Not Enough Readers, Fans, or Peeps: What To Do When Your Numbers are Embarrassingly Low - Christine Kane

Every now and then, someone will complain to me about not enough people signing up for their event.

Or that they only have 47 registrants on their webinar.

Or only 13 people in their first program.

Recently, a doctor sent me his marketing sequence and wanted me to tell him (for free) how to get 35 more people to his very first day-long retreat next week. Only 9 had signed up so far and that was just embarrassing.

Here’s what I want to tell these people:

I want to tell them that the first time I launched an online program, 12 people paid me.

I also want to share that the first time I did a workshop, about 10 people came.

I want to remind them that my first webinars didn’t have even close to the thousands of participants like they do now.

But when I say these things, people look at me like I’m lying. Their eyes glaze over and they say things like, “Okay. But what should my next email say?”

So instead, I tell them about Jim.

You may not know this, but the first business I built was being a musician, making CD’s, touring and managing my own music career.

I met Jim at my very first show on my very first tour. I’d just been signed by an agent who got me actual paying gigs on college campuses. I was officially a professional musician.

I hit the road, drove two days and arrived on the campus of Jacksonville University an hour before my show time for my first big show.

There was a young woman waiting for me on the steps of the student center. She had a folder and a check. She walked me to the makeshift stage and waited robotically as I did a sound check. She double-checked about the start time and end time. She paid me. And she left. That was the last I saw of her.

After that, I sat in the student center waiting for the throngs to show up. It smelled like stale french fries.

The start time came. And there was exactly one person in the back of the room. The janitor.

I thought of a line I had just heard from The Bhagavad Gita. “Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward.” The author of that line, I decided, had never sat in an empty student center faced with the prospect of playing her tunes for the janitor.

But I took a deep breath. And I got up. I told myself that this janitor was going to get a great show, even if he had to feel embarrassed for this pathetic person on stage.

During my first song, he was pushing a broom across the back of the room. By the time I began my third song, he sat down at one of the tables in the front of the room. Since he was my only audience, I started talking with him between songs.

His name was Jim. Jim was from Jacksonville his whole life. He worked odd jobs all over campus. I told him this was my first show on my first tour. That made him happy. He asked for a Fleetwood Mac song. I played it.

Jim did not seem embarrassed that there was no audience. So I kept playing, and he kept listening. When my show ended, exactly no one else had joined us. Jim bought my CD.

So, here’s the thing.

We think that businesses and careers are all about the one moment. The event with hundreds of people. The podcast that’ll make us famous. The big release that everyone raves about.

I went on to make 7 CD’s and a DVD that won a big award. I shared stages with stars like John Mayer, Nanci Griffith, the Beach Boys and Los Lobos. Two dance companies choreographed ballets to my music and took me on the road with them.

But no single event made me successful. Success, I learned, was showing up fully again and again, giving my heart and soul, learning, marketing and doing better each time.

When hardly anyone comes to your thing, whatever your thing is…my advice is the same. Get better at marketing. And then give the ones who show up the very best you have. You don’t have to fake it. But you do have to be there, talk to them and teach them as if they are the most important people in the world. Because they are.

And you never know how your energy and presence will ripple out into their lives and then back into yours.

Honestly, I didn’t think about Jim after that show…

…until a year or so later when I went back to Jacksonville for a CD release show at a coffeehouse.

Jim was there. He brought six people with him. He introduced me to each one of them, and we joked about the time he was the only one in my audience. His friends all bought both my CD’s.

After that, every time I played in Jacksonville, Jim was there with a new group of people who all bought CD’s.

Once he even came to another city and waited with his friends in a line of people to have me sign his CD. With a flourish, he told everyone around us about that night when it was just me and him. “Now look,” he smiled and let his hands sweep across the theatre lobby.

So I tell Jim’s story.

Because yes, it sucks when you’re building your business. It always seems to take slower than the internet gurus say it will. And even when you do have a big night or the best sales ever or a jillion comments – you still have to get back to work and keep doing your thing.

Whether your business is coaching, design, real estate, speaking, training, or writing, you won’t always get the numbers you want. Your ego will say bad things to you. Your ego will say, “Why should I even bother?”

My short answer to that question is something that my own puffy, grandiose, easily bruised ego had to learn over my years as a touring musician:

Keep doing your thing. Because no one is a janitor. And everyone is Jim.

  • Ajit

    This is a great inspirational post. It takes time to grow something from nothing and all the hard work you put in will get back to you in the form of rewards somewhere down the line. Until that time comes, don’t even think of giving up and follow the path that’s in front of you. Better to try and fail, than never fail at all. Thanks, Christine for sharing such an awesome story.

  • Edit

    The truth of Jim’s story touched me to my core. So much, that I cried. Thank you!!

  • Melissa Brown

    I love this article and it so resonates with me!

    This line from your post, “I thought of a line I had just heard from The Bhagavad Gita. “Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward.” ” reminds me of what I’ve heard many times before, “Do the activity and let go of the outcome.”

    I have to share this article with everyone! Thank you so much, Christine.

