Allison Hardy is a Business Strategist for Mompreneurs and helps women grow their businesses while they are raising their families, so that they can live life by design. She specializes in monetizing Facebook Groups, building communities around her clients’ brands, automation and email marketing.
Allison is the creator of the Life by Design Podcast, is a Huffington Post Contributor, has been featured in YFS Magazine, and was named one of Washington, D.C.’s most influential professionals under 40 by Washington Life Magazine.
In this episode of Catalyst Conversations, Allison and I talk about:
+ how she uses Facebook Groups to activate her audience and grow her roster of clients
+ the #1 thing you need to know about leveraging Facebook Groups to grow your business
+ how she has monetized with Facebook Groups
+ the challenges she overcame to grow a successful business, including overcoming self-doubt with staying true to her purpose
Allison shares, “I view Facebook Groups as important as your email list. Right now, and for the past 2-3 years, my Facebook Group has been the single best thing I’ve spent time on in addition to my email list. Both of them are my jam. Your Facebook group should build your email list and if someone is on your email list they should be in your Facebook Group. The reason I say that is bc the more touch points you have with someone, the more likely they are to know, like and trust you, the more likely they are to buy from you and the more likely they are to be your biggest fan.”
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JM: Hi, Allison. How are you?
AH: Hey, Jennifer. I’m good. How are you?
JM: Good. I’m so excited to talk with you. I recently was on your podcast. I did an interview with you and I just felt like a kindred soul. I’m so happy to talk to you again today.
AH: Me too. Thank you again for being on my podcast. It was awesome.
JM: Oh, it was awesome. It’s funny because you and I actually met through Instagram. Social media has connected me with great people. I’m super grateful. You have a great Instagram account that our listeners should definitely go check out. Tell us a little bit more about what you do.
AH: I am a Business Strategist for Mompreneurs. I help women who have existing businesses, scale and grow their business on their terms, not anyone else’s terms. That’s a big thing for me and for my clients because a lot of times, we look to business and we think that we’re supposed to do certain things. We think we have to have Instagram, Facebook, Facebook group, and we have to be marketing. The reality of that is that you don’t have to do anything. There are certain things you maybe should consider but not have to do.
JM: Ah, that’s so refreshing.
AH: You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. But I really help them kind of figure out and sort through that. We figure out automation for them, we figure out authentic social media if that’s something that they really want to dive deep into and sharing their story authentically. We figure out the systems behind all of that. It really helps them to create these businesses not only if successful but also feels really, really good because that’s what we want in our businesses.
JM: Which I think is especially important for mompreneurs because I think being one myself, being a mom and an entrepreneur, it’s like a double whammy of all the things you feel like you should be doing in guilt trips and trying to make it all work so it’s a great philosophy.
AH: Yeah. I think especially like I have little ones. I’ve got a five-year-old and a seven-month-old. Especially when they’re home with you, I think it’s really important to get really crystal clear in what we want to do business for, what doesn’t, and how to maximize your time because a lot of us are working in small pockets a time or we have like a regular work schedule. Just figuring what those tasks are that we need to do every single day to move forward I think is really, really important.
JM: That’s huge. I don’t know why it seems so difficult to do that. I feel like on a day-to-day basis, I’m still trying to master that. It’s like my long list of to-do and what’s like what’s the most important thing right now with this twenty minutes that I’ve got. I definitely understand that these small pockets of time in the irregular schedule ever changes even as your kids get older. How did you get into doing this?
AH: I’ve been in online business for about ten years now. I’ve had multiple businesses. But really how I got kind of thrust into this full-time was I got laid off from what I felt was my dream job. I was teaching at the college level for ten years. I taught art. I loved it. I did all of the right things, I got the terminal degree, I was on tenure track, I did everything right. When I was six months pregnant with Camden, my first, I got laid off.
JM: That’s awful.
AH: Yeah, it was an experience. But thank goodness, I didn’t have maternity leave so my husband and I were able to save about five weeks worth of vacation and that’s how much time that I was able to take off after Camden was born. Having three months prior to him being born, that was like totally not in the plan like not financially possible for us. I brought that part-time business I had, I’m a side person and I brought it full-time. I replaced my nine to five income within three months before Camden was born.
