Susan Epstein (@susanpaulsonepstein) is a business coach for coaches, former parenting coach and therapist, and creator of several courses and programs on finding coaching clients, creating & filling coaching groups, and enrolling more clients.
In this episode, Bobby speaks with Susan about the evolution of her career from therapist to parenting coach to business coach. They dive into how business has shifted since 2020, the incredible power of quick wins, and how she went from 3-day live events to 1-hour virtual events – and got even better results.
(01:00) – Introduction
(01:15) – Susan’s Customer Journey
(02:30) – Why Susan uses Masterclasses
(04:00) – Super Nanny
(06:00) – How Susan’s Approach Has Changed
(8:45) – LinkedIn Flywheel
(10:30) – The Problem with Events
(14:15) – From 3-Day Events to 1-Hour Events
(17:00) – What Do People Want Now
(22:00) – Quick Wins
Bobby: Tell the listeners a little bit about what you do and what your company does.
Susan: My company is Highly Profitable Practice and I coach coaches on how to create groups and masterminds.
Bobby: So, let’s talk big picture first. What is the overall journey that customers take with you from not knowing your company exists, all the way to becoming a raving fan?
Susan: So I believe in relationships and letting people see me work with me before asking them to buy something from me. I’m kind of that way too. Like if I wanna get something, I wanna get to know you first or know your values. I’m a big researcher. Even when I buy something on Amazon, I wanna know like what the company cares about before I give them my money.
So, the main thing that I’ve done, and I’ve been doing this for a very, very long time, is teaching masterclasses or live events, something like that where people are in a room with me, whether it’s virtual or live, where I am taking them through something that would be useful for them to know, and then inviting them to speak with me or one of my team members to see if they’d like to take what they learned further and work with us. So it’s pretty simple. It’s spend an hour with me, get on a call with us, let’s get into clarifying what you need. If we’re a match, we have several programs that we could enroll you into. So it’s not complicated.
Bobby: I love that you keep it simple. It sounds like, over your career you’ve really appreciated the networking and the relationship building So how did you go from that approach originally to let’s put a masterclass as part of the sales process?
Susan: So years ago I had a parent coaching company and I was always doing that. I was always doing the, we called it webinars then. And it was funny because in the early years I just would do what you’re doing right now with me. I would just interview people and there was never like an ask to the audience. I was just giving my people another perspective I’d find somebody who was a divorce coach, or I’d find somebody who was into like not putting toxic stuff into your house or what book should I be reading to my child or, you know, that kind of stuff. And I would interview them.
And then 10 years later when I started this other business, a Highly Profitable Practice, I went back to those people and I said, can you help me? And because we had spent an hour together, we knew each other. They knew me, I knew them, and then they helped me spread the word about this business.
So I didn’t know that that was gonna happen, but I’ve learned over time that having a deep conversation with somebody, it may not lead to something immediately, but it will deepen your relationship and have people remember you.
Bobby: I love that. Now that I’m starting this podcast, I’m learning like, this is so powerful just to have these conversations and build those relationships. It’s really interesting that you started out as a parenting coach.
Susan: What was that like because that would’ve been well before what I see as kind of resurgence of the coaching industry as it is now.
I remember my coach said, do some market research and find out who else is doing this. Because I was at a training for CTI, Coach’s Training Institute, in 2003. And I thought, well, I’m a therapist and I work with children and families. I wonder if I could just help parents, like just do that. I don’t wanna be a life coach. So boring like it’s generalist. Because I had been a psychotherapist that specialized. So why couldn’t I do that for coaching?
But no one was talking about nicheing or target markets or anything like that in the coaching world, because there wasn’t a world yet. And then my friend said, well, I had cancer, maybe I could be a cancer coach. You know, we were all starting to say these things out loud. And so I went with it and one of the homework assignments was to research who else was doing it and nobody else was doing it.
I was one of the first people to have that kind of business, and it was great. I mean, I did so many innovative things then. I would travel to people’s homes for like the weekend, like the super nanny, and move into the kids’ bedroom, and the kids would be in another room and I would come out in the morning and help them organize their refrigerators and have family meetings and all kinds of cool stuff.
Bobby: That’s amazing. My wife got me onto that show, and so that’s such a picture in my head of the actual in-person visits.
