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How to Create Your Product Ladder with Chris Lema

March 7, 2022
The Recognized Authority Podcast Cover

The podcast that helps experts & consultants on the journey to becoming a recognized authority in your field, so you can increase your impact, command premium fees, work less hours, and never have to suffer a bad-fit client again!.

As consultants, we often think about having a single core offer – usually a high ticket offering. But it’s not always a good fit for a lot of our potential clients, and there are some clients who are willing to pay more to get more. So how should we approach creating a product or services ladder?

In this episode, Chris Lema and Alastair McDermott discuss how to think about product ladders, including the three key offers you can include in your ladder.

They also discuss how content marketing is about telling a story, how to use frameworks to tell that story, and how Chris got it wrong about mattresses! 

Show Notes

Guest Bio

Chris Lema is a public speaker, storyteller, blogger, coach & product strategist.
His motivation behind all of what he’s doing is to help your business grow. For more than fifteen years he has been helping companies think about things differently. He has frameworks (and tons of stories) that he uses to put your work into a new perspective and challenge you.


people, offering, product, buy, ladder, selling, wallet, book, service, bridge, string guitar, river, helping, talking, pay, core, walk, business, customers, podcast

Alastair McDermott, Chris Lema


Chris Lema  00:00

You realize that different people need different products, even when they’re all saying I need a hotel, or I need a car, or I need or whatever, right? Like you end up. We as service practitioners, the people you’re talking about right who have high ticket offers.


Voiceover  00:17

Welcome to The Recognized Authority, a podcast that helps specialized consultants and domain experts on your journey to become known as an authority in your field. So you can increase your reach, have more impact, and work with great clients. Here’s your host, Alastair McDermott.


Alastair McDermott  00:32

Hey, if you are a regular listener, then you know that I’ve made a decision not to look for sponsorship for the podcast in a major part, because I don’t want you to have to listen to ads before during the podcast. But I do want to ask you a favor in return. If you are enjoying the podcast and listen on a regular basis, can I ask you to take a minute to leave a review, it’s really easy to do this, you can go to And it’ll give you options that are appropriate for your device and your listening app. So that’s at the recognized And that link is in the show notes. So thank you, I really appreciate it. Now on to the episode.  Chris Lema, thank you so much for being with me here on The Recognized Authority.


Chris Lema  01:15

It is great to be here.


Alastair McDermott  01:17

So my friend, our mutual friend Joe Casabona recommended you to come on. I know there’s a million things that I could ask you about. But the first thing I want to talk to you about is aboout product ladders because I know that’s something you help people with. And a lot of people listening to this. They may be doing consulting, where they have like high ticket, custom projects, services that they’re providing. I just want to talk about product ladders in that context, can you can you just talk a little bit about product ladders, how you see them fitting into that?


Chris Lema  01:45

Sure. Well, so to back up for just a second, right? I would ask you to think about why Mercedes sells six SUVs from $35,000 to $85,000. You did and I’m not talking about the Maybach, which is $150,000. But you just go to Mercedes or And you click on SUVs. And there’s six of them. And you go what on earth? Why do we need six different SUVs? If you watch the commercial here in the US, there’s a commercial running where all six are driving down the road. And you look at six and you go was there was it not was too not enough, right? There’s a small SUV and a large SUV. Why? Why six, right?  And there are customers that get into those SUVs and discover that most of the six still only seat five people, right? And they they have one steering wheel and one passenger seat and four wheels and four doors and a hatchback. And you’re like what, why? Why do we have six?  Better yet, fly to Chicago, right? Pull up your Hilton card and say I’m a Hilton person. And I want to stay in a hotel in Hilton and in Chicago. And there are 14 Hilton products in Chicago in downtown ranging from 145 to $415 a night, and you’re like 14 was one or two right on the north side on the South Side weren’t these enough?  And you realize, as a business person, I’m going to go I’m going to stay in a hotel and I want its proximity or location to be close to my business meetings. And I want to be able to go downstairs in the morning at 7am and have a quick bite of breakfast before I walk to my meeting, which is completely different than if I go with my family in the summer, I want to stay on Lake Michigan. And I want the kids to have an arcade and I want to have a pool and a bar and I want, you know my wife wants to Jacuzzi. And so you realize that’s $415. There’s 250 to have the business suite close by.  And if my buddy and I are just flying into town for one night, see a concert, we’re happy to stay in 149 and not worry about it. It’s a little out of town. But you know it’s a little further out. But it’s not a big deal because the stadium is not downtown. And you realize that different people need different products, even when they’re all saying I need a hotel, or I need a car or I need or whatever, right? Like, you end up, we as service practitioners, the people you’re talking about right? Who have high ticket offers, we act like everybody is the same. And we may even say all I want is my high ticket customer.  But the truth of the matter is that someone buys a Mercedes and buys a $35,000 one and three years later, they buy a $50,000 one and four years after that they buy the $85,000 there is an up market climb that people often aspirationally move through. And if you’re not catching them down market, if you’re not catching them and bringing them up, there’s a chance someone else is and so the notion of a product ladder is saying yes you have a sweet spot offering there’s no question you have an offer that is perfect for your sweet spot. But do you have an offer for people who want more? And you’ve all had those customers who are like hey how can I like if I like this but but how how can I get more, right. And you have also had people who come to you and say, I’m not ready to spend that they want a little bit less, right? Do you have a less for less offer? You deliver less? They pay less? Do you have a more for more offer? Right? They pay more, they get more.  And then I have coaching clients who show up and I give them you know, here’s this plan. And here’s this plan. And they’re like, what if I wanted you to function like part of my team? What if I wanted my whole team to show up? And, and I go, Well, that’s mean, that’s a whole different. That’s a whole different price here. And I just find, just give me the number, right, and you give him a number. And it’s three, four times what what your sweet spot offering is. And one at a hundred goes, Yep, I’ll do it. Where do I sign? Do you have that offer? Right? And do you have the partial for partial right partial results for partial pay? Do you have an offering that just let someone step in and and play with a little and get educated on why they need to move up the ladder. So that’s what product is all about. Is helping understand that one offering is great, but more is better.