    • ‘chele Neisler

      Thanks for sharing this article, Melissa Brown. Thanks for the inspiration, Christine! 💖

  • Samantha

    Absolutely love this, and I came across it at just the right time for me to be reading it! I’m at the very early stages of my own business but realised I already have my own Jim!

  • Michael LaRocca

    Great story. What should my next email say?

    I’m kidding! This is an awesome blog post.

    I started writing seriously in 1978, started getting published in 2000, and have churned out 18 published books. My “Jim moment” came in 2003, and surprisingly the reader in question wasn’t my mother.

  • Mary

    Well, I needed this, and it brought tears just now. My brother was a janitor and he just died of brain cancer at 62 y.o. “Nobody is a janitor, and everyone’s a Jim.” Your content is exceptional, authentic, and so relevant. Thank you, Christine. <3

  • Brenda

    Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful story of Jim. I will remember this story always when I’m tempted to give into discouragement.

  • christine pay

    So true! In the business that I am in ;hair and makeup; younger artists look at Instagram and YouTube think that they are going to become an overnight sensation because they do one video or a few pretty pictures. They don’t realize that it’s not the one viral photo, but the little ways you show up every single day that build a solid foundation for your success.

  • belle

    Christine, lovely how this story also makes me feel as if I m on a quest to defend the ring. ( as in the lord of the rings).
    somehow very motivating

  • Michelle

    Thank you for this…something I really needed to hear today. Business has been very slow since I re-opened my shop after a short hiatus due to health. I feel like i’m getting nowhere–I market, offer variety and enthusiasm. I do try to give it my all when I am in my shop. I take time to talk with most everyone that comes in. I teach classes–even if there is only one person vs a full house. Thanks for the reminder that I can make a difference for just that one person…and that difference can turn into a positive for me if I just keep at it.

  • Amy Climer

    Thanks for sharing this Christine! So helpful. I’ve been thinking lately about ego and this really resonates. When we start doubting ourselves because we don’t have enough followers or webinar participants, etc. I think it’s the ego getting in our way. The ego is all about self-protection and keeping us from putting ourselves out there (which at times may be helpful, but usually it isn’t), but it keeps us from doing amazing things too. When I can let my ego go and just focus on providing good, I do so much better – both in how I feel and in my income stream. It’s amazing. This is a good reminder to let go of our egos and just do the work! Thanks for sharing!

  • Cynthia

    I loved your story. It will stay with me forever.

  • Jo

    Hi Christine,

    I’ve heard you tell this story several times and each time, it inspires me to keep going, keep doing, keep myself real. I’ve offered your story to others as something that sticks in my head and reminds me of exactly why I need to keep doing what I do – and stay aligned to my soul.

    This is the first time I’ve READ the story and have the “fleshed-out” version. It’s even more inspiring. I love to read the quote from the “Bhagavad Gita” and about how that inspired you in that pivotal moment. It’s a great reminder. We never know exactly what will bring us to the next level in our business development – except that, I believe, it will be in response to fully showing up – Full Presence in Full Purpose.

    Thank you.

  • Diane

    Some years ago I saw you on small stage in Carson City NV. Loved your music, bought your CD’s. I didn’t have my own business yet-and though your music was inspiring- I never would have guessed then how your messages as a coach/mentor would inspire me even more when I’ve needed them as I have had to keep showing up -and “doing my thing”
    Thank you!

  • Sandra

    I always imagine a group of these … 3 or 12 or 25 people who read my blog post or signed up for my newsletter in one room. 25 is a whole school class, that is not little. Every single one counts. I can help one or 3 or a few of them. And that’s it what is important for me.

  • Nancy

    Thank you for sharing your story in this day and age where the assumption is as soon as you click the button on your very first website you will be an instant sucess,it is important to have some reality in it all. Instant gratification seems to be the expectation of this time period. Business and sucess do take work. Marketers will tell you about the % of actual expected return on an event or even surveys from a send out which always felt quite low to me. I apprecite your candor and enjoyed your story of Jim.

  • Mich

    Thank you for writing about this. Indeed, this is what it’s all about — serving people, whether 1 or 1,000, and giving all your heart into it! Thank you for the inspiring story. God bless you!

  • Ana

    This story was sent to me at a perfect time!!
    It helped remind myself to keep my chin up and trust. Yes, I am aware that starting up is a little slow but the trick is to keep on moving forward. That way little by little we get used to energy and not get bombarded – and then get scared off!! Lol!

  • Joanne

    This is a stunning post – I love your Jim and have a Jim or two of my own. We forget that one loyal fan who follows us and shows up whenever we show up is a gift. Thank you for reminding us it’s about connection, humility and heart – always. As Steven Pressfield says ‘we are entitled to our labour but not to the fruits of our labour.’ The love we put into our labour holds its own mysterious karma we can’t command.

  • Nancy

    So glad you continue to show up and do what you do! Exactly the message I needed today.

  • Natalie Gelman

    Wow, Christine. I needed to read this today. I’m a touring singer/songwriter and its definitely a lesson in loving and giving, sharing really, with the people who are there and listening that day because you never know. 🙂 Good to have a reminder and that’s what I needed today.

