“We need sales, fast!”
“Could producing thought leadership help?”
“Yes! Get me a blog post, right now! Can we get some coverage in Forbes? Share a bunch of stuff on social media!”
“Wait, what kind of content?”
“Anything! What’s in the news? What are people paying attention to? Do something connected to that! Just hurry!”
“But what if it’s the wrong content?”
“I don’t care! We need thought leadership content and we need it now! Don’t just stand there, do something!”
Have you seen this kind of conversation take place in your business? Desperation demands action, and in a moment of urgency any action seems better than no action. However, action without strategy may not only be unproductive, but counterproductive. When it comes to thought leadership content, writing a blog post, pitching PR, or creating a social media post takes time and money, and in that moment it’s a zero-sum game–if it’s spent on one piece of content, it’s not available for other content. If there are 100 pieces of content you could create, but one will succeed and the others will flop, it’s worth spending a few minutes to try and figure out where to focus.
3 Big Questions For Thought Leaders
If you want your thought leadership content to be effective, you must first answer these three, foundational questions about your business:
- Why does your company exist?
- What is your company’s Genius Zone?
- Who is your company’s ideal audience?
When you answer these three questions then it’s easy to create content that fits your company’s vision, purpose, “why,” or reason for being. By finding your Genius Zone you’ll know what makes your company unique and why you’re ideally suited to turn your company’s vision into reality. Finally, when you know your company’s ideal audience you can cater your content to that audience and attract rather than repel them.
Answering these three questions will help you create what Harvard Business School professor Youngme Moon calls an “idea brand” in her book Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd.
“Idea brands are not perfect brands. Far from it. They are polarizing brands.” – Youngme Moon
Professor Moon goes on to say “…true differentiation–sustainable differentiation–is rarely the product of well-roundedness; it is typically a function of lopsidedness.”
The “thought” in thought leadership means sharing ideas. The “leadership” part necessarily means leading your audience toward something or away from something, but in either case it implies separation and division from something, and attachment to something else. If you want to create thought leadership content, if you want to be a thought leader, you will have to be different, and that means you can’t be all things to all people. You must choose, and that’s what these three big questions will help you do.
Big Question 1: Why Does Your Company Exist?
A company cannot continue to exist without making a profit, but does that mean the purpose of a company is profits? Making a profit is good, but this is kind of like saying that a human being exists to eat food. Yes, food is good for humans, but if the only purpose a person had in life was to eat, that wouldn’t be much of a life.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America
What is the pursuit of happiness? Simon Sinek might call it “finding your ‘why.’” Victor Frankl might call it “man’s search for meaning.” Rick Warren might call it a “purpose-driven life.” If humans strive to understand why they should do anything, what meaning life has, and what the purpose of their life is, we also seek answers to these questions through the businesses we create.
As we try to find the meaning in our business, we must define it both internally and externally. For example, if I were trying to define the “why” for my marketing agency, MWI, I might say “Because I find entrepreneurship fulfilling and enjoy learning how a business works while also making a living,” or “MWI exists to provide lucrative, professional opportunities for team members that offer them purpose, direction, and growth in their lives.”
Those might be compelling enough for our team members and me, but it’s not the reason why clients will hire my agency. Clients care about their needs, or as Clayton Christensen put it in his best selling book The Innovator’s Dilemma, clients have a “job to be done.” Christensen explained the concept in simple terms by describing the “job to be done” by a milkshake.
“McDonald’s…decided that they needed to increase the sales of their milkshakes,” Christensen said in a Harvard Business Review podcast in 2016. “And, as you know, McDonald’s– these are very sophisticated marketing people. They have data about– up the gazoo about anything you need.”
Christensen went on to talk about how they would invite people like Christensen, who fit their demographic profile perfectly, into their offices, explain that they were trying to improve the milkshakes so that people would buy more of them, and ask for input. “…the customers would give them very clear guidance,” Christensen said, but it wasn’t enough. “They would then improve the milkshake, and the impact on sales or profits was negligible.”