Alastair McDermott  06:07

Okay, so there’s a couple of things that sprang from that. So is it better when you’re when you’re starting out? And let’s say you’ve got, you know, you’ve got a customized a customized project that you do. It’s similar, but not the same for every client, when you’re thinking about, okay, I want to, I want to have a few more kind of strings to my bow here. Do you go up the ladder first? Or do you go down first?


Chris Lema  06:29

So in order to do that, I think in order to answer I think the first question you have to ask is, what are they really buying? And so I you know, I think of the I think of the product as the middle ring of a three ring, if you think about a target or a three ring solution, the middle ring is the thing that shows up on the receipt, right? That’s the product we sell. But there’s something deeper there’s an inner circle, that is the what’s the actual core offer, what are they really buying. And then I have on the outside ring, the augmented offer, or what you might call the accelerator, the accelerator is tied to the core offer.  So I have owned that was one of the first people to own a Tesla Model X, right. We don’t have any more. But we had for two years, that Tesla, when I first signed up, I was like 30,000 on the list. And then I they asked me to pick my stuff. And I’m like I’m picking now it’s I’m gonna get it in like five years at the rate that they were producing model x’s, and then I picked all the high stuff. And they said, Congratulations, your number 1000. And, and we’ll ship it to you in two months. And I’m like, what, why? And they said, you picked all the fancy stuff. And we want that car on the road. We want other people to see that car.  Now what was I buying? At the core of it, I was buying a toy, I was buying something where I’m like, This thing goes zero to 60 in like 2.7 seconds, when we would get to a stop sign, I would floor it right and it would take off really fast. And everybody in the car would get thrown in the backseat, my wife looked at me says you gotta warn me before before you do that. And I’m like, Hey, here’s my warning, every time I get to a stop sign, and every time I’m at a red light, and I’m first I’m punching it, right. It’s like a Disneyland ride every single time. And she’s like, You’re crazy. I’m like, bomb, I’m buying, I’m buying a toy like I can buy it, I can afford it, I want it. And I want to play with it.  But there are other people that were buying Tesla’s and at the core, what they were buying is a status symbol. And there are other people that were futurists or technologists who are buying it. And they were buying the last car they ever thought they they buy, right, like the entire auto game is changing self driving cars, it’ll drive somewhere, drop us off and drive back home.  Three people buying the same product, they’re buying three different core value props. And when the core changes, the accelerant on the outside range changes, right? Because you can sell a bigger battery to someone but not to me, right? Because my toy doesn’t need the bigger battery. But to someone else who’s like, I think this is the future of all cars, and I don’t need to buy another car again – they would love that. And someone who wants a status symbol goes, no, no one’s gonna notice that I have a, you know, a bigger battery or not. That’s not interesting to me. So the accelerants are the ones that help you move closer to the objective, require that you understand the objective.  And so when we go back to your core question, right, which is, hey, I want to add a few more strings to my bow. The core of it is what are they buying? And then do I have multiple different offerings that help people get there. Now some cores, some some core to your product, what people are really buying some of those lend themselves to accelerants that are more expensive, and others accelerant that are cheaper, right? But that it comes back to what are they buying.  So if you’re selling SEO, right and you’re in your that’s your thing, you’re selling SEO, you might sell a workbook that gives someone the opportunity to kind of work through some of the things on their own. And that’s a down market offer. You just go, Hey, I have the service, I have this thing. But you’re, it sounds like you’re not fully ready to join. So here’s this, you can buy this workbook. And it’s a, it’s a less for less or a partial partial offer. But it’ll get you started. And you can start collecting some of this data, and you can start answering some of these questions. And, and that will help you think about things the right way. And then we’ll come back. Someone else, you they show up, and they’re like, look, I don’t want to get into keywords, I don’t want to get into whatever I just want you to come in as a full service offering. I want you to figure everything out, I want you to STAT and track everything. And then I want you to tell me what’s changed or do. In fact, if there’s things to change, I’d like you to change it. And you go, well, that’s a little more than our normal offering. But I haven’t a more for more option at this price point. That sounds like it’s perfect for you.


