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…
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.
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…
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.
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 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.
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.
Embracing and operating with a Help Clients Buy mindset means giving your Prime Suspects (AKA best clients) the information they need to make the best decision for them. No chasing…no being salesy.
The first thing to do is to make sure you’re clearly differentiated. If people don’t understand why they should work with you and they don’t understand or recognize the value you bring then they’re going to fall back on price. That’s something they can understand very clearly.
Are you well differentiated in the marketplace? Most people tend to think about things like their logo or tagline. What makes you different is much deeper than those things.
What’s unique about you?
Buying is full of risk. There are lots of reasons your Prime Suspects don’t buy from you but they all boil down to fear.
They’re afraid you won’t deliver….afraid your solution will make things worse and not better…afraid the return on investment they want won’t happen….
They’re also likely to be afraid of change, or of what you’re asking them to face (really important for those selling anything to do with prevention, health, finances, etc).
And they’re afraid your solution won’t work for them.
So when you’re talking to a Prime Suspect or they’re reviewing your website, a social profile, or reviewing collateral material (a brochure, a proposal, etc.) what they’re really looking for is proof.
They want proof you can deliver as promise and that your solution will work for them.
This video shares the 7 proof elements you can use to market and sell your offerings. You don’t necessarily need all 7 but the more powerful your proof is the easier buyers will be able to say yes to working with you.
One of them was talking about the power of testimonials and shared some tips to get them from clients.
And what if you’re a new entrepreneur or your offerings are new?
Well, she said, just go to websites selling similar offerings, copy the testimonials, and then use them on your site.
Aside from the fact that she just recommended plagiarizing and violating copyright laws, doing something like that is unethical and deceptive.
I think I strained my finger clicking on the Unsubscribe link as fast as I did.
That’s the type of behavior that makes people skeptical of testimonials in the first place and especially skeptical of testimonials on the web.
Here are a few tips to using testimonials so your potential clients are educated, recognize you as the authority, and confident about working with you.
Follow-up with past clients to see how they’re doing. It can be a great way to get testimonials and even case studies as well as helping you stay top of mind with them and encourage referrals.
Testimonials educate your potential buyers and really do assist you in helping clients buy so you can sell without being salesy and don’t sacrifice your values. The key is getting powerful testimonials that communicate the value of your offerings.
Testimonials – how you get them, how you use them, who gives them – should also be addressed in the general policies and Terms and Conditions (Ts & Cs) for your site. If you don’t have Ts&Cs I strongly recommend you get them.
I use and recommend Web Site Legal Form Generator put out by attorney Mike Young. Mike specializes in online / internet marketing. (That’s an affiliate link and I’ll get the equivalent of a cup of tea if you buy through it) And here’s a link to the US government’s guidelines on using testimonials and endorsements. (I’m not a lawyer and I’m not giving legal advice so be sure to talk to your own internet lawyer.)
Not long after Al Gore invented the Internet, entrepreneurs started dreaming that clients would magically find their shiny new websites, instantly understand the entrepreneur’s value, and start sending them money.
But of course getting found has become harder and harder every year between changes to algorhythms, increased competition, and the strengthening of existing online competitors’ digital footprints.
And even if you do get found online, the challenge then becomes positioning yourself as unique from your competitors as well as being seen as a trusted authority while educating your visitor about the complications involved in solving their problem and turning that traffic into actual business.
So how can you improve your discoverability while making your unique value clear, demonstrating your credibility, and increasing searcher trust?
You do that by concentrating on web presence optimization (WPO), which is the new search engine optimization (SEO).
Web presence optimization requires acknowledging that much more than just your website or blog appears in the search engine results pages (SERPs). It asks you (ok, “forces” you) to start thinking about your SEO and getting-found strategy from a broader perspective and linking these all together as much as you can in order to form a compelling, consistent image online.
Here are the 4 basic steps in WPO…
1. SEO fundamentals. No SEO isn’t going away. It can’t. It’s the foundation of the web and of search. So you’ve got to have a good foundation of key phrases (no single words please). Have the tech elements in place, and, if you’re site is on WordPress, make sure you’re using a plugin to help you optimize each post and page (like Yoast or All-in-One). Key phrases are still important so give some real thought to them and do some research into how people search for what you offer.
2. Have a Content Strategy. Do not practice what Pam Hendrickson (one of my mentors) calls “random acts of content.” That might have worked in the past (like 10 years ago) but it’s not working anymore. Create an editorial calendar tied to the seasons of your offerings and tied to your launch schedule for new offerings. Fill the gaps in with related content and moments of inspiration. Your content is a critical part of your Pre-Sell strategy because it helps differentiate you by sharing your point of view, it educates your visitor / Suspect, and it demonstrates your authority. If you can’t write, don’t have time to write, or don’t want to write then you better plan on using video and audio or hire a writer. There are good ones out there and you need to accept that you’ve got to invest in that skill if you don’t have it yourself. Lorrie Morgan Ferrero, my original copywriting mentor, is famous for saying that copywriting is the most expensive part of your marketing budget and she’s right. But it’s an investment that pays off in a better reach and better reaction from your audience. I’ve been on sites where I can barely follow the copy and I just click away never to return and I’ll bet you do the same. If you’re not willing or able to pay for someone to write for you then invest in a good writing course that focuses on writing for the web.