Christensen and his team convinced McDonald’s to let them look at the objective through the lens of this idea of “jobs to be done” with the milkshake being what gets hired to complete that job. First, they needed to see what the customers were doing, so as Christensen tells it, “…one of my colleagues stood in a McDonald’s restaurant for 18 hours one day and just took very careful notes– what time was it that [a customer] bought the milkshake at? What was he wearing? Was he alone? Did he buy other food with it? Did he eat the milkshake in the restaurant or get in the car and go off with it?”
Christensen’s colleague found out about half of the milkshakes were sold before 8:30 in the morning. “It was the only thing they bought, they were always alone, and they always got in the car and drove off with it,” Christensen said. “So to figure out what was the job, we came back the next morning and we positioned ourself outside the restaurant so that we [could] confront these people as they were emerging with their milkshake.”
As Christensen’s team asked customers what “job” they were hiring the McDonald’s milkshake to do at 6:30 am, the customers would struggle to answer the question, so Christensen’s team would ask “Think about the last time you were in the same situation where you needed to do the same job, but you didn’t come here to hire a milkshake from McDonald’s. What did you hire?”
With the right question, Christensen’s team got answers and it turned out all these milkshake customers had the same job to do–they had a long and boring drive to work. They needed something to eat while they were driving that would help them stay engaged and awake, but they only had one hand. They also knew they would be hungry by 10:00 am, and they needed something that would sit in their stomach and keep them satisfied. When Christensen’s team asked these milkshake customers what else they had ever hired to do this job, some people said they hired bananas, others hired donuts, and some hire bagels, but none of these got the job done quite as conveniently or as well as a milkshake (ever tried to spread cream cheese on a bagel while driving?).
Knowing the job to be done allowed Christensen’s team to brainstorm ideas with McDonald’s as to how they might help customers do that job better, ideas like making it possible for customers to get milkshakes faster if that’s all they needed, without having to wait in line with everyone else (e.g. ever seen McDonald’s with separate dessert counters?).
If I asked my marketing agency’s clients what they wanted from MWI, they might say they want more growth, or better customer service, or faster reporting, but if the client is a junior marketing assistant who has been tasked by the VP Marketing to find an agency to work with on social media campaigns, the real job to be done might be “make me look good to my boss.”
Knowing the real job to be done might not change the product or service in any major way (McDonald’s milkshakes are pretty much the same as they were 40 years ago, MWI’s clients need growth–no matter what), but they might change how that product is marketed and delivered.
To give one last example, Starbucks makes coffee. Plenty of businesses did that before Starbucks, and without coffee Starbucks wouldn’t exist, but the reason Starbucks is so wildly successful is because they were the first ones to deliver it the way they do, and provide a predictable, uniform experience, all around the world. One job customers hire Starbucks for is “to give me coffee,” but another is “to give me coffee fast and easy” and yet another is “let me drink my coffee in a nice place where I can always find an outlet to charge my phone.”
What is the primary product or service you deliver without which your company would cease to exist?
What’s the real “job to be done” motivating customers to hire your product or service?
Now, combine the external and internal reasons why your business exists for a clear sense of overall purpose and direction.
Why Your Vision Matters
If you don’t have a clear vision for your company, if you don’t know why it exists, how will you know if your thought leadership content is moving you closer or further from your objective? You may be able to crank out a lot of content, but at best it will show that you know how to pump out content but prove little else. At worst, it will expose the fact you lack direction and drive your customers to search for a company that has a clearer sense of purpose.
Big Question 2: What Is Your Company’s Genius Zone?
One of the most valuable tools you have at your disposal to turn your thought leadership dreams into reality is what Gay Hendricks, author of The Big Leap, calls your “Genius Zone.”
Focus on Strengths, Not Weaknesses, Or…?
Before I go any further, have you ever heard about studies that show that when we focus on developing our strengths, we grow faster than when trying to improve our weaknesses? This is the foundation of the strengths-based coaching movement, and it makes sense. If you’re an entrepreneur and you’re great at marketing, but terrible at accounting, you’re going to get more out of leveraging your strength as a marketer than if you try to shore up your weaknesses in accounting–you can just hire someone else to manage the books.