Alastair McDermott  10:44

Right. And okay, so we’re, and we’re talking, you know, I know we’re using the word product ladder, but we’re also talking about services here.


Chris Lema  10:53

Yeah. So that’s the that’s a bit of a challenge, right is because product, people get it mostly because we live in a world where we see product stuff all the time. When you get to services, it is sometimes hard for service people to get their head around different offerings. There’s a there’s a Hotel in Los Angeles, it is relatively close to LA International Airport, or LAX. And people fly from different parts of Asia, and land in Los Angeles, and they land at like, eight in the morning. The problem in the hotel world is that when you show up to a hotel at eight in the morning, normally they tell you your room will be ready by 4pm. Well, that’s no good, right? If you’re flying from Australia, same kind of thing, right? You’d land in LA, and you’d be like, hey, I want to get I want to get into bed right now, I want to get in a room, I want to take a shower, I want to take a little nap, and then I’ll get going my day.  In order for that hotel to work. Right, they can do one of two things, they can either say we’re in the business of putting heads and beds and our rooms works a certain way and our staff clean at a certain way and rate they use certain kind of vacuum cleaners. And this is just how we do our things. And the customer just better figure out how we work. But this hotel in Los Angeles went nope, nope, I’m going to think about a different way. I’m going to think about our heads and beds as a product. And I’m going to start creating a product ladder. And so what they did was a kept one floor or two floors that had rooms that were cleaned and ready by 8am. So when international fires flew in and said I’d like to check in and they said yep, right away, here you go.  And then they even changed the vacuum cleaners on those floors, so that they were quiet. So if you were sleeping while they’re cleaning another room, you weren’t gonna wake up. It’s still a service. I mean, that’s a service based business, yet, they thought about it as a product. And they created a separate tier, right? And that’s one of the challenges working with service providers is helping them think through the model and say, how do we help you think about products, your services as products and in this product ladder?


Alastair McDermott  13:02

Right? So one of the things that I see people doing is they, they look at their their service, and they say, okay, the people who can afford this, I can take some parts of it, and I can start to productize it or turn it into some sort of information product, maybe an online training course things like that. Can you talk about that a little bit how you see that working?


Chris Lema  13:24

I think that’s a great idea. I mean, it’s a it’s an excellent, excellent approach to-to building out your product ladders, figuring out, okay, I can take these little parts, I can make a smaller offering I can make I can create something less for less, I think it’s great.  I think the one thing you got to watch for is when a person is paying you, whose wallet are they paying you with? Right? And this is this is one of those challenges in those service and high tickets, I buy a lot of services for my company, right? I’m the gym of LearnDash. And when I when I want to hire a marketing agency, or I want to hire for Facebook ads, or whatever I’m paying, but even though that comes out of you know, my back pocket, it’s a corporate wallet, and I’m paying right from the corporation.  Now, I may also at the same time buy some software for my website that I that I want to use on And that’s coming out of my back pocket, but that’s my personal wallet, right? And the one thing you don’t want to get confused is when someone says, I can’t afford to spend that. Are they saying with this wallet I can’t? Are they saying with this one I can’t or they even saying I have to justify spending that amount with this wallet. And so help me justify it instead of punting straight and I know it sounds like I’m saying two different things.  I’m just saying be careful because sometimes we punt to I’ll take my $1,500 product and turn a no 99 or $99 product because I’m scared that my my internal, you know, insecurity drives this desire to well let me just give you a little bit less something for $99,  see if see if you like it. And you’re like, No, it was great at 1500. It’s a corporate purchase. But you need to make sure that you can justify why that spent that way so that when I go spend it with my corporate wallet, I can do that. And I got my back covered, right?  So, so yes, you want to use product ladders to go down market, there’s no question and up market, you want to take your your high ticket items, and you want to look at our their courses and create on this or their ebooks on credit. That’s all great. But you just want to make sure that the segment you’re serving is not one that potentially has those two different wallets and that you’re making a mistake in shifting the wallet, right? If you have a corporate wallet, Southwest did this right years ago, it was just cheap flights. And then they started adding, you know, a business class, I think they call it a business class, it doesn’t matter because you’re sitting in the same seat, what you’re paying for was how early you get on the plane, right and Southwest here in the US is one of these airlines where you get a seating number in order to get on the plane, but the seat you can pick any seat you want.  So they realize there are corporate buyers, and corporate buyers are actually spending with corporate cards. And of course, you can charge them an extra 70 bucks, and they’re happy to pay with the corporate card to say let me get on the plane earlier. Right?  So you you got to figure out which while they’re paying with and then that helps you think through, do I go from 1500 down to 99? Or do I go from 1500 to 999. And that that is different. It also instruct you on what you put in that next offering as you go down market or as you go up market.


Alastair McDermott  16:34

Right. So let’s talk about what that offering might look like what that actual ladder of services might look like, or a ladder of products for-for a consulting type business. So we talked a bit about like that, that kind of main offer being a customized service. I think that one thing I’ve talked to Alzhay Calhoun before on this show about his productizing and the values of productizing. And so having, so if we’re thinking about building out this ladder, and we’re saying, Okay, we could have some sort of e-learning information type product as a kind of the bottom tier, and our main product is the middle tier, right? Main services, the middle tier, what else do we have on there? What does that ladder actually look like?