JM: Wow, what business was that?
AH: It was a personal training business. I’ve always been really into fitness. I had my certification and I competed at the national level in college. I’m always a very active person. It made sense for me to do that. It was like my side fun thing.
But when that happened I was like, “Alright, it’s time that I actually make this a real thing.” When I brought my business from part-time to full-time I did it in all the wrong ways. I worked like sixteen-hour days seven days a week and I totally, totally, totally got myself out. I ended up with pneumonia, I had broken ribs from coughing so hard because I refused to go to the doctor because I had to work because that was so important. Postpartum depression hit me like a ton of bricks.
I was so afraid of doing anything in my business. I was so afraid to try anything new. I was so afraid to deviate from anything that I had been taught that it really caused me to stop doing anything. I was burnt-out.
That’s when I had an aha moment and I realized, “You know, if I’m doing this, other people are probably doing this as well.” I had had other businesses, I’ve been in network marketing, and I had done my own things, service-based business. I was like, “Okay, I have these areas that I’m good at, I’ve had these different businesses. Let’s take what I’m doing now and use all these lessons that I’ve learned and applied them to a new business.” I kind of rebranded and I created this business I have now.
JM: That is amazing. Here’s what I will tell you, I am not an advocate of overworking at all, whatsoever, but holy cow, the fact that you ramped up your part-time business to replace your full-time income in three months is absolutely incredible. Then to have the confidence to say, “You know what? I’m just going to do something almost completely different,” I mean, you talk about how you’ve gotten all these good bits and pieces from different places and the fact that you were able to pull those altogether into something that you could sell and have the confidence to do it was absolutely incredible.
How did you land on coaching? Was that something specific especially with mompreneurs? Was that kind of a lifestyle choice, a passion, or something that inspired you to go in that direction?
AH: Yeah. It’s a little bit of both and that was marketing. I had been pretty successful. I had a good team under me. I advanced and I had success. The part of network marketing is having the team behind you that you mentor for them to grow their businesses and in turn you grow your business because they grew their business.
I worked really closely with a couple of them on my team and I really helped them to grow and scale their businesses. I knew that I actually really loved the coaching aspect of that business. I loved the products, I actually legit loved the idea of network marketing. But what I really loved about it was that team, that camaraderie, working so closely with those women. The coaching, it made sense, it had been something I’ve been doing for a while. When I was doing personal training, I always worked with female business owners because we understood each other.
JM: Did it just kind of happened that way? That’s funny.
AH: Yeah, it really did. I did a couple of in-person training. I had a couple of in-person clients and they were all business owners. Then I will do training virtually and they all just happen to be business owners. We would talk about fitness but we would really talk about business strategy. That was the thing I actually really loved about it. Again, it was like talking about strategy, what they’re doing in their businesses, what’s working, and what’s not working. It seems really far-fetched but it was really kind of a natural transition for me because of what I’ve been doing.
JM: That’s amazing. That’s really interesting. It always seems like things are coincidental but those are the things that end up kind of moving us into the next thing like it’s what you are always meant to be doing.
Let’s shift gears a little bit. You and I have talked briefly about Facebook. I know Facebook is a huge part of your strategy and what you teach your clients. I have to tell you that as we were preparing to record this interview, I was getting more and more excited about this topic because this is one of the things that our listeners are able to really sink their teeth into in terms of some actionable insights. It’s information that I think everybody’s looking for and yet it’s one of those elusive things that for some reason, there’s just a lot of bad advice floating around out there about social media in general, and Facebook specifically. Let’s talk a little bit about that. Now I know that you have used a Facebook group to develop some camaraderie and community around your clients, how do you do that?
AH: Yeah, that’s a great question. I view Facebook groups as important as your email list. I might change over the years, Facebook might change their algorithm for the tenth quadrillionth time, but I could honestly say for the past two, three years, my Facebook group has been the single best thing I’ve spent time on in addition to my email list. Both of them are kind of like my gym.
