‘People don’t understand the time and effort that goes into crafting what we do…’
‘When we tell people what we offer, they love it and want it. But when it comes to our fees, they say they can’t afford it…’
‘Our story is pretty much the same as every other xyz company in our industry. How do we become the go-to for clients?’
Whenever I hear variations on these, I know what’s coming next: We’re struggling to win business. We know we’ve got something good here but people just aren’t buying it. We’re better than the others. How can we make sure people see that?
It’s a question of standing out. No doubt. But the answer may not be what you think it is.
Here’s what I’ve learned: Your positioning versus that of your competitors is critical to setting your business apart. But nailing this doesn’t start with your competition.
It starts with your client.
And that right there is the crux of why so many entrepreneurs and small business owners have a tough time building a brand that sells.
It’s not that what you do isn’t worth what you’re charging or you don’t get results. It’s definitely not that you don’t have something special.
Your biggest problem? You’re probably not solving your client’s biggest problem. Or if you are, they don’t know it.
Which means you may not know what this problem is.
Entrepreneur and founder of Clients on Demand Russ Ruffino has intriguing stuff to say about all this. Including people being willing to pay you a premium if you solve their real pain.
And it’s that word ‘real’ that’s both the biggest stumbling block—and the best gateway to all the good stuff, those ideal clients, the regular cash flow and ease and impact you're after.
Going general isn't the goldmine you might think. (I’ve learned through painful personal experience and that of my clients, believe me.) I know it’s tempting to cast the widest net in the hope of more volume—but branding doesn’t work that way. Because people don’t work that way.
Your client’s biggest problem isn’t a crappy website.
It’s that they’re not attracting more of the right leads online and converting them to customers.
Their biggest pain isn’t earning enough revenue.
It’s not consistently rocking the five-figure months they need to feed their kid’s college fund.
Real problems versus surface ones. True, specific pain versus imagined heartache.
(The same thing applies if your business is more about bringing pleasure than solving problems, by the way. You may think people love your jewelry because it makes them look nice. But really, they could dig it because nothing else makes them feel more bohemian and alive during their 9-5 grind.)
Most of all? Clients don’t want someone who could get the job done. They’re after someone who is a crack shot at this particular thing. A no-doubt-in-my-mind-they’re-going-to-nail-it kind of provider.
So, what causes this disconnect between what we’re putting out there—and what we should be?
Assumptions, according to serial entrepreneur and growth strategist Jonathan Fields.
He says many of us start businesses because we care deeply about solving a kind of pain we’ve experienced personally. And because we’ve ‘been there,’ we jump straight to selling the solution to that pain and assume our audience—because in our minds they’re ‘there too’—will connect the dots, understand our value and immediately want to hire us.
Only people usually need a little more explaining than dot-connecting. They want to see you truly get the real thing they’re up against and can fix exactly that.
Sometimes we might have the right problem, but we’re using the wrong language to express it—words we use in our business instead of the ones prospects do to describe their pain—so people don’t connect with it. Or us. (Like ‘Are you experiencing middle-age spread?’ instead of ‘Can’t get rid of the spare tire round your tummy?’)
Other times, we try to solve too many problems. But the more solutions on offer, the less likely a client is to commit. There’s simply too much to choose from and decision paralysis takes over.
Far better to focus on the one or two problems you can crack like no one’s business (provided they’re big ones for your audience) and build your services around them.
How to fix all this:
This approach adapts the best of what Russ and Jonathan recommend, with my own twist:
1. List the top two general problems you solve for clients. Distill each problem until it’s as specific as you can get it. Then take each specific problem through the ‘5 Whys Method’ to be sure you’ve hit the real issue your clients are facing, why they can’t solve it themselves and the juice you bring.
2. Validate the specific problems you’ve isolated. Talk to actual clients. Listen to the way they describe their challenges. Is it the same as yours? What language do they use to communicate them? Do the words you use need to change to match so they land more effectively?
Right about here you should start to see the ingredients that make your business different and distinctive.
From there, it’s a case of capturing that dynamite differentiator creatively—and reflecting it in how you define what customers think of your brand in a way that’s so appealing it sets you apart from your competition.
If that’s something you’d like help with, get in touch to learn more about our Brand Reveal Program. We’d love to take you out of the ‘sea of sameness’ and see you stand tall!