Chris Lema  17:18

So I think the way I normally answer that question is they start by saying, you have different customers, they have different goals, they may all have a goal that is in the same trajectory, right. So if you look at one micro segment, whatever that customer is, they have different goals, everybody agrees on the bottom goal. And then some people that move further go to the next goal. And then some people who move further go to the next. And so you have this hierarchy of depending on where they are in their lifecycle, they’re gonna want different things, or they’re gonna want to get to different places.  One person, let’s say that you’re selling SEO again, as the example that we brought up earlier, if you’re selling SEO, one person says, I just want to know if my website is okay, like, there’s no red flags. So you might have at the lowest tier, you might have an audit, right, and you might productize as an audit. But the reason you’ve defined the offer that way, is because of the goal and the pain that customer has: I don’t know, Google Analytics. I don’t know my website. I don’t know what Google thinks about my website. I don’t know if I’ve done anything wrong. I don’t know if the sitemap’s broken, I don’t know. And what I want to get in everybody starts with, right.  So on the on the floor, everybody starts with this desire to go, Hey, I just want to know I’m okay. I want to make sure. Like, I don’t know enough. And I want to make sure I’m not doing anything stupid or anything wrong. So you might have an offering that is, you know, let’s just go do an assessment, then you move up right to the next tier, and you go, Hey, what I’d love is to, you know, the next the next thing people might want an SEO is they might they might want something like, what are my keywords? How do I compare to my, you know, competition with keywords, whatever. And so, you might have a workbook, right.  And you might say, if you go by that service, and you do that, and we can do it for you in the core offering, but in this, you might productize something that says, here’s a workbook, this workbook, lets you go do some stuff on your own. One of the benefits of that approach is that people very quickly realize, I don’t want to become a keyword expert, I don’t want to do what you do. So I’m happy to pay you to do it.  But you might have another tier like that you move up another level and you’re like, hey, what, uh, you know, what I really want is I want a lot of this done for me, right? And I don’t just want it done for me once I really want a ongoing service that is checking my keywords and checking my services and whatever and so you get another tier and now it’s a service oriented tier, right? Where people are doing work for you, and they’re and they’re helping you.  But you might go up another level right that says, hey, I need backlinks and I don’t have these backlinks. Andm and what I want is a service that goes out and looks for anytime my site is mentioned, but there’s no link there. And then I want you to reach out to them. And I want you to Well, that’s an add on, right? That’s a little let me I can buy the main offering. And then I can add another, right?  So it’s less about the modality with which you deliver it. Right? It could be a course, it could be a book, it could be a worksheet. That’s not the issue isn’t how the shape takes form. The issue is, are you moving up the goal pyramid, right? And if you understand the goals, and most segments aren’t good about goals, but they are good with pain, and so one way to reflect and understand the goal is to understand the pain. And then you go, Okay, I know what the tiers are. Now let me create offerings at those tiers. So that a person who knows where they are in the middle goes, I need that here. But someone else looks at it goes, I’ll start at the beginning. And then I’ll walk my way up the ladder.


Alastair McDermott  20:45

Right. I love it. I love that visualization.  Okay, and so looking at looking at this product ladder, one thing that I’m wondering about is, is should we even bother with the bottom of the ladder, while we don’t have the top of the ladder in place? Because I think it’s it’s much easier to move the revenue dial, if we start putting the kind of the upper tiers in place first, because you’re going to make a lot more money that way quicker. And usually people want quick revenue.