3. Publish everywhere.Blog posts go on your blog of course but you can also guest post and post your article on LinkedIn as well. Make a few minor changes so it’s appropriate for LinkedIn and there you have it. Put links in updates on your social platforms and encourage people to share. Don’t assume they’ll do it. But make creating great content the focus because that certainly helps inspire people to share. Be sure to add share buttons everywhere. Then do an audio / video recording of you talking about your post and you’ve got a video for You Tube. Maybe you can start a video podcast. And speaking of podcasts, (audio) podcasts are suddenly huge and going to get bigger as cars make it easier to stream them and we all try to escape the commercials and same songs played over and over.
4. Measure, improve, repeat.Track the results of your efforts. Don’t just monitor your industry but monitor your audience’s industry or problem as well. This way your content can help site visitors make connections between your offerings and making their life or business better. Be patient but be bold and make changes as needed. I say be bold because too often we’re soft in our message (and I’m talking to myself here too). Our audience needs to see we’ve got a point of view and they deserve to know what that is. We’re going to attract those people who resonate with it and those who aren’t interested will go find someone who’s a better fit for them. Don’t be afraid of that.
Content has never been more firmly seated on its kingly throne; but Quality is queen.
Getting found online requires a strategy that leverages your content to create a unified presence while raising your discoverability. Give value; don’t hold back; and respect people’s time. Remember, this is how you help clients buy – by Positioning yourself as uniquely different, Pre-Selling yourself – demonstrating your knowledge, educating your visitor; which then helps you Profit by attracting people who want what you offer and who reach out to you ready to learn more and inclined to work with you.
Super Bowl commercials have become so big that lots of people watch the game just to see them.
Me? I just watch them all on You Tube either before or after the game.
Like lots of people, I was taken aback by the Nationwide Insurance Company’s commercial. I thought it was a very bold thing to address through a commercial and incredibly bold to do it during such an upbeat sort of event.
I do think they missed an opportunity to make more clear what their message was and I’ll share that in another post.
They certainly have a clear point of view and as I said were brave in sharing it.
One of the big challenges in attracting and gaining new clients is helping them to understand our unique difference so they can choose a solution provider who they truly resonate with.
Having a clear point of view and bravely sharing it so you attract the right people and gently repel the wrong ones is a critical foundation of an effective marketing and sales strategy.
The Nationwide commercial inspired me to create this video.
“Have a point of view.”
He had been talking to his audience about getting their message out, growing an audience that truly wants to hear (or read) what you say, and who wants more of it.
I didn’t choose another podcast from the que because that little statement – “have a point of view” – was busy rolling around in my head.
According to the British Dictionary at Dictionary.com a point of view (POV) is….
Mr. Godin emphasized having a POV and sharing it – fearlessly – because it’s the foundation to helping clients buy.
And that’s the most basic part of MY POV – that you can’t convince anyone to buy anything. They’ve got to come to that conclusion…make that commitment…themselves. You can only help them buy.
I asked my Facebook contacts what makes them recognize that someone is an authority in a subject area and what would make them decide to follow that person and consider buying from them?
My contacts said things like “confidence” and “their message sounds right to me” and “their message rings true to me”.
So maybe the secret to building a strong foundation to (y)our messages is to understand our POV and communicate it.
Powerfully. Continuously. Consistently.
So have a trusted business friend ask you, “why should someone buy from you rather than a competitor?” and then answer that out loud and ask them for feedback on the clarity, confidence, and passion you spoke with.
Could they really hear and mentally see what makes you unique or did you use vague statements like, “I give my clients the best service”?
Did you speak with the conviction that confidence brings or did your voice and speech patterns send the message that you’re unsure of yourself?
What feelings did they sense from you or did your little explanation give them? Did they get a sense that your work consumes you? That solving your client’s problems, helping them achieve their goal really keeps you up at night?
Einstein said, “If you can’t explain something you don’t understand it.”
As crazy as it may sound, you may not fully understand the principles, values, and beliefs that drive you. Especially those that drive you to do your work in the way you do it and to grow your business in the way you’re growing it.
There are times when our principles, values, and beliefs collide in such a way that we struggle to draw a line in the sand and give full voice to our beliefs.
We were indoctrinated to believe that we could only be different between the little walls of the box our superiors put us in. That we couldn’t voice an opinion too strongly or we’d be thought of as someone who wasn’t a team player.
But it’s time to accept that we’re the CEO as well as the Chief Marketing Officer, head of Sales, and the front line employees as well.
And that if we really ARE different from the competition we need to be sure everyone knows that and understands what makes us unique.
This is truly risky – telling people what we think.
But having a clear point of view and boldly sharing it is exactly what we have to do to have the impact we want with those we most want to help. And be well-rewarded for doing it.
To identify your own POV try answering the following questions…
A great way to really get to the bottom of your point of view is to decide to write a book about it.
Seriously. I’m not kidding.
Nothing will force you to articulate your thoughts like creating something that others are going to pay to read.
As C.S. Lewis said, “We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.”
One of the frustrating challenges of starting, running, and growing a business — especially a small consulting, coaching, or other expertise-based business — is narrowing your focus so you’re talking to and attracting ONE type of client.
This is really hard for those of us who are creative and who also consider ourselves spiritual or conscious.
We hate to turn people down.
It’s also easy to get a little nervous (ok…a lot nervous) in those moments when clients may be harder to come by….it’s summer and people are distracted….the holiday season and people are thinking of parties….end of the year when people are caught up planning…
But focusing on serving only those who you’re truly aligned with actually helps position you as the leader and expert for that segment.
This video gives you a few tips on the topic of what I refer to as Prime Suspects and Ideal Clients.
Think about who you’re trying to attract. The chances are good that if you’re messaging isn’t resonating with anyone it’s because you’re speaking too broadly. That’s a sure sign you need to narrow your focus.