However, there’s a dark side to this, as Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, professor at University College London and Columbia University, points out. “Even the smartest, brightest, and most brilliant individuals have a dark side,” Chamorro-Premuzic says. “They have certain elements of their personality, of their typical behaviors, that are quite counterproductive. And if those tendencies are left unchecked, no matter how smart, competent, and talented they are, their careers are at risk of derailing.”
For example, if you’re weak on the quantitative side of your business, a strengths-based focus might cause you to ignore the spreadsheets your accountant gives you. One day, your accountant makes a simple mistake, one anyone with a basic understanding of bookkeeping would be able to catch, but since you don’t even look at spreadsheets anymore–after all, that would be focusing on a weakness rather than a strength–you’re lead to believe you have $250,000 more available to spend than you really do. As a result you hire a key team member you’ve had your eye on for years, only to have to let them go three months later when you run out of money.
There’s another downside to seeing our “lesser strengths” as weaknesses, which is that they aren’t dragging us down at all, but are actually valuable assets. This is because all our strengths, whether greater or lesser, make us different.
The objective is not to blend into the blur; the objective is to stand out from it. – Youngme Moon, Different
It’s important to be different because, as Moon points out in her book, “People want to feel fascinated by a product or experience, and will pay more–far more–for a brand that fascinates them.” We have a term that describes products that don’t fascinate us, they’re called “commodities.”
If the goal is to be different, then to ignore our weaknesses makes us…well, weaker.
Case in point, if I were to list some of my top skills, skateboarding wouldn’t be one of them. It’s not that I can’t skateboard–I can, and I do–but my son, who’s 10 years old and only began skateboarding two years ago, is already starting to do tricks I can’t do. I’m also not nearly as good today as I was 20 years ago, when my body was in better shape and could take more punishment. Even back then, I wasn’t all that good. If I only wanted to display my strengths I’d leave skateboarding out of the equation, but if I wanted to stand out this would be a big mistake.
A few years ago I took a video of myself doing a kickflip on my skateboard. It’s a relatively simple trick for anyone who skateboards, nothing special. I posted the short video on LinkedIn, and said “I can do a kickflip on a skateboard,” and then asked “What can you do that your professional network might not expect?”
That video went wild, racking up hundreds of thousands of views and hundreds of comments. Many of the comments were from my network, expressing surprise and delight and saying things like “I had no idea you were a skater!” and “I can’t believe you can do a kickflip in your 40s!” Even years later, people remember it. Something I wasn’t very good at became an asset because it made me different, and that made me memorable.
Your Genius Zone is all about discovering what makes you unique. Part of the reason that is important is because what makes you unique makes you memorable. It’s more important because of what your Genius Zone allows you to do. Your Genius Zone is the answer to the question “Why you?” It is the unique combination of characteristics, knowledge, experience, and skills that give you superpowers, that allow you to do things nobody else can do. When you operate in your Genius Zone, results flow so easily it appears almost magical to the outside world.
When it comes to your business, there is the question of your company’s Genius Zone, and your personal Genius Zone, if you are the thought leader who represents your company. The principles of the Genius Zone work for both, with minor tweaks, so forgive me if I switch back and forth.
HOW TO DISCOVER YOUR GENIUS ZONE in 4 steps
STEP 1: LIST YOUR EXPERT ZONES
To find your Genius Zone, first list your “expert zones.” These are areas in which you have any level of expertise or knowledge. It does NOT mean you are the best in the world at it, or even better at it than most people. There’s an illustration I like to use to drive this point home:
Usain Bolt is the world’s fastest human, with a top speed of 28 mph/45 kmh. A bear can run up to 35 mph/56 kmh.
Q: If you were walking in the forest with a friend, and a bear started chasing the two of you, how fast would you have to run to survive?
A: Faster than your friend.
For example, when I’m listing my expert zones I put Chinese on it, even though I’m nowhere close to fluent in Chinese. However, I lived in China for two years, studied Chinese rigorously for six months, and can speak enough to get by in restaurants and taxis. Compared to someone who has never lived in China and speaks absolutely no Chinese, I am an expert. I know enough to help someone who knows nothing.