Chris Lema  21:13

Yep. So I think having the, you know, if you imagine for a second a ladder with, say five rungs, right? I think working on the middle rung where I placed my core offering. And then the more for more, which is the someone who I’m hearing all the time, I’m hearing like they they are hearing all the time, a segment of customers 20% 30% They’re saying, This is great. What if I want that, can I get this right? Like, I’m building a website, or you’re building a website for me, but but you’re just building it, you’re not doing the design work? What if I want design? Or you’re building it and you’re designing it, but what if I want SEO analysis? Or you’re building it, you’re designing it? You’re doing SEO analysis but what if I want marketing automation, right?  There’s always someone who’s asking you for one more thing, and you know it right. I talked to owners all the time, in CO owners, and they know what they’re being asked of right? And so you go, Okay, you have a core offering. Let’s move up. What’s the next thing you hear people asking for that you haven’t delivered on? Right? And so moving up? And then what’s the 1%? offering? Right? What’s the you have one out of every 100? The guy goes, Hey, I want next year’s results pulled into this year, right? They’re willing to trade dollars for that accelerated growth curve for themselves, right? And so when someone says, Hey, I have money, I just don’t have the expertise. You have the expertise, I have the money? What would it look like for me to get what we would normally achieve? Right? Because you know, when you’re working with a service provider, you have modest results for this year, and then you have better results next year. And they’re like, how do I get next year’s results into this year. And so craft that 1% offering.  So you start at the middle, you craft the two that go above. And, you know, you test them, you see how it works. And that will move the needle faster. What you also realize is just one rung below that, the less for less. You have customers who are showing up and they’re hearing your amazing stuff, and they’re going God, that’s great. I just I don’t know that I’m ready for that. Giving them a way to still say yes. Versus you just saying no. And I love saying no, I’m not against saying no. But when you know if…  Imagine if I walked up to look at a house and my budget was a half a million dollars, and the house was $2 million. It’s a no go like there’s no way to stretch from half a million to 2 million. That’s not going to happen. But imagine that I I have a budget of 500,000 and I go to a house that’s 700,000. Maybe there’s a way in, maybe there’s an angle. And so when someone shows up and you’re offering the $700,000 offering, and they only have 500,000, is there a way to get them into something that allows them to get there, right? Because if you let that lead walk away, they likely go somewhere else, and they find the piece and by the way, right, if you’re selling 700,000 homes, and you and you have someone who shows up with 500,000, they’re not showing up with 20 grand, I mean, we’re not talking about so down market that you’re like that will never be a customer and that’s the when we start painting these pictures and talk about in our head. That’s the personal timeout like I’m selling a $1,500 I’m selling a $2,500 offering and they have 20 bucks. Well of course that’s not a person.  But if you’re selling a $2,500 offer, I have, I have coaching plans at 25 and 3500. But I have another one at 600. It’s not a coaching plan. It’s a clarity call, right? You go to I’m one of the five most called people there. You go to you pay by the minute, if we only talk for five minutes, boom, that’s it. Right? You pay 10 bucks a minute for five minutes is 50 bucks you move on. Someone who can’t afford 2500 or $3,500 every month is happy to get on a call that cost him 200 bucks because they still got access to a transactional dynamic where they could get their answer. It’s a down market offering.  But there are people who have, you know, made four of those phone calls paid 100 to 200 each time. So let’s say they pay 200 200 times four is 800, they pay less than $1,000. And then they turn around, they don’t just buy the 2000 or 3020 530 $500. Coaching, they buy the 1% plan, and suddenly, they’re paying 150 grand a year, right? And you’re like, This is crazy. Well, but that’s the way the ladder works is that sometimes you got to give the right kind of person who’s not yet ready to sign up for something, and it may not be money, they may not be ready to sign a long term commitment. They don’t know you, right?  When you’re buying a course, an online course, you’re buying something from someone you don’t know, you’re buying something you haven’t tested out, buying a course and buying a couch are two different things, right? When I go to buy a couch, there’s a there’s a salesman, and I’m talking to the salesman, and I’m figuring out whether I trust the salesman, I’m figuring out whether I feel like he’s too salesy or not, I’m figuring out whether he’s too hungry or not. There’s all these cues that tell me whether I’m good to buy here or not. When you buy an online course, or an e book or services, you may not have the ability to develop that rapport. And so then you don’t have the signals that tell you yes or no. So a down market offering allows people a little taste. And then they’re like, this is what I’ve been looking for my whole life and they sign up for your plants, or they sign up for even the bigger ones.


Alastair McDermott  26:27

Yeah, the other thing is you can sit in the couch, which is, which is why people give tasters of online courses, free modules, things like that. My friend Philip Morgan does that he’s got a couple of modules of his his training course available for free so people can see his style.


Chris Lema  26:41



Alastair McDermott  26:41

So does that lead them into content marketing, and putting, you know, tasters, I mean, even this podcast is an example of, of free content out there that people can can access and kind of get a flavor of working with you.


Chris Lema  26:56

I think it does lead in the content marketing, one of my favorite. So all content marketing, in my humble opinion, is really about helping someone progress, someone moves someone go from A to B or b2c, and you’re helping them the goal of the contents be helpful. But in order to convert them in order to move them from A to B. And I don’t mean convert from my offer, I just mean, in order to get them over the hump of inactivity willing to do something, you have to tell them a story, right? You have to tell them a conversion story. And a conversion story is a before and after. Right? Before here’s what I was worried about, here’s what my day look like, here’s what bothered me right?  After all those things are gone. And life is good. Like if you can’t articulate a curve, the moves them from before to after most people just don’t take action. And if your goal in the content is to help them, I think you end up realizing I gotta get good at understanding pain. I got to get good at crafting a narrative, whether it’s a case study, whether it’s a blog post, whether it’s whatever, right? And some people do that really well, really, really well. If you go to And if you go specifically, you go to, and you go to, you will find the same product, right. But the way they tell the story on both of those pages is dramatically different. It almost sounds like they’re selling two different products, because they understand the segment that they’re talking to. Developers versus marketing people. And those are different crowds.  But also, it doesn’t even do the before. It only does the after. But it references the after in the context of a before without having to say it because they understand the segment and the pain, so well. If you understand your market, so Well, you don’t have to do that before you can just say, Hey, if you’re you know, if you’re tired of Bubba, or we’ve now built this, or we’ve solved this problem, and just by articulating the after people like but I’m living in the before, oh my gosh, I want out of here. How do I get to that?  So content marketing is about telling that story, helping people move, helping people grow, and eventually helping people realize that some of your services and some of your products are the facilitator of that move, right? And so then you can embed that product or that service in the right narrative, when it makes sense.