Your Facebook group should build your email list. Your email list should build your Facebook group. If someone’s on your email list, they should be in your Facebook group. The reason why I say that is because the more touch points you have with someone, the more likely they are to know they can trust you, the more likely they are to buy from you, and the more likely they are to be like your biggest fan.
A couple of things should happen with your Facebook group. Number one it should be very clear who it’s for. There are like great titles of the fancy names, that’s great and awesome but that doesn’t help to grow your group. Your group needs to be really, really specific who it’s for and what the goal of the group is.
JM: Can you give us some example?
AH: Yeah. I’ll use my group. My group is called The Mompreneur Community. We’re very clear as who the group is for, moms who have online businesses. My group used to be called Life by Design which is a huge part of my branding. It’s the name of my podcast and it’s very much like something I say on a regular basis. But Life by Design isn’t something that someone who’s looking for a business strategy support is going to search in the Facebook toolbar. They’re not going to search that. They’re going to search for keywords like mompreneur, online business strategy, things like that. Your group name needs to be specific in who it’s for, what it does, and it needs to be searchable. I think that’s first and foremost when it comes to your Facebook group because your group has to be found first off.
JM: How are you getting people between your email list and your Facebook group? Is it just a matter of advertising both in each place?
AH: Yeah. That’s number two.
AH: When people ask to join your group, you should be able to approve them because you need to make sure that they’re real. My philosophy on that is they should have a photo of themselves as their profile picture because if it’s a motivational quote or something else, I would argue they’re probably not a real person, a spambot, or they’re going to come into your group and spam it. It should be a real picture and they should have a Facebook group or a Facebook profile for at least over a year.
If they joined Facebook yesterday and have like three friends, it’s probably not real. It helps you to know the people and it also gives you the opportunity to do amazing market research and turn people over into your email list.
When people request to join your group, you can ask them through a setting on your Facebook group a series of questions. I always say make it two to three. Make it easy for them to answer, but ask them, “How did you find this group?” Because that’s going to tell you where you need to spend your time.
Ask them about the pain point that they’re experiencing like, “What’s the pain point that you saw mostly in your business?” And how can you ask them about that. Something I always say is, “If you could wave a magic wand in your business, what would be the one thing that you would change?” Because that tells me what they’re looking for. It tells me what they want to do, the one thing, their biggest pain point. It’s a very simple and easy for them to respond.
Then the third question is the email list one. If you have a freebie, if you have an upcoming webinar, if you have a challenge, say, “Hey, I have this awesome free gift for you, it’s a blah-blah-blah,” whatever it is and drop the link. That way, they can copy the link. They can’t click it yet in Facebook, on social media, but they can copy it and go to the landing page. They can submit their information and now you have not only your email list subscriber but you also have a new group member.
JM: That is so good, I have to tell you. These little tips and tricks are like what it’s all about. It’s such amazing advice.
AH: Yeah, it’s really effective and it works really well. It really develops the know, like, and trust factor quickly. That’s what you want.
JM: I love that. Oh, my gosh, that’s such amazing advice. Now, here’s what I will tell you, I also have a social media company. Oftentimes, what we hear is, “It’s all well and good to do these things but is it making you money?” I know you do monetize your Facebook group and you help your clients to monetize your Facebook groups, how do you do that?
AH: Yeah. Back in the earlier days of Facebook world, I used to actually make sales directly from my group. That was great but I think it was because my group was smaller during that time. I think that as your group grows, there’s a shift that happens.
When your group is smaller, your content gets seen a lot more because there are less people. But it’s great for building those relationships really closely because there are less people so you’re seeing more of their content and they’re seeing more of your content. There’s more of like an intimate kind of working-together type of experience.
As your group grows, your content and your own Facebook group probably are not going to get seen as much. I can honestly say I had someone ask one time in my group like, “Who’s a coach do you recommend for business strategy coaching?” In my group. You’re in my group asking. I was like, “Alright, something’s happening here.” But it just goes to show like how much my content was not getting seen. That’s actually why I instituted that question, the opt-in, the freebies, the free gift question because it then puts me an expert in their room.