Expert zones are not merely skills or abilities, but your knowledge, characteristics, demographics–anything that makes you who you are. For example, a few of my expert zones are:
- Chinese (language)
- CMO (not because I’ve ever been one, but interviewed 30 of them for my first book)
- Gen X
- Public speaking
- Trail running
To apply this to a business, my marketing agency MWI has an office in Hong Kong. Are we the best agency in Hong Kong? It doesn’t matter, we have expertise in that market, so it would go on my list of expert zones for my business alongside all the various services we provide.
What are all your expert zones, as well as those for your business? Include demographic information for yourself such as age, gender, language, occupation, and nationality. List your hobbies, interests, degrees earned, places you’ve lived, industries you’ve worked in, and other experiences you’ve had. For your business, list locations, languages you work in, time in business, number of employees, details about your team, any anything else that makes your business what it is.
How Expert Zones Combine To Create Your Genius Zone
Before we go to the second step, consider how your expert zones work together to create your Genius Zone. You create your Genius Zone by overlapping expert zones to find interesting and unique combinations, like this:
For example, skateboarding is one of my expert zones. I grew up skateboarding, ran a retail skateboard store in high school and college, have stayed loosely involved in the industry over the years, and as previously mentioned, I can still do a kickflip. However, that’s not worth much on its own because there are too many other people out there who know more about skateboarding than I do.
Another of my expert zones is marketing. I ran a marketing agency for twenty years and worked on thousands of projects and campaigns. However, there are too many other people out there with even more marketing experience than I have. By itself, it’s not enough.
However, what if I overlap those two expert zones? What if I ask “How many people know as much about skateboarding and marketing as I do?”
Perhaps 10 to 20 people in the entire world have the kind of experience I do. If my dream were to get a job in the skateboard industry, I could choose skateboarding + marketing as my Genius Zone, go to Nike or Adidas, and make a strong case that if they would hire me I could help them sell a lot of shoes.
Note: Although I only show two expert zones in the diagram above for the sake of the example, a real Genius Zone will likely include more.
STEP 2: CHOOSE YOUR TOP EXPERT ZONE
Which ONE of your expert zones has to be part of your Genius Zone? For example, for my marketing agency MWI, “marketing,” has always been our primary expert zone, the way “coffee” is Starbucks primary genius zone, or “cheap air travel” is the primary Genius Zone for Southwest Airlines.
Choose your top expert zone and write it down.
STEP 3: WHAT OTHER ZONES ARE KEY?
What other expert zones combine with your primary expert zone to make you ideally suited to turn your vision into reality?
List at least two, and no more than ten.
STEP 4: WHAT’S YOUR SUPERPOWER?
Try overlapping different expert zones to find interesting combinations. Look for combinations that give you an “unfair advantage.”
A few years ago I met with a potential client in Shenzhen, China. At our first meeting they told me “We’re looking for a digital marketing agency with an office in the United States and another office here in Shenzhen, with American staff in it.”
“Have you found a single agency besides MWI that matches your criteria?” I asked.
“No,” they said.
They quickly signed a contract with us. The overlap of digital marketing + US office + local Chinese office + American staff in China was our Genius Zone in that particular situation. It was like a superpower.
When you find your Genius Zone it’s like having a superpowers. With it, you can solve problems and take advantage of opportunities nobody else can.
For example, the other day my friend Kyle Weckerly, who hosts The Career Challenges Podcast, interviewed Nelson Toriano. Nelson has a background in personal training and personal finances. This allowed him to create a Genius Zone to help personal trainers make money, and once he knew that was his Genius Zone, it was a no-brainer to write his book For the Fit but Poor Personal Trainer. Nelson may or may not be the best personal trainer in the world, and he may or may not be the world’s leading expert on personal finances, but he is the world’s leading expert on personal finances for personal trainers. To personal trainers struggling to figure out how to make money, he is a superhero.
What is your Genius Zone? What superpowers does it give you? What problems can you solve better than anyone else? What opportunities can you take advantage of?
Q: Can I have more than one Genius Zone?
A: Yes, although I generally speak in terms of a single, overarching Genius Zone. Not to overcomplicate things, but you actually have a different Genius Zone for every vision, dream, objective, or goal, no matter how small it is. When you go to send an email, you have a Genius Zone that is different for sending that email than you have for the next email you’ll send. The Genius Zone you have for getting your teenager to take out the trash at home is not the same Genius Zone you’ll use to when you’re convincing a business partner to do a joint venture with you. Every decision, every choice has its own Genius Zone, so you’re likely dealing with thousands of Genius Zones each day, but of course it’s not worth thinking about this concept of a Genius Zone for every single decision you make.