Susan: I did that for a long time and then I did a lot of Zoom stuff andI did some presentations for some of the schools my kids were in. I would go and do parenting and I found lots of clients there. I had a live event at Connecticut College a couple of times where we rented out one of their ballrooms and invited people to come and sold my first book there. Like I took the book outta the box and I’m like, “I have a book”. And they were running up to get the book and they’re like, this is cool, like you wrote a book. And I’m like, Okay. I wasn’t feeling it until they wanted it and they wanted me to sign it.
Could you sign my book? And I was like, oh wow, this is pretty cool. I guess I’m an expert now. What was interesting was about three or four years in, I had a lot of friends that were psychotherapists. And I also had people that I knew that were interested in this online coaching world, and I was having success and people said, “how did you do it?” How do you get people? How do you get clients? And I’m like, well, I have a freebie and I have a nurture email sequence and I do calls and I do teaching. “Could you show me how to do that?”
So I always had two or three people I was helping with their business while I was doing the parenting. So when I made the pivot, I already knew that I could do the business coaching thing, because I had people already coming and asking me for help.
Bobby: How has your approach changed and evolved as social media has come into the world and things like that.
Susan: Not a whole lot. I feel really happy about that. So I still rely on email marketing. I still write to my list. I still grow my list, and that’s my primary. I’ve done Facebook. I first started with Google Ads because that was what there was, there was no Facebook when I started. and I did build my list up pretty good with some of that. And I didn’t really understand it though, like I was just following directions of my coach and telling me what to do and blah, blah, blah. Somehow I, I stopped doing that.
I don’t remember why. It was probably not very smart. But I think I stopped because I was like, well, I’m spending $250 a month in Google ads. And I’m selling $250 in books. And I remember my coach saying, well, that’s good. And I said, I don’t understand. Cause I didn’t understand back then. Now I get it. I shouldn’t have stopped. I probably would’ve a list of like 3 million people right now. But I didn’t. So I stopped that I started writing more books. I started traveling around the country and teaching. And I didn’t have to do any kind of social media advertising because for seven years I traveled and talked about the parenting stuff to ripe audiences of sometimes 100 to 300 people three times a week. And I did it once a month for seven years. I traveled around the country. Soat first I was sending around a piece of paper where they would write it down their address and their email and then I’d get home and half the people, their handwriting was so bad that I end up with all these bad emails.
So then I got this idea, take out your phone. Cause they were on their phones anyways, this is the beginning of everyone not being able to tear themselves away from their phones. Probably like, 2012 of 2011. You’re on your phone anyway, so go to ParentingPowers.com/robot because that was my robot tool and sign up for the cheat sheet of what I just taught you. And so I was growing my email list like a hundred people a day, like 300 people a week. Every time I traveled. I used Facebook for community building, my live event stuff, information in between the group coaching calls, that kind of thing.
I took an Instagram class. And at the end of it, I just threw my hands up in the air and said, I don’t think so. Not for me. if I was selling a hair straightener where I could show people how your hair goes from curly to straight, I really got that. Or fashion or shoes, something that’s visible like that. But it really had a struggle for myself trying to figure out how to do Instagram on a business like mine.
LinkedIn is my go-to now. I have a LinkedIn newsletter that I put out once a week and it’s starting to get some teeth and I have quite a few followers and I’ve integrated that around to my email list.
But it’s all part of the same wheel between the LinkedIn and the email and the value emails that I do.
Bobby: Let’s explore that more. What does that wheel or that journey look like for you now? How do you see it working together?
Susan: So I’m writing a lot and I’m loving the writing. I’m writing from my heart about life and business, kind of the blend, and people are responding to that. On the AI side, if you’re reading LinkedIn posts now, you can really tell the difference between somebody who’s just putting the parameters in for ChatGPT. And it’s so boring and it has that summary paragraph at the end, “and therefore”, like you’re writing it for like your high school term paper or something. And people are saying, oh my gosh, Susan, that’s beautifully written. That’s great. So people wanna read what I’m writing, right?
So, my new idea is that I’m gonna go back to the newsletter, to my email list. And engage them on that level and then continue to keep sending them through the LinkedIn so really snap it together so it’s part of one conversation.
