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Why & How To Kill Your Darlings

“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” this is a quote attributed to William Faulkner, and while it’s often used as a reminder to writers and authors, it also holds true in the business world. Just as an author might be too attached to a particular character, scene, or line within their story, we as business owners can often become too attached to services, projects, ideas, or habits. And just as those authors have to “kill their darlings”, we need to do the same. 

There are two things that must always come before your darlings… 
your data and your clients 

No service, project, idea, or habit should ever supersede those two things, no matter how precious you hold it to your heart, no matter how much of a “must” you feel it is. While following your gut isn’t something to necessarily discourage, we must also be careful to avoid the trap of being so attached to our darlings that we let them drag our business down. 

For example, let’s say that you’ve been offering the same menu of services for five years. The standard massage stuff – Swedish, deep tissue, etc. – plus you offer some spa services – scrubs, foot treatments, that sort of stuff. If you looked back over those 5 years, would you see any trends on what’s selling and what’s not? Is there something on your menu of services that just doesn’t sell? Or you don’t like to market something much because you don’t make enough profit off of it? Look at the data and see what it’s telling you. This data is a direct reflection of what your clients want and don’t want, and the data is what should determine what you do moving forward. 

The key is to distance yourself from your darlings. When you’re too close to anything in business, it can blind you to the reality of what needs to be done. This could be… 

A service that your clients just don’t book. 

A marketing avenue you’re comfortable with, but never has a good return. 

A brand identity that doesn’t align with your ideal clientele. 

A routine that doesn’t fit your clients’ needs. 

Whatever it may be that you hold dear but isn’t data-driven, it needs to go. Every darling needs to prove its worth. 

Every service needs to be profitable. 

Every marketing avenue needs to pay off in either brand awareness, testing results, audience expansion, or revenue. 

Every piece of your brand needs to align with your clientele. 

Every second of the client experience needs to address your clients’ needs. 

So, take a look at your entire business and pinpoint those darlings that you keep around for one reason or another, that may or may not be backed up by data or client needs and wants. Then work up the necessary numbers to determine if the data supports that piece of your business or not. If not, something has to change; and more than likely that darling needs to be killed. 

Savanna Bell LMT

Hey there! I'm a massage therapist, educator, writer, and business pro helping massage therapists around the world build successful businesses. My goal is to give you everything you need to start, run, and grow a profitable massage practice that supports a life you love, all without the headaches I went through learning how to do it myself.

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