by Andrew Davis
Jenny Doan is a YouTube sensation. Quilters from Texas to Tehran watch her weekly quilting tutorial videos. Her rabid fans have transformed her small-town quilt shop, The Missouri Star Quilt Co., into a multimillion dollar enterprise. But what’s even more amazing is that those fans have helped save her hometown of Hamilton, Missouri from economic decline. (More on that later.)
So what’s the key to Jenny’s video tutorials? Why has her weekly video series transformed a sleepy town into a tourist destination for 50,000 quilters a year? Jenny taps into the beginner’s mindset.
Our expert bias
It is easy to take for granted how much we know about whatever it is we sell. We’re professionals, after all. We spend most of our waking hours thinking about our business. So naturally, we know more than most of the people in the world. You may not consider yourself an industry expert, but you wouldn’t be in this business if you didn’t know more than most.
As many as 70 percent of your customers have already made up their minds before they reach out to your company (depending on whose data you use.) Either way, that’s an enormous amount of the marketplace. So how can you be that company more often? Do what Jenny Doan does: Embrace the beginner’s mindset.
The beginner’s mind
Shoshin, as Zen Buddhists call it, is the beginner’s mind. It acts as a reminder to keep an objective and open mind when studying a new subject. So, when Jenny started creating quilting tutorials on YouTube, she approached the subject as a complete novice would. Embracing your shoshin doesn’t come quickly though. It’s hard to get past our expert bias. In fact, Jenny had help.
Your shoshin friend
It was Jenny’s son, Al Doan, who first suggested they create video tutorials to help grow their business. Al knew that if Jenny’s videos could inspire others to take up quick quilting, they could sell a line of pre-cut fabrics to help make the quilting experience even faster. So they sat down to record the first few videos.
They hadn’t even finished the first take when Al stopped recording. Jenny used so much “quilting lingo” that Al had no idea what she was trying to teach. Take after take, Al asked questions. Finally, Jenny had a video that anyone, even Al, could understand. They uploaded the video to YouTube, and they’ve never looked back.
Al Doan is Jenny’s beginner’s mind. For the last few years, Al has been beside the camera asking questions that help make their videos some of the best in the world.
A booming business
48 million video views later, Jenny and Al are still churning out a new Quick Quilting video every week. The Missouri Star Quilt Co. has benefited tremendously from the YouTube success. Their online business is booming (with more than 3,000 orders every day). And YouTube fans have fallen in love with Jenny—so much so that every year, 50,000 people make the trip to meet Jenny and shop at the company's 11 stores that line the streets of Hamilton. Today, Missouri Star Quilt Company is the largest employer in Caldwell County, and Jenny is building the "Disneyland of Quilting."
What if you embrace your shoshin, your beginner’s mind? What if you started your own weekly video series designed to teach people what you know?
I invite you to find a shoshin friend, someone who can force you to get back to basics. Someone who can help you build a relationship with the audience you want before they need your solutions or services.
Andrew Davis’ 20-year career has taken him from local television to the Today show. He’s worked for the Muppets in New York, written for Charles Kuralt and marketed for tiny start-ups as well as Fortune 500 brands. In 2001, Andrew Davis co-founded Tippingpoint Labs, where he changed the way publishers think and how brands market their products. His most recent book, Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships, hit shelves in 2012.