Bobby: I love that. You’ve had such an impressive career and I think that’s a huge advantage you have in terms of sending out like a LinkedIn newsletter where you just have so much to talk about and I think that’s such a good idea of having that loop between your newsletter on your email and then your actual LinkedIn and sending people back and forth because I know creators who, I maybe don’t catch all of their email newsletters, but I do see them on social, on LinkedIn or, Facebook or whatever. So making sure you’re showing up in both places.
So as you’ve kind of evolved over the years from being in person as a psychotherapist to a parenting coach to now a business coach full-time, what have been some of the challenges that you’ve faced evolving and then getting the conversions and the results that you want
Susan: Well, you know, some of the challenges I faced because you helped me with them. I live in new London, Connecticut, which is a small city halfway between New York and Boston. And I started doing live events years ago, and at first it was fairly easy to get people to come because they were all kind of part of my community, and then they would bring a friend.
But as we started doing it more and having more outreach, people didn’t know where I was and I wasn’t a destination. So it was always a little like pulling teeth people to fly into Hartford, Connecticut and drive an hour or fly into Providence and drive an hour. Either way, it’s an hour. To stay in a place that the only thing that they knew about it was Mystic Pizza from the movie with Julia Roberts. So that was like a little bit tough, right? So when the pandemic happened, I was like I don’t have to do that anymore and I don’t have to try to make people spend a lot of money to come and see me.
So I just really embraced the online world. I was doing two or three master classes a year. Now I do nine or 10. So we just changed the whole business to work for me. And in my family things have changed as well. My mother moved in with us during the pandemic. She’s 95.
So as your life changes, whether you’re having children or your parents are aging or there’s a pandemic, what I love about this business is that there’s always a pivot. So I always look at that. What’s the opportunity versus, oh, I can’t anymore.One of the things that worked with me, I was working with a lot of psychotherapists, helping them become coaches, and they were so like, Ugh, I’m not doing video. I don’t know how to do that. And then they all had to telehealth. They had to, and now they’re like, oh, that wasn’t hard. Now they wanna be a coach instead of a psychotherapist, just because they were like hung up about the technology. So that was kind of a benefit. I got those people to come and say, okay, I’m ready for you to help me now because I’m not afraid of Zoom.
Bobby: Is there anything, any specific strategy, tactic or approach that you’re using right now that’s working really well?
So one of the things that I see people do in the industry is drag people along for a really, really, really, really long time before they actually talk to them. And that’s okay, because some people you will have on your email list for five years before they even are ready to work with you. But I like to try to get from meet me and talk to me the fastest. Like if they have to do all this stuff before they talk to me, every time I look at my business, I’m like, how can I shorten it?
So an example was I was doing these three day live events. And at the end of the event, you know, you make your offer from the stage and then people come and you sign them up and you do that two or three times a year and that’s your business. And it’s enough for growing your business. And maybe some little things in between or supporting other people. But it’s a lot of effort and it’s a lot of work and it’s fairly expensive.
So when the pandemic happened, we pulled back. We didn’t do that event, but we did an event in November of 2020 online, just like I would’ve done if it was in person. And I got some okay results. Not fantastic, not over the top. They were okay.
So then I was like, well, what would happen if I did this two days instead of three days? Same results. What would happen if I did this one day instead of two days? Same actually better results. What would happen if I did this for three hours, a three hours teaching thing? Best results. What would happen if I did it after an hour and then offered an hour call with me? Major results.
And I think it’s because you’re still top of mind. They’re excited about what they heard and learned. And it’s instant gratification for everybody. So that’s what we’re doing. We’re shortening that length of know, like, and trust, to a call. Are we a fit? If we’re not, that’s fine. See you next time. See you later. Come to another one of my free things. So that’s what we do now and it really works for us.
Bobby: That’s amazing. That’s so interesting cuz you have so much experience with these three day live events. How did you figure out what you could cut, what you could keep, what you should keep to go from three days to a one hour event?
Susan: So when I was doing the three day events I always ran ’em like a workshop. I didn’t run ’em the way some other coaches might run ’em. Let’s put it this way, I didn’t run ’em on mindset. I ran them on, let’s get something done. So create and design your group coaching program. So you come for the weekend and you do that. And then on the third day, I stick ’em out in the hallway and say, call people. Get people in your program. and they were excited cuz people were leaving with money in their pocket. Like they came to the event and they were getting clients. So they trusted me, like, wow. So then they come to the program, they wanna be in our mastermind and so forth and so on.
