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The “Where to Start” Advice Every Guru Gives That’s Dead Wrong (and what to do instead)

red_tulips_white_tulipEvery guru says to start at the same point – identify your Ideal Client. They tell you that’s the most important thing and that without clarity on that you’ll struggle.

I think they’re dead wrong when they’re talking to service professionals – coaches, consultants, healers, and licensed professionals – like us.

You started your practice because you…

  • Have skills you love to use and want to spend all your time using them
  • Have a passion for the work you do, for the outcome you deliver – whether it’s for helping others manage stress, grow their business, write better books, or something else. You want to help others do, be, and have more than they have now.
  • Feel called to a mission. I’ve asked service providers why they do what they do and many feel drawn to solve a problem or make an impact in some way. They almost can’t explain why they do it; they just know they have to.

There’s some internal knowing that this is the work you were meant to do. Service professionals are led by the service they want to deliver.

That’s what drives you — making a difference…serving others…through the skills you have.

So when the gurus start preaching that your first step is to focus on an Ideal Client or target market you struggle to figure out who that is or should be for you.

This can leave you feeling like you’re stupid because you can’t figure out something that they say is basic.

But they’ve got it backwards. At least when it comes to service professionals like coaches, consultants, or healers.

What You Need to Do Before Worrying About Who Your Ideal Client Is

Before we can possibly know our Ideal Client, we need to be clear on our Big Idea.

Legendary advertising executive David Ogilvy is credited with coining the phrase, “Big Idea”. And his effectiveness with using it was a good part of what made him legendary.

Having a Big Idea means you’ve got a unique approach to a problem. It’s your unique solution built on your unique slant on a specific problem.

So expressing a Big Idea means communicating…

  • The problem you solve
  • Your Point of View about the problem you solve
  • The outcome or transformation you provide

When you’re trying to grow a business, have bills to pay, and empty cupboards to fill it can make you feel a bit panicky to  focus on what you think of as a small segment of  the population.

You’re likely nervous about turning people down or saying you only with a specific type of person or that you only solve a specific type of problem.

You can also feel really uncomfortable (to put it mildly) about putting yourself out there.

Benefits of Getting Clear About Your Big Idea

But talking about your Big Idea…talking about the problem that needs to be solved and why people struggle to solve it…is a lot easier. It put’s the attention on the problem, not on you.

And when you deeply understand the problem you solve and the outcome you provide, better than anyone else, then you can start to see who has that problem and who wants the outcome you offer.

When you’re clear about your Big Idea and stay on message talking about issues that relate to  it then you’re going to attract people who have that problem you solve and who want the solution you provide in the way you provide it.

You become the go-to person for your particular audience.

The Foundation of Your Big Idea

The most important element that forms the foundation of your Big Idea is your Point of View (POV).

Your POV is the set of beliefs you have about the work you do and the problem you solve. It’s your approach and philosophy about solving the problem.

It informs everything you do and guides the way you do it.

Here’s a quick example.

On a video call, my friends who are livestreaming experts they told me I needed to check out a new livestream service that’s all the rage.

But a friend of mine in an English speaking country outside of the US posted on Facebook a negative experience he had with this company.

My friend’s assessment was the livestreaming company’s rep had no idea how to talk to a professional and acted like a child.

What my friend described certainly sounded like very poor service. Since he was dealing with a manager of this new company, it sounds like they either don’t know how to hire good people or they’re developing a culture with a chip on its shoulder — one that doesn’t value clients.

So my reaction when my friends suggested I have this company on the show was very strong.

No.

I don’t want to help bad companies get attention and attract business when they obviously don’t put the effort into hiring and / or training top notch people. Or they care so little about their staff that they create an environment that causes these people to then act out.

Can you hear my values in there? The importance I place on staffing, training, and organizational development?

That forms the foundation of my POV about service, culture, and staffing.

Your beliefs, values, and philosophy become very obvious when something tests them.

So when you hear some guru go on about how the first thing you need to do is identify a target market… and you struggle to identify one…it’s easy to feel like you’re stupid. But you’re not.

They just assume you’re clear on your Big Idea. That you’re clear on your core message, the problem you solve, and the outcome you deliver.

But it’s very likely that you’re not.

That’s not because you’re stupid. It’s because you’ve been focusing too hard on getting clients.

But you can’t get as many clients — or Ideal Clients — until you’re clear on your core message.

You do need a clear audience to communicate with, and the more you know about them the easier it is to attract them.

But you can’t attract them if you don’t understand their problem and your solution and why your solution is right for them.

You’ll struggle to attract them if you don’t have a Big Idea and if you don’t have a clear message delivered consistently across different platforms.

So if you’ve been sweating to figure out an ideal client, or avatar, or brand persona, or whatever is the buzz phrase of the moment, I’m giving you permission to stop worrying about that right now.

Instead, focus on gaining crystal clarity on your Big Idea.

Focus on being clear about the problem you solve, the solution you provide, the POV you have, and packaging all that into your Big Idea so people understand you and what you’re all about.

Then get your message out powerfully — in a way that reaches and resonates with your ideal client so she takes the next step to learn more about you and the solution you provide.

Then as you see who is naturally attracted to you, you can decide how to adjust your message in order to attract more of those people who you truly want to work with and less of those who aren’t a perfect fit.

Your Ideal Client or Avatar will make itself known to you because that’s who resonates with your message.