  • Abdul Hameed

    With my pleasure

    Your story with jime , remand me my story in eighths when I was first staffe in heir , and it was my first days build a frienships with public I know girl who he’s was help me to know who to build big friendships and help be overcoming obstacles and difficulties of the work.

  • Heather Wong-Xoquic

    Aww Christine, how did you know that is exactly what I needed to hear. Right on time, as usual. In preparing for my retreat, it’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of ‘who will show up’. I will! I will show up with greatness. Thank you.

  • Beth

    Thank you for this inspiring story, Christine. You inspired me AGAIN.

  • Rudy Rodriguez

    Thank you, Christine. This is a great story and another great reminder that building or growing a business is a process; a continual process. In my coach training, I learned a phrase that still guides me. “One step at a time, each informing the next”.

    You also remind me of the importance of
    • ALWAYS offering my best performance (or best coaching) regardless of the numbers present.
    • come back to the marketing – what worked and what didn’t work. How can I improve my marketing?
    I am creating a summer ADHD Workshop series for Asheville, Greenville/Spartanburg, Charlotte, and Raleigh/Durham. I will keep your words of wisdom in mind during my planning, during my marketing and as I look into my audience.

    You remain an inspiration for me.

    With gratefulness,


  • Joyce

    Thank you, Christine! What a wonderful story and a great reminder to keep going, giving my best every time, no matter what the numbers look like.

  • Renee

    Christine, you are beautiful!

  • Georgiana

    This is so great! Who are we to decide how long it “should” take to grow our businesses?
    Did we decide how long it would take us to learn how to walk?
    We just showed up with the intent to walk, and kept trying until it stuck. And as I look to expand my services, and get “rejected” at least I got the meeting, and learned for the next one. ❤️

  • Linda

    What a soulfully wise storyteller you are, Christine Kane.
    Made me cry. Gave me hope. Raised me up.
    Many thanks.

  • Roxane Lessa

    Christine this post came at a great time and actually brought me to tears. I keep at my blog and my teaching even when it looks like I’m getting crap results. Because the truth is you are always touching the right person who needs your messsge. I’m so glad to have you in my life.

  • Colette

    “No one is a janitor. And everyone is Jim”. Love love love this Christine!!! ❤️
    I’m gonna marinate in that awhile 😊

  • Diana Osberg

    This article came at the right time! I just finished leading a TV writing retreat in Hawaii. I was only able to get 3 students (my target was 8), and I lost quite a lot of money. But I decided to do the retreat anyway. I’m so glad I did! Except for losing money, the retreat was a huge success. All the writers had big breakthroughs and such a wonderful time. Two of them were repeat clients. They all want to come back for more retreats and are spreading the word among their friends. I had a wonderful time. My instructor had a wonderful time. I’ve started to post photos and videos from the retreat on Facebook and am getting many excited comments in addition to all the “likes.” My hope is that this will convert to registrations on future retreats. Thanks, Christine, for your article. It makes me feel like I did the right thing by moving forward with the retreat.

  • Ramona King

    I love your Jim Story Christine!

  • Lynne

    I LOVE the Jim story. That is one you can take to the bank – even if it just ended that night.

  • Tessa Dowell

    Love, love, love… I know this but I needed to hear it again as I prepare for an upcoming vision board workshop that has 3 people registered. Thank you for the beautiful story and the important reminder. I will give each of them my all. ❤

  • Amanda

    Great story! Just what I needed to hear, thank you for sharing.

  • Gayle Watson

    Loved this story. I travelled all over Europe by hitch hiking in my 20th year, in the early 70’s. Some scary moments, some wonderful moments, but as a somewhat shy and cautious person, those travels have always been a touchstone for me when over faced in a challenge. Jim’s story a touchstone as well.

  • Sarah

    I love that the last paragraph lines are like a chorus and all rhyme. Apart from that there is a profound truth in the interrelationship between giver and receiver that is the beautiful circle. Yet again your blog is to me really about a way of living as a human being here. Thanks I’m enjoying these a lot

  • Becky

    Wonderful story! More stories like that need to be shared among small business owners. All you see and hear online are about the overnight successes…that weren’t truly overnight.

  • Marcia

    This popped into my inbox at just the right time, no surprise. Thank you for reminding me of this truth…each, single person who supports me is the most important person in my tribe.

  • Sharon

    This story brought tears to my eyes. As I am feeling discouraged as my upcoming events are not “selling out”. The truth is I have one person who has been to every one of my workshops. And she brings her mom! For now, these are my people (they will always be my people) and I give them what I got… all of it. Enjoy the intimacy of the moments. Thank you Christine. much love. love the Gita. “Better to do your own work badly, than to do another’s well” Namaste

  • Laura

    That is so the truth of it, isn’t it? The work isn’t that big show or the big sale – it’s the every day showing up and giving your best to whomever shows up. And then success is the build up of all of those moments – but the work doesn’t stop, which is the exciting thing I guess.
    It’s easy to get down about the lack of customers when you have this great product to give that no one seems to want. I guess my next step is to find my ideal client and go from there.
    Thanks, Christine, for this reality check.