AH: Yeah. So now people come to me. I think this shift kind of happened when my group got over a thousand people. Now I view my Facebook group as a way to build the know, like, and trust factor, to develop these relationships, to encourage other women to have a sense of humility behind my business, and then I roll them over into an email list, and that’s where I directly sell.
JM: In terms of a group, it’s interesting, we have clients who are very nervous about starting groups. I think some of it is like, “What do we talk about? What is the content that we’re going to put forth?” Everybody seems to have some different opinions on that topic. Some feel like, “Oh, I don’t want to bombard people with too much content.” Some people are concerned that it’s not enough and then they wonder where you went. What is your philosophy on the types of things that you post within your Facebook group or what would you recommend to your clients for example?
AH: Yeah, I think there’s a couple of things you can do. I think number one, just being consistent and deciding what consistency looks like for you. Are you able to post three times a day or three times a week? Are you able to do one Facebook live a week? Just setting that type of culture, that expectation that, “This is what you’re going to do, this is how you do it,” going into your Facebook group and engaging once a day or twice a day, just doing that and staying consistent with it, I think is fine. I see Facebook groups where the head of the group like doesn’t post, it was like once a month and those groups are highly engaged. It’s just sort of expectations that you set up.
Then also I think your group members can do your heavy lifting. You can create a culture of engagement in your group so that those people in your group are number one they’re buying into that culture, but number two they’re creating the content for you. Because the more that you can get them to talk, the more that you can get them to engage, the less work you have to do, but also the better you look because people want to come into your group to comment, they want to come into your group to also get amazing advice. That only sets you up as the expert in the room. It’s not to keep away from you for your brand. The purpose of a Facebook group, I think is to create community.
JM: I totally agree.
AH: Yeah, if you can facilitate that community, then you look like a boss.
AH: You don’t necessarily have to be creating insane value every single day, maybe once a week you create insane value.
JM: You’re creating community in connection. Absolutely. It’s funny, we have these conversations with clients too where we’re trying to help them understand especially when they’re looking at their business and what is their social media strategy. We often talk about how powerful community is. Because it’s no longer just one-to-one you with a client or your customer, it’s now you have created this community of people who know each other because of you. You brought them together around some specific topic on which you are the authority, and you’re absolutely right, it can only reflect well upon you. I love that you say that. I think sometimes it seems like maybe it’s an obvious thing but I think that people lose side of the fact that groups really do create that sense of community, and what a value that is.
AH: Yeah, for sure. And then I mean, think about like your favorite brand, like Toms for example. Everyone loves Toms. Everyone loves the idea of Toms because when you buy a pair of shoes, you’re helping someone. There’s a community around that brand and they’re very clear and very purposeful, I’m telling you that when you buy anything from them. They’re creating this kind of cultural movement around their brand and so your Facebook group can do the same thing. You can facilitate that type of connection with people by having a Facebook group.
JM: That’s amazing advice. I totally agree especially the observation about how clear they are with communicating their purpose within that. It does attract more of those like-minded people that just reinforces that community.
I know you talk about the number one thing you need to know about leveraging your Facebook group to grow your business. It sounds like it’s a big secret, I’m dying to know what it is. What is that number one thing that you need to know?
AH: The number one thing that you need to know is that your Facebook group, again, is a community. It’s not a marketplace, it’s not a billboard for your business. It’s a place where you can show up and serve and where your clients or potential clients can show up and serve also. It’s an inner working kind of relationship between you guys. You are no better than them, they are no better than you. You guys are equal. You’re in this together.
You can learn amazing things from people in your Facebook group. I have learned ridiculous things from people in my Facebook group simply because they showed up, they engaged, I engaged back, and I’ve made lifelong friends from it. I’ve gotten amazing clients who already know me, like me, trust me. So when we hop on the phone for a sales call when we’re trapped thinking about working together, it’s easy, like it’s not like I’m selling, I don’t really just sell to them because they already know me.