Alastair McDermott  29:20

Right. And I just looked at both of those sites. And I agree both of those pages. So Monday, it looks like it’s project management software. And it’s it…


Chris Lema  29:31

It’s a really interesting piece of software. Because if you look at it as a marketer, you’re like, hey, this is all about collaboration. This is going to help me tell my story to the rest of the organization. But if you look at development, if you look at the slash dev, you’re like, oh, my gosh, this is a project management tool. And this is like Asana but on steroids and it also does it and you’re like, how is it the one product right can literally fashion itself in two different ways for two different audiences? Well, the truth is, they have more pages on that, on that site that shaping in lots of different ways, right? If you go to the small business, it’s a all in one business management, operating system solution, right. And so they have a whole lot in there. And they just shape it differently for their different audiences.


Alastair McDermott  30:14

Cool. And we’ll link to these in the show notes just so people can can take a look at that. I’m really interested in storytelling as well, because it’s something I’ve talked to a few people on here. There’s a recent episode with Guillaume Wiatr. In particular, talking about crafting narrative. Can you just talk a little bit more about, you know, how you actually go about crafting a story and delivering it?


Chris Lema  30:36



Alastair McDermott  30:36

I think it’s really important. And it’s a skill that, you know, I think that we all need to develop as as business owners and as consultants.


Chris Lema  30:42

So I have, I have a framework called the Bridge framework, it’s my version of bridge framework. I’m sure other people have other things called the Bridge, too. So. But the way I explain it, I want you to imagine for a second you woke up this morning, and you were super excited to get a an 18 string guitar. Right? Now you’re gonna say, Chris, I don’t think they make a string. Well, this is the unique location, the one shop that makes this 18 string guitar, and it’s out so incredible, and you saved all your money, and you’re ready to buy an 18 string guitar. And it happens to be the shop that’s right up the street. I mean, you can see it from your window, you look up at the top of the hill, there’s the shop, and they make it. And so you get up on a Saturday morning. It’s a beautiful day, and you decide, well, you know, the road that goes right in front of your house, it runs all the way up to that shop. So you’re like this morning, I’m going to buy my 18th string guitar.  So you walk out of the house, you get on the road and you start walking, you get about halfway up the hill. And right in front of you. There’s a river. It’s not a stream. It’s not a brook. It’s a river. It’s like football field wide. And you’re like, oh my goodness, I Well, I guess I’ll just walk across. And so you take a couple steps. And suddenly you’re in the water to your chin and you go, Wow, this got deep, fast. So you get out and you’re like, I’ll swim across and you take two strokes after diving in, and you’re halfway down the river. You’re like, Oh, my God is moving too fast. And you get out and you walk back to your path. And you’re standing there and you’re wet and you’re frustrated.  You’re thinking about maybe going back home, and here you hear this sound, right, the buzzing. And up comes a motorboat. And the motorboat says, Hey, you trying to get across the river and you’re like, yeah, he goes 10 bucks. So you get in your wallet, you grab the 10 bucks, you hand it to him and he drives off. And now you’re standing there, you’re frustrated, you’re wet, you’re angry because you’re broke. That was your last $10. And so to kind of cool off and relax, you start walking up river on the bank, you just walk and you walk for an hour. And at the end of an hour, you look up and there’s a bridge right there and you’re like, oh my god, you walk up to the bridge jumping up and down, you make sure it’s sturdy. And you walk across the bridge. And you walk an hour back down river on the other side. And there’s the path.  And right before you walk up the path to go to your guitar store, you look back and there’s a group of people standing on the riverbank. And some of them are wet to their waist and some of them are wet to their shoulders. Some of them are looking at empty wallets. And you scream across the river. Hey, I’m not better than you. I’m not smarter than you. But I can tell some of you tried to walk across. And I can tell some of you tried to swim across and I’m seeing some of you look at your wallets. I think you may have paid the same guy that ripped me off. If you’re trying to get across the river and you’re trying to go up the hill to the guitar shop. I know where the bridges I was where you were two hours ago. I know where it’s out of the way you don’t see it. But if you go up river an hour, there’s a bridge. And when you cross it if you’re trying to start, I’ll wait here for you. And we go together.  I use frameworks to tell stories, I use a story to explain the framework, right? The reality is, most people don’t buy a bridge. And the bridge is your product or service. Most people don’t wake up on a Saturday morning and say I want to buy a bridge, they wake up and say I want to buy an 18 stringed guitar, most people are buying an objective, and you’re there to help them get to that objective. When you splash all over your page, I sell SEO services or I sell Facebook ads, you’re missing the point. Because nobody needs a bridge if they’re not standing on a river.  Imagine if I had said I want to go to the top of the hill to get my guitar and have a helicopter in the backyard, I’d get in the helicopter, I’d fly the top of the hill and I would never need a bridge. The only people that need a bridge are the people that are standing at a river. And more importantly, the people who buy access to a bridge are people who’ve already tried to cross the river. When they’ve tried to cross and they can’t get across. That’s when they’re most ready to buy a bridge.  So we start with the destination. Hey, you’re trying to buy an 18 string guitar. We then talk about the route, right? That’s the Hey, there’s a street right in front of our house, right? Then we get to the river in the roadblocks. You try and walk cross train, swim across try and pay your way across. Everybody has ways they’ve tried to solve a problem and it hasn’t worked out. And if you tap into that pain, if you tap into that dynamic, two things happen. First of all, there’s a level of trust that says you’ve been here, you get me you understand. But the second dynamic is there’s a hint of foreshadowing of the fact that you actually have solved this. Wait a minute, if he’s telling me that I tried to walk cross and tried to swim across, he’s telling me that I tried to pay my way across. He knows what I’ve gone through. But he’s standing on the other side of the river banks. Oh my gosh, are you going to tell me where the bridges, right?  There’s a foreshadowing, when we spend our time, if you had taken a stopwatch and clocked my story, you would have discovered that the thing I spent the least amount of time talking about was the bridge, I said, Oh my gosh, there’s a bridge and you walk up, you jump on it, you make sure it’s sturdy, and then you cross it. That’s it, you know what we do? We’re like, I got to start with my why I got to tell you why built the bridge and what my background was, I gotta tell you why I got to this point, I gotta tell you who built the bridge, I gotta tell you how we built the bridge, I gotta tell you what materials were used the bridge, nobody cares.  I know, there’s a great book called “Start With Why” I know, it’s awesome. And it is fantastic. And in an opportunity when you’re being compared to three equal products, or three equal services at the same equal prices, when all the hotels are in town, and they all have the same, then aligning yourself with the motivation of why they did something is super awesome. But in the absence of that moment, in which case most of us are not in that space, when someone’s just looking at you and evaluating they have their own problems, they have their own needs, they have their own goals. And what you can do is help get them facilitated over their challenges, right? And that’s what when someone’s on the other side of the river, they’re saying, I’ve been where you’ve been, I’m not better, I’m not smarter, but I know how to get across. I know that the bridge is outside of your purview. Other people, what they do is they only sell the bridge, the people standing in front of the bridge.  Like if I know that I need SEO services, and I show up right at the SEO Services page. And I’m then you’re selling to me. And I already like you’re using all my insight lingo. And I’m already an insider, and you’re selling the bridge to people standing for the bridge. That’s not, that’s not storytelling, that’s a narrative that wins you more deals. You need to sell the bridge to people who are standing at a path in front of a river that don’t see the bridge. That’s your new names. That’s your market. That’s the people you want to bring over.  And then of course, we end by talking about the community, right? Hey, if you’re trying to get up to the same place, I re anchor to the destination. If you’re trying to get up to the same guitar store, I’ll wait here and we can go together. Because fundamentally, in a world where we still have all the social media in the world, we have all the technology in the world, we still feel alone. And so the more you can bring a group dynamic or a connection dynamic, a community dynamic to your offering, the better off you get people to come over and convert.  So I use the bridge framework to help people craft that narrative, build it clearly. And go, Okay, we start with a destination, we cover the route or the strategy you’re going to use. We then focus in on the river and the roadblocks we end with we reconnect to the destination, and then we end with the community. That’s how you tell a story that gets people to say, oh, yeah, you get it, and you get me. And since you get me I don’t have to do like you’re not selling. You’re just telling me where the bridge is. I don’t feel like you’re selling me. I feel like you’re just saying, you know, some stuff that I need to know. And so now let me go by it.