So what I noticed was that was great for the in-person events. For the online events, though, if you solve too many problems, you don’t have a chance to talk to people on the back of the room . You’re not seeing them. They could be like listening to you reading a book, shutting you off, leaving their face there. It’s very different. And so you have very little control of getting someone in a corner and saying, I know you’re scared, but let’s do this. I’m here and giving them a hug. So that didn’t work very well. Every time I solved a problem and workshopped it, they’d say, oh, I’m gonna go do this and do my group, and then I’ll let you know if I need you next year or whatever. For instance, right now I’m teaching create and design your group, but I’m not teaching the fill part. If you want my help to fill it, let’s talk about a program that I have where we’ll show you how to get people into your group. It’s ready to go. Now let’s go find the people to put into the group.
Bobby: How did you land on “Fill” as the step that you’d leave for your future program?
Susan: It just made sense. At the end of the day, because I’m a business coach, all my clients want clients. So that’s the problem that I solve, is helping them find clients, so not just have something that they can offer. But also know how to offer it and know how to close it. So we help them with all three of those things, how not to make it complicated so that they can actually sign people up.
Bobby: What I think is really interesting is, in my experience, the designing and the creating is kind of the easy step in terms of just like the mentality of it. But once you get to the launch step, which is the fill part all the forces of resistance seem to pop up at that step. And so it seems like that is where they need you the most.
Susan: Yeah. in fact usually they’re asking that question on the first day of the design and create. Like, you don’t need to worry about that right now. They’re not coming unless you have something that they want anyway. So let’s get the thing that they want, you know? So what am I gonna do if too many people come? I’m like, oh my gosh, you should have that problem.
Bobby: It’s so funny how like, in the beginning stages you worry about the champagne problems. Like what if I’m too successful?
Susan: Right? I met this woman a long, long time ago in one of my classes and she said, I’m so afraid to build my business because I think what if a tsunami happens, how it’s gonna affect my family. Tsunami meaning that she would be working so hard in her business. She was a really confident person. So I could see how she would think that, but I’m like, what? I just wanna get like one client today. You’re worried that the whole world is gonna knock at your door, you know? But people have different worries. Yeah.
Bobby: Absolutely. So let’s dive in a little bit, brainstorming ways to improve what you’re doing right now in terms of getting more customers and clients. Is there anything you’d wanna focus on? Any specific area or anything that you’re doing?
Susan: I’d love to get your input, yeah, on what you think about what are people wanting now? Are they wanting one-on-one coaching? Are they wanting group coaching? Are they wanting to solve a program and then move on to another program? Are they tired of all of that? Are we coming back to the one-on-one coaching mentoring world? I’d love to hear what you think about what people are wanting in order to get, move their businesses forward, especially coaching businesses.
Bobby: I think we’re in such an interesting place. There’s more chaos and uncertainty in the market. Fears of recession and things like that. So I think there needs to be more certainty, there needs to be more credibility and trust built with people. And especially as the coaching market has matured, people are, are slower to trust. They’ve been burned before In terms of what people are wanting, I definitely think people are moving away from wanting to be in yearlong commitments.
They want things quickly. They want to solve certain things quickly. And so if you’re talking about like the beginner market, sprints are becoming very popular because people really just want, you know, I want you to be able to promise me that in six weeks I will get X results. That’s so powerful when you can make that promise. And so I think people are really looking for that sort of promise versus, ” I’m gonna coach you for a year.” It’s like, things have changed so much in this past year, I don’t know how things are gonna look in 12 months, so I don’t wanna be tied to that.
Susan: I’m seeing that too. Yeah.
Bobby: I haven’t been through many recession cycles. But what I’m reading and seeing is that in the boom times, people are more forward looking. They’re looking a year or two in advance, but when things are more uncertain, their time window shortens.
Susan: It’s interesting. I signed up for a writing class. I love to write and I wanted to gift myself that and play around in that. And I took a five week course in January then I took another five week course. And I really liked the teacher in the second course. So I signed up for a six month writer’s community with her where we meet every week.
