require your direct participation beyond creating a high quality product. How efficient! You create a product once it becomes your emissary, 24/7, spreading the word and earning a bit of cash (pennies turn into dollars, right). A product funnel of info products can be an ends (creates income) or a means (leads to income as mediator) or both.
A well written ebook can introduce you to your niche market in a way that doesn’t intrude but builds trust and credibility. You have an exchange in value and, hopefully, your reader will look to you for the next bit of insight.
Your product funnel – ebook, e-course, negotiation aids, and etc – can also chauffeur your readers from unconsciously incapable to being capable of achieving their goals. Or, maybe they can’t and seek you out, a trusted adviser. Either way, isn’t that why we mediators love our work…because we empower people? Either way, won’t your practice bloom?
Info Products are In-Big Time
Here are a few figures that might challenge the notion that you can’t generate sufficient income from educational products.
The self help industry generates $9.6 billion a year. Coaching accounts for $2.4 billion a year and is growing. People want just-in-time, specific, ‘I’ll do it myself’ answers to their problems and they want them now. Imagine what would happen to your mediation practice if you captured even a small fraction of that market.
Conflict books might not sell well. That’s because they’re written by conflict resolvers using jargon primarily for other conflict resolvers. Would it surprise you to know that Getting to Yes is a perennial favorite on the Audible.com and NY Times bestseller lists? Why? Because it’s written for the end user- the client. (More on creating a book)
Think about what happened to coffee. Coffee is no longer the cheap stuff that keeps you up; it’s a personalized experience that people willingly pay $5 for. Mediation and related services could be the next ‘it’ if we collectively work towards that goal.
Caution: Everything Ain’t for Everybody
Using a multiple stream, online, niche marketing approach is not for everyone. Succeeding with this concept requires a high degree of patience, discipline, creativity, focus, courage and the ability to deal with ambiguity. It doesn’t seem coincidental that successful mediators share those qualities.
Early on I practiced divorce mediation. It wasn’t long before I discovered it didn’t suit my temperament or skills. It didn’t fit so I changed. Consider taking the same approaching to trying a multiple streams approach. Try it before deciding it’s not for you.
More to Say
This post is getting longer than the tax code so I’ll end here. I’ve posted a longer article on ADRPracticebuilder.com that addresses more issues like publishing online. This is a rich conversation which I hope inspires others to add their views.
For sure, my decision to focus the July 21th Breakthrough Summit on information products is a good one. It’ll give attendees another chance to explore and discuss the idea of (and plan for) creating the life and income you want in a non-conventional way.
Try. Fail. Learn. Grow!
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