Alastair McDermott  37:50

And that, folks, is why we brought Chris on the podcast. That was masterclass. Thank you. We don’t have infinite time, unfortunately. So I’m going to have to start to wrap this up. Just a couple of things I like to ask and I know you didn’t get a heads up on these questions. So this, you’ll be answering cold. Is there a business failure in your past that you could tell us about and tell us what you learned from it?


Chris Lema  38:11

Yeah, I was on one of these podcasts. And someone said, what’s the one product? I happen to be pretty good with E-commerce and a long deep experience in E-commerce? What’s the one product that will never sell online? And I said, this is years ago, I said a mattress? Like you can’t buy a mattress online. Like that’s ridiculous. You got to lay on it, you got to touch you got to feel it plus, what are they gonna do? They’re gonna, like, let you bring it back home, or send it back to the store. Like, you know, six months later, then they can’t they can’t take in that revenue. Right? Like, it’s ridiculous. You’ll never do that. And like two years later, there were 37 mattresses, mattress brands selling online. And and I’m like, Okay, what I learned from it, don’t prognosticate, like, just don’t write like, you’re just not good at that part. Like there’s a lot of things I can do. But, but those guesses are not. That’s that’s not where I go anymore.


Alastair McDermott  39:02

Yeah, yeah. Okay. Well, you could do what Gary Vaynerchuk does, which is you can just predict that everything is going to be a success. So then you can come back and cherry pick. Does that work?


Chris Lema  39:11

That’s right. That’s right.


Alastair McDermott  39:12

Okay. One thing that we share in common is that “Differentiate or Die” is one of my favorite books in business. I think you’re a big fan as well. Yes. From Jack trout. Yeah, um, can you just I, this is not the usual question, but I’m just interested in your thoughts on differentiation. I mean, like, how do you view differentiation? How we differentiate ourselves?