So that was my process. Like I tried something short. That was great. I really missed it when it was over, like I felt fear of missing out, that kind of thing. And I felt connected to the second teacher much more than the first teacher, probably because we actually had live calls. It wasn’t just like posting your stuff up and getting it reviewed. I didn’t actually get to see the other teacher. And there are results because I’m submitting my writing and seven people are giving me feedback on it. That’s pretty intense. So when I think about our programs too, I think about like, well, how can we be more handholding, more present, more helpful. And I think I have it covered with our Powerful Experts Mastermind program where the whole team is invested in helping our clients, whether it’s marketing, sales, or tech. We have all of those places people can drop in and get their questions answered, rather than taking them through a course for a year where they may or may not apply those things ever. Like, why do I need to learn algebra?
Bobby: Yeah, I think people are less wanting to learn skillsets. They just want results.
One thing that I think that’s really interesting is you talked about how on your three day events, on that final day you would have them go out in the hallway, make those calls, get those results, and just be like, wow, Susan knows what she’s talking about. And I think taking all the skills you already have from delivering that wow factor and going, how can we do that on the front end?
I’m from the paid traffic world, so it’s very popular to try toliquidate your ad costs, have the ads pay for themselves with a low ticket product. That’s such a good way to build trust quickly. You give them a low ticket way to experience you and what you can offer and the results you can bring And separate yourself from everyone else who is not doing that or can’t do that.
I think it’d be really cool if you paired that hallway phone calling “Wow Factor” with a low ticket workshop format where they’re just like, wow, Susan really knows her stuff. And you do, you just have so much experience that you can give them.
Susan: I did that on one of the PEM [Powerful Experts Mastermind] calls. I said who are you talking to? And they weren’t talking to anybody. And I’m like, you know people. And here’s where you know them. You know them from your email. You know them from your Facebook, you know them from your neighbors, you know them from your church, wherever. I said, we’re gonna close down the video right now. And you’re going to set up as many appointments as you can in the next 15 minutes. People got so into action, they were so excited. One lady said, “I just made 10 appointments.” And then the week after I signed up a client because of that.
We had them out in the hallway and then we had them come back in and they were all filling their groups for like $999 a month or whatever. And people are coming in, “I just got a client!” And put it on the poster board and we made $26,000 And that was like crazy money. And that’s like, don’t waste the opportunities.
It’s really fun challenging people to get outta their zone and do things because it is scary. I don’t like doing it either. I mean, I’ll tell you, just, because I can teach it doesn’t mean I’m like, oh yeah, I’m gonna call 10 people Like, who wants to do
Bobby: You do this really well and I think a lot of coaches do this well, but there is probably nothing better to position yourself as the guide in someone’s life than to get them to do something they didn’t think they could do. “You didn’t think you were gonna show up to this call and actually do this, but you did.” And that’s just so incredibly powerful.
Susan: One of the ones I used to teach online too, which I teach occasionally, is I teach them how to design their group during the call. then towards the end of the call I say, okay, now pick your date. And then it’s this, like, and then okay. It’s fun to have people do something uncomfortable, but something that makes them feel successful at the same time.
Bobby: Where can people go to find you see what you’re offering?
They can find me in two places. One is my website, HighlyProfitablePractice.com. And if they go there, they can get my free report on 5 Steps to Creating Your Group or Mastermind. And they can start playing with my method and very simple way of filling it with no bells and whistles. Just design it, create it, and fill it. And then if you wanna talk to me, you can hit reply to any of those emails and we can have a conversation about what you’re wanting for your group. The other way is to follow me on LinkedIn. I have a newsletter there called “Real Talk with Susan”.
Bobby: And is there anything else you want to share with listeners?
Susan: Someone said something to me the other day, which I was like, oh my God. That is like, so right. “Don’t change yourself for your business. Change your business for yourself.” And I’ve always done that. I am not like other gurus. I do things my way. I also don’t go into lanes that I shouldn’t belong in. I hire people to do those for me.
Bobby: Yeah, you have an awesome team for sure.
Susan: Yeah, I do. And I really feel very grateful that I have the life and the flexibility I have because of the way I built it, because I was wanting it to be around me, not around the business.