JM: It’s like you already know each other, yeah. That’s interesting. Let me ask you a question about that because I think you’re right, I think that a lot of times, anytime somebody goes in to set up something for social media, whatever it is for their business, it’s like we want to go in for the kill, we want to close this sale, and market, market, market, and I agree, Facebook groups are not a marketplace. But does that mean that you don’t market services? Do you just kind of set yourself up as the expert, get them on an email list, and then convert them that way or are there times that selectively, without bombarding people with a direct call to action, are you occasionally promoting different events or services?
AH: Yeah, for sure. I definitely promote different things to them. I do it through an event usually. Like right now, I’m running a challenge, for example, for my Facebook group course that I’m launching. I’m bringing them through, we’re working on mindset, we’re stepping into the role of the influencer, we’re talking about engagement, we’re talking about content. In the end, I’m going to say, “Hey, if you like this, if you want more of this, I have this course.” It’s selling through serving. “If you like this and you want more, here you go. If you want these types of results, here you go.”
When I pitch, it’s nothing forceful, it’s nothing annoying, it’s maybe once a day during the promotion period. I’ll mention, “Hey, and I have the course. Cart closes on this day.” It’s providing value first and then, “Hey, if you want more of this, here’s this thing. Take it or leave it.”
JM: I love that. It’s good soft touch. I really think what I hear the big picture is that you set it up to be relevant because you have just given them lots of value, this information that they’re obviously interested in, and really it’s just an extension of what you’ve been doing. It’s just some additional support for somebody who really wants that kind of more intensive experience with you. You have just made that offer very, very relevant which is brilliant.
AH: Yeah, exactly, make it relevant, for sure.
JM: Let me ask you this, we have talked briefly a little bit about overcoming self-doubt and I think it’s amazing how you put yourself out there. You’re doing Facebook lives, you’re live streaming on Instagram, you’re doing all these amazing things. You’re raising kids, you got a beautiful baby at home, you got Camden. There are all these things that you’re doing. Then we talk about overcoming self-doubt. I just think, “Oh, my gosh,” how amazing you are for overcoming that because you have so many responsibilities. You have so many things that you need to do. If I remember correctly, I think you describe yourself as an introvert, how did you do that? How did you find yourself in that place of feeling self-doubt and having to lift yourself out of that to be able to move forward?
AH: I think self-doubt is just a part of the process quite honestly. I think it will never actually go away. Every time I uplevel my business or things change, it’s just a different type of self-doubt – fresh and new. New level, new devil. I think for most of us, it’s always there.
But really when it comes down for me and for a lot of maybe introverted people or more heart-centered people is really thinking about your bigger purpose. Like my bigger purpose is to give back to organizations that I feel strongly about. My bigger purpose is to make it feel that I can send my kids to the fancy school, we decide we want our need or I can live a life of abundance and gratitude and doing things for grateful people because I love that.
When I start to feel nervous or doubtful, I think about how small I am in the big cog of everything else. Usually, when I self-doubt, I’m taking myself way too seriously. I’m like being way too complicated and nervous, and getting into details that don’t need to get into. I stop myself and I say, “You know what, Allison? It’s not about you, it’s about serving people, my clients, the world, my community, my family, and making sure that those things in my life are taken care of and who am I till I get in the way of those bigger purposes and those bigger missions.”
If I’m nervous about doing a Facebook live or I’m nervous about putting maybe something out, just maybe a little bit more vulnerable, I think about these bigger things and I also think about why I connect with other people. I connect with other people usually because they’ve shared something that I’m like, “Holy moly, I relate to that. Maybe this is that one thing that person who’s been watching me for a while and maybe this one thing is going to get her out of the place where she is, it’s going to get me a new client, or it’s going to have to be more like, ‘Yeah, this is what I want,’ and make massive change to that thing.” I think about the bigger purpose.