Chris Lema  39:34

Yeah, that’s a that’s a great question. So we we’ve hinted at and talked about, right, this notion of microsegmentation that different customers need different things, but it’s because they’re different, right? Like, not all people who stay in a hotel are identical. There are business travelers and their family travelers, their family, travelers, for vacation, family, travelers, for seeing other family, right and so different people function, wearing different hats, and the differentiation, when you’re when you’re talking about differentiation, it’s understanding who’s wearing the hat, what hat they’re wearing, and how do you shape your narrative or your story to work best for them. And most importantly, how do you help them feel seen?  Now most of us feel like, oh, differentiation and marketing is all about me being seen, like, it’s all about me. And you’re like, No, it’s about them feeling seen. So think about the mothers, right? And Trout references this in this book, right? You think about the mothers who are, what I value is, is is my family. And you got the husbands who are out buying cars, and they’re the ones who are having the conversation. They’re like, what’s the horsepower on this? Right? 300-400. I want fast. And, and your wife is sitting there going, but I have babies, right. And Volvo said, let’s focus on safety. And Volvo started differentiating on safety long before anybody else. And made a mint, selling cars.  Some might even say those cars were not particularly attractive, very boxy. Right? But they were selling, because they helped someone feel seen. Not because, you know, let’s go after all the features. It was I see you, I get you, I understand what you need want. And now I can connect to you. Right. And when when someone feels seen, they’re able to make a decision, when they don’t feel seen. They’re happy to move on. Right? So differentiation, for me is all about understanding what hat they’re wearing, right? What you know, what kind of person am I talking to in terms of micro segments, and then helping them feel like I see them, I get them. And the moment that happens, the moment it clicks? That person then is now figuring out how to do business with me.


Alastair McDermott  41:45

Okay, and I am, I would love to dive into that a bit deeper with you, but we just don’t have time for it. Unfortunately. I’m interested know, is there another business book or resource that you’d recommend people check it?


Chris Lema  41:55

Oh, gosh, there’s so many good business books. Wow.


Alastair McDermott  41:59

Sorry that they’ve come across lately or anything new?


Chris Lema  42:02

Yeah, there’s a new one that I’m reading right now. Let me see what the who the author is, right. It’s Adam Grant. And Adam Grant has a book called “Think Again”. And I am reading that right now and enjoying it. And I, you know, again, like asking me for a book recommendation, I’m sitting next to bookshelves on both sides of me that have thousands of books. And so literally, like every one of them is, is a go to recommend for me, but that’s the one I’m reading right now. So think again, by Adam Grant is interesting.


Alastair McDermott  42:36

Cool. We’ll link that in the show notes. What about fiction? Do you read fiction as well?


Chris Lema  42:39

I do. Right now. I am not reading any fiction. I’m looking around to see if I have a book around me. I just I you know, um, it was maybe a couple of weeks ago that I finished one. And let me pull up my… this is so bad, right? When you’re like, you read enough books that you don’t remember what you finished? And you’re like, Yeah, normally what happens? Um, I can’t I can’t even find my Kindle on there. Normally what happens is, I’m reading several books at once, right? And so then you’re just you’re just turning through. Oh, it was a it was a Jack Reacher book.


Alastair McDermott  43:13

Oh, yeah.


Chris Lema  43:14

It Jack Reacher is not the author. I’m sorry. Jack Reacher is the character in the book.


Alastair McDermott  43:18

Lee Child is the author.


Chris Lema  43:19

Lee Child is the author and, and I and I, I read the book that was before I wanted to watch the Amazon new series, Jack Reacher or Reacher. It was just called reacher, which is killing floors. And I was like, let me go read this book before I watch the show.


Alastair McDermott  43:35



Chris Lema  43:35

Which by the way, if you haven’t seen the series,


Alastair McDermott  43:38

Yeah, I’ve, I’ve just finished binging on that show. It’s great. And what’s great about it is, is the guy actually seems like the guy in the book and like the movies. He actually seems like the character in the book, which is kind of cool. Yeah, I really enjoyed that.


Chris Lema  43:50



Alastair McDermott  43:51

So that whole series is just good fun. It’s just a page turner. It’s just good. Yeah. Cool.  Okay. Very interesting. Ahm, Chris. If somebody wants to find out more about you, where can they go?


Chris Lema  44:01

I have a blog over at That’s also where you know, my coaching stuff sits. I’m also the GM of LearnDash. So you can always check out if you’re into online learning. is a product that runs on WordPress, and on Twitter at @chrislema.


Alastair McDermott  44:16

Yep. And I will link to all of those in the show notes, including the page where you can get a call with Chris, if you’re interested.


Chris Lema  44:24

That’s right.


Alastair McDermott  44:25

Chris Lema. Thank you so much for spending time with us here today.


Chris Lema  44:28

Absolutely. My pleasure.


Alastair McDermott  44:32

Thanks for listening. I hope you found that interesting and useful. If you’re enjoying the podcast, can I ask you to take a moment to review it? It really helps us out. And it keeps it free from sponsor ads. You can review it by visiting And that will give you appropriate options for your device and for your listening app. That’s Thank you. I really appreciate it.


Chris Lema  44:58

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