Why Your Genius Zone Matters
Knowing your Genius Zone matters because it’s what you’re going to talk about with potential customers to attract them, and existing customers to retain them.
If I knew my ideal audience was looking for an agency with offices in Asia and the US, that can create written website content in English, Traditional Chinese, and Simplified Chinese, and has experience in the hospitality industry, then I would include those details in every piece of content I created. It would be like planting a flag that says “I’ve got exactly what you’re looking for.” But if I’m not in touch with my Genius Zone I might focus on things like “We’re really good at SEO,” or “We have great customer service,” or “We always operate with integrity.” Those might be important to our ideal client, but if they’re not of primary importance they shouldn’t take center stage.
Speaking of who your ideal customer is…
Big Question 3: Who is your company’s ideal audience?
Who is your audience? More importantly, who is your ideal audience?
In 2013, my agency almost went out of business because I hired someone I shouldn’t have, and I waited too long to fire him. Things were bad. We only had three clients left, and our monthly revenues weren’t enough to cover paying my team to get the work done and still give me a salary. I could have shut my business down and got a “real” job, but I wasn’t done yet. I had a vision that someday my business would become a large, international firm.
Around this time, I was invited to write for Forbes magazine. It seemed too good of an opportunity to pass up, and I hoped it might help my business.
During the first few months I wrote for Forbes, I published dozens of articles. They were mostly about entrepreneurship and how to run a small business better. People liked my articles, but the attention didn’t help my business. Since my business was struggling to survive and needed all the time I could spare, I couldn’t justify continuing to write articles without a financial return.
What to do?
It seems obvious now, but one day it occurred to me, “Maybe you should write articles for people who want to hire a marketing agency.”
That single thought changed everything.
Following ideas popularized by books like Youtility by Jay Baer, They Ask, You Answer by Marcus Sheridan, and #AskGaryVee by Gary Vaynerchuk, I began to write articles to answer questions my ideal audience (people looking to hire a marketing agency) were asking, and my agency began to get leads. To date, my agency has generated over $10M that I can trace back to the articles I wrote. Writing for Forbes, and tapping into the right audience, saved my business and allowed us to open offices around the world.
When you identify your ideal audience and focus on them and only them you’ll also get dramatic results.
By the way, don’t tell me your ideal audience is “everyone,” or “everyone in marketing,” or “everyone who is in a leadership position.” If your ideal audience is “everyone” then you don’t know who your ideal audience is, yet. If you want your ideal audience to flock to you, you’ll need to eliminate everyone who isn’t a perfect fit.
8 FACTORS OF THE IDEAL AUDIENCE
To find your ideal audience, search out the individual or organization who:
1. IS LIKE YOU
It’s easier to relate to and communicate with people like us and vice versa. “Like you” doesn’t mean your ideal customer will be a competitor, but that if your company only does marketing in English, chances are it’s going to be easier for you to target English-speaking customers. If your company is based in the US, it will probably be easiest to target customers in the US.
2. NEEDS WHAT YOU HAVE
Of course you can build a booming business around wants, but ideally you’d rather have customers who need what you have vs. merely wanting it.
3. WANTS WHAT YOU HAVE
Sometimes needing isn’t enough. A potential customer may need your offering but not know it. Customers buy what they need and want.
4. HAS THE MONEY
Small businesses may need and want your $10K/month software, but targeting mid and enterprise level businesses may work out better for you.
5. REQUIRES MINIMAL EDUCATION
All other things being equal, would you rather work with a customer who is hard to reach, needs lots of education, and wants you to visit them on-site, or would you rather work with the one who contacts you and says “I’m ready to buy, send me a contract.”
6. ENERGIZES YOU
Otherwise you’ll burn out.
7. COMMITS TO THE LONG-TERM
Would you rather have a customer who pays you once, or every month for 20 years?
8. SPREADS THE WORD
The only thing better than a great customer is the one who recruits more customers.
Note: These ideals should not be taken as absolutes. Many of the great moments in human history happened when people who were not at all like each other worked together. Charitable or humanitarian efforts may focus on an audience that has no money.
How to Find Your Ideal Audience in 4 Steps
STEP 1: START WITH THE AUDIENCE YOU’VE GOT
Do you already have a customer you wish you could clone 1,000 times? Often, the clues to your ideal audience can be found in the ideal customer you already have.
Here’s an example adapted from a real-life scenario:
Ben. Married, two kids. Lives/works in RI. 45ish. Likes fishing and skiing. Reads lots of business/marketing books. Company (800 employees) he works at is in consulting services. He’s the new CMO. The previous CMO was let go, Ben was brought in to fix things. Marketing team of about 60. Were using paper folders and everything took weeks to get done. He came in and wanted to overhaul his team and the way they work. At his previous company he became familiar with the methodology we specialize in. He tasked his Marketing Director of Operations to find a consulting firm that knew that methodology and she found us. Hired us for a one-year engagement, about $350K in revenue.
Write down everything you can about your ideal customer–not just what makes them ideal, but everything you know or can gather about them. Include their name, age, title, family status, hobbies, interests, beliefs, income, location, language(s) spoken, roles, communication style, hangups, professional circumstances, goals, fears, and personality traits.
STEP 2: LIST POTENTIAL AUDIENCE FACTORS
What stands out to you as relevant from the description you created above? Write those factors down. Then, write down more, as many more as you can think of. Ask yourself what are all the types of people who may be interested in you and your superpower? Who needs you and what you have to offer? Who do you need to influence in order to make your vision reality? Who are you, and who would it be easy for you to relate to? List characteristics, titles, locations, languages, roles, desires, goals, fears, and challenges. Think broadly and make a big list.
From this large list of potential audience factors we’ll zoom in to find your ideal audience factors. Just as with your Genius Zone, we’re going to do a Venn diagram exercise to find powerful overlapping interests.
STEP 3: CHOOSE THE TOP AUDIENCE FACTOR
Which ONE of your potential audience factors from above has to be part of what creates your ideal audience? For example, my marketing agency’s vision might be to sign up twenty new clients this year, so our primary audience factor be “Looking to hire a marketing agency.”
Write down the single top audience factor.
STEP 4: WHAT OTHER FACTORS ARE IMPORTANT?
What other audience factors are important? List at least two, but preferably between five and ten.
Before you go any further, The Big Mistake almost everyone makes at this point is they don’t dream big enough. They get stuck in “reality” and place unhelpful limits on themselves that prevent them from even trying to do what they are truly capable of. Whenever I catch myself dreaming small and limiting myself, I remind myself of this quote:
“I’d rather be rich than stupid.” – Jack Handy
Sometimes to dream big, we have to think small.
Imagine Charlie owns a company that sells marketing software. He believes his ideal audience is anyone who’s a VP Marketing.
Can you spot Charlie’s limiting belief?
Charlie is holding himself back because he believes he needs to target every single VP Marketing in the world. He’s afraid if he gets more narrow when talking about his ideal audience, he’ll exclude too many opportunities. The truth is that by trying to appeal to everyone, he appeals to no one. On the other hand, if he narrows his focus he’ll find a niche he can own and defend against competitors.
Who is the ideal client for your company to go after? I like to narrow this down by asking “Would you rather…” questions, like:
- Would you rather work with a client located near you, or far from you?
- Would you rather have a client who is looking to buy our services, or one that needs to be educated before they will buy?
- Would you rather have a client with lots of budget, or not much budget?
- Would you rather have a client who will spread the word about you, or will keep you to themselves?
- Would you rather have a client with multiple locations, or one location?
- Would you rather have a client who has been in business for a long time, or a short time?
- Would you rather have a client who will commit to 20 years, or 2 months?
It doesn’t matter what you select from each choice above–there are plenty of clients either way–but if you want to get results from your thought leadership content you have to choose one or the other.
This is hard for most people. Recently, in my mastermind, a member wresteled with this. I asked him, “Would you rather work with clients that already know someone you work with, or clients who don’t know anyone you work with?”
I thought that was an easy question. Of course you’d rather work with clients who already know another client of yours, wouldn’t you? But he said “I’d rather work with clients who don’t know another of my clients.”
When I dug deeper, I found out the reason he said that was because the group of “people who don’t know his clients” is much larger than the group of “people who know his clients.” He was stuck thinking about market size, rather than client quality. When I told him to ignore the market size, he said “Oh yeah, well then of course I’d rather reach out to people who know my existing clients, they’re easier to land and more likely to stick around.”
The thing is, he only needs twenty new clients to completely change his business and his life. He was willing to trade working with twenty dream clients to chase after twenty non-ideal clients.
How niche can you go? How focused can you get, so that you can absolutely own that niche? As they say, “The riches are in the niches.”
STEP 5: CREATE YOUR PERSONAL BRAND TAGLINE
You now have a vision (Question #1). You know why you and/or your company are ideally suited to make it happen and what your superpower is (Question #2). And now you know who your ideal audience is. Let’s put it all together into a concise statement that helps you focus your attention on where you will make the greatest impact, as well as quickly and easily explain to others who you are, what you do, and who you do it for. If you’re creating this for a business it’s your “brand tagline.” If you’re creating this for yourself as an individual this is your “personal brand tagline.”
To create your personal brand tagline fill in these blanks:
I help _________ to __________.
I help (this is where you put your ideal audience)
to (here you explain the problem you solve, or the results you deliver that solve the problem or take advantage of an opportunity).
Here are examples of personal brand taglines:
- “I teach entrepreneurs how to build email lists and create online courses.” – Amy Porterfield
- “I will teach you to be rich.” – Ramit Sethi
- “I’ll help you figure things out.” – Marie Forleo
- “I teach hustlers how to day trade attention.” – Gary Vaynerchuk
- “I’ll help you achieve success through a morning routine.” – Hal Elrod
What’s your personal brand tagline? You may find it helpful to work this out on a piece of scratch paper, adding and crossing out words until you find the right combination that resonates with you. Pro tip: Focus on accuracy and detail first and making it sound good later.
Some places you can use your personal brand tagline immediately are:
- As the title for your LinkedIn profile.
- In your email signature.
- As an answer whenever someone asks “So, what do you do?”
Why Finding Your Ideal Audience Matters
Let’s say my agency, MWI, identified multi-location funeral homes as the ideal client for our digital marketing services. At these funeral homes with multiple locations, let’s say the marketing decisions are made by someone whose role is exclusively dedicated to marketing for the company, that is, it’s rare that the owner, CEO, or anyone else other than “the marketing person” would own marketing.
Even with only that limited knowledge in hand, it would change what type of thought leadership content my agency would create and where we would distribute it. We would certainly be interested in speaking at funeral home industry conferences, whereas if we didn’t recognize funeral homes as our ideal client we might speak at marketing industry conferences, and what are the chances anyone from the funeral home industry would be there? Even if they were, what are the chances we’d have anything to say that would trigger their interest and make them say “I’ve got to talk to this agency, they sound like the perfect fit for my company.”
Use the 3 Questions to Create Compelling Content
Imagine trying to create effective thought leadership content without a clear vision, without knowing why you’re the right fit, or without knowing who you’re creating content for. It would be like searching for a needle in a haystack, except you wouldn’t even know what you were searching for, or if you found it.
When you answer the 3 Big Questions then you can easily answer questions about what content to create, like:
- What content should I create?
- How will I create my content?
- Where do I distribute my content?
- How do I get results from my content?
- How do I improve my content system?
You’ll find it easy to create compelling content that connects powerfully with your audience and moves them to take actions that will turn your vision into reality. You’ll be able to provide creative ideas, valuable leadership, and serve them better than ever before.
The 7 Systems of Influence
What I’ve covered here is a brief overview of the first three systems from The 7 Systems of Influence. If you’re serious about becoming a thought leader or producing thought leadership content at your company, check out my $99/month, 7 Systems Thought Leadership Mastermind. Or if “free” is more your price range, subscribe to my email newsletter for frequent updates from my research into influence, thought leadership, and personal branding.Liked it? Share it!