JM: I love that. That is sage advice in really staying focused on your purpose. It’s interesting because we do events nationwide, we’re enrolling more especially in 2019. But it’s very interesting to me how often the topic of purpose comes up. Our format, it’s called the Reciprocity Round Robin. Every woman gets to go around and they talk about a specific challenge, someone that they’re trying to get connected with, or something that’s happening in the group supports each woman with overcoming that issue. Purpose is one of those recurring topics where it keeps coming up.
It’s so interesting because I think we see so much crap on social media about what’s your purpose, find your purpose, live your purpose, and so I think we’ve all kind of gotten indoctrinated into this like, “Oh, my gosh, what’s my purpose? I don’t know my purpose? What am I doing with my life?” But it’s so funny because it really, at the end of the day, is such a simple thing. It’s the thing that lights you up, the things that make you feel centered in your soul, and it’s what service you’re bringing to others, and taking care of your family. I so hear that and it so resonates.
I think it’s very interesting that it almost is like describing that self-doubt as the absence of focus on your purpose. It’s so funny how those two things really go hand-in-hand. I just think it’s such a unique and wonderful observation that you’re sharing about that. It’s something so relatable to so many women entrepreneurs.
AH: Oh, for sure. Yeah, like I said, I think that a lot of times when we’re stuck in either a negative mindset, self-doubt, or feeling stressed about certain things, it’s because we’re not acting like a CEO in our businesses, we’re acting like an employee of our business, do have like a boss. The mentality like you’re your boss.
JM: Right, if it’s not working, change it up like take control of it and be responsible for it. If it’s not working, change something. What other tips or advice would you offer to women entrepreneurs who are growing their businesses?
AH: Yeah, I hear a lot of women who use excuses and they are excuses that are often cloaked in their families. This makes me a little crazy so I’ll make it a little passionate here. They use excuses like, “Oh, well, if I don’t invest in this, then my kid won’t get swim lessons for the summer or if I do this and that, I might not be able to take our family on vacation this year,” things like that. It really drives me crazy because I want you to flip that. So, “If I invest in this, then I’ll probably be able to do two swim lessons for my kid this summer and how much will he love that. If I invest in this, we would probably be able to go to Disney on our family vacation instead of rent a condo down the street.” There’s so much more to our businesses than living in that sort of a narrow-minded way of thinking.
JM: That obligation, I totally get that. You’re so diplomatic how you stated that and I totally picked up what you’re putting down. It’s funny because my clients are an all-mompreneurs so the thing that we like cloak it in is different for everybody but it’s so interesting how we make up these excuses. It really comes from fear. It’s interesting too, in human psychology, what we oftentimes find, and this is important in my marketing background, this is why you see a lot of marketing that’s based around fear, it’s like the fear of loss of something.
It’s why home security system companies show commercials of burglary. It’s that fear of loss, something drives us more than the fear of gaining something. So an easy way for us to play small and safe is to say, “Well, I’m fearful that I’m going to lose this, that I won’t be able to do something, or it’s not going to go well,” rather than focusing on, “Well, if I do this and when it goes well, I’m actually going to gain this.” It is a more frightening scenario for people to picture. It’s just a really nice way to kind of provide an excuse for why we can’t get outside of our comfort zone.
AH: Yes, I so agree. It holds us back in so many different ways, not only in our business but maybe in our relationships with our friends, at church, or whatever. It holds us back in so many crazy ways. It doesn’t help us to live and master our purpose, it doesn’t help us to live our purpose like fear has no place in your life especially in your business. You have to be able to identify that. You have to be able to say no like, “What’s real? What’s not real here? What am I believing? What am I choosing to believe? Am I choosing to believe the fear or am I choosing to believe the faith?”
JM: I love that, such great advice. Tell us where we can find you because I know people listening are going to want to go to your website and learn more about you. It’s been such wisdom and such great advice, how can people connect with you?
AH: Sure. My website is just allisonhardy.com. You can also listen to my podcast, the Life by Design or join my Facebook group, The Mompreneur Community.
JM: Fabulous. Thank you for sharing with us, Allison. If you would like to connect with me, you can visit my site at brandwithcatalyst.com. Thanks again for your time, Allison, I appreciate it. Great advice.
AH: Thank you, Jennifer.