Over the many years I have been coaching in the Laptop Lifestyle Academy there is one concept I have to teach over and over again.
It’s not a simple concept and it’s even harder to apply it in practical terms. In fact, I would say this is why people need coaching in the first place — to better understand this key aspect of running a successful business.
There is no one label I can give this concept, as really it’s the unification of many business and marketing ideas into a cohesive force. When you get it right, you have the formula for a successful business.
However, to get it right, more often than not you have to experiment and figure out what doesn’t work before you figure out what does. I never got this right myself on the first try. Even to this day with my current business I am still refining these ideas.
What am I talking about?
The connection between who you serve (your customers), what you sell (your offer) and how you market it (your distribution).
The Age-Old Concept Of Positioning
One of the first marketing concepts I learned about in business school is called positioning.
I was taught about positioning in the context of competition. You position what you sell in relation to what other people currently sell. It’s the ‘position in the market’ you take that defines you in the mind of potential customers.
The point of positioning is to ensure that a certain group of customers come to the decision that your offer is the right fit to solve the problem they have. You might even sell exactly the same thing as competitors, but how you position it using various forms of marketing, advertising — even something as basic as what name you give your product — determines the position your offer takes in the market.
A simple example of this is soap. Most soaps contain roughly the same ingredients and solve the same problem, yet they can be marketed for a specific purpose – better for dry skin, special for babies, better for the environment, and so on.
For the past fifteen years I have spent a lot of time repeating the same advice to my coaching clients –
In order to stand out you have to zero-in and present as a specialist.
When I explain this to coaching clients, I always add an additional point to help deal with a common complaint: Most people don’t want to focus on only one thing.
To deal with this, I tell people that you only have to specialize and narrow-in with your positioning on your first offer, then you can expand with other offers to the customers you attract.
Go narrow with your public marketing, then go deeper with your paying customers.
To illustrate what I mean, I always refer to the great example Eben Pagan gave me many years ago when I was first studying online coaching.
He explained that in his dating advice business for men, guys would always ask for the best pick up lines to say to women at a bar. Eben knew that dating advice was a gateway to the bigger idea of personal development for men, which was the topic he was really teaching, yet to ‘catch a fish’ he had to use the right bait to begin with.
In his marketing, Eben offered a simple free resource — a handout full of his best opening lines to talk to women, exactly what guys went searching for online at the time. By doing this, he grabbed initial interest with a very specific offer, a solution to a very specific problem — what were the few words to say to start a conversation with a woman.
After he got the name and email address of guys who wanted his free resource, he followed up with emails and additional offers that expanded into broader topics of dating advice (how to ask for a date, what to say on that date, how to initiate a first kiss, and so on). That however was just the start.
Eben’s followup training and product offers went from dating advice to personal development, helping men realize that to really be attractive to women, they needed to develop themselves on multiple layers, including their self-esteem, physical health, sense of style, and even their purpose and what gives their life meaning.
From the narrow topic of pickup lines to the biggest broadest question of them all – what is the purpose of life. That is quite a marketing funnel, but it illustrates the idea of starting as a specialist even when you know you can teach so much more than just one narrow topic.
Who, What And How
Over time I came to see that positioning is a starting point, a first step toward what we are ultimately trying to do, understand our fellow human beings better.
The more we know about who we serve, what drives them, how they think about their problems and the emotions they experience as a result of having and then solving the problem — are insights that help us come up with the right positioning to appeal to a group of people, and thus, sell them our version of a solution.
With clarity gained about who we serve, what we sell can be refined. Our products and services can be built to cater to this unique group of people and do an amazing job of solving the specific problems that are motivating them to purchase a solution.
Finally, with clarity of who you serve and what you sell, you have the ability to define how you will reach them. It’s very hard to feel confident about marketing something when you don’t really understand who you are trying to reach and you are not quite sure if the offer you are making is what they want.
There is a deep connection, a flow between these elements, with one informing the next, helping to guide how you spend your time and your money to start and grow your business.
In truth, much of being an entrepreneur during the startup phase is figuring out the Who, What and the How. As you test and start gaining feedback from the real world, the answers to these questions become clearer, and thus inform how you progress.
What Headline Do You Use To Make A First Impression?
One of the simplest ways to illustrate the connection between the who, what and how, and how their connection impacts your business, is to review any first impression headlines you use in your marketing and advertising.
For example, when you are invited to speak on a podcast as a guest, what topic do you tell people you are going to cover? What is the headline you give them?
What about the title and headline of a book you are going to publish, or the main headline you use on your landing page for the free resource you give away to build your email list?
Even the simplest forms of advertising like the headlines on your Instagram ads, or the subject lines in your email newsletters, or the title of your blog posts — these are all examples of how you position what you do.
Take for example a health coach who helps women lose weight. Let’s call her Sally.
Sally is operating a business in a hugely competitive space. She wants to promote her business by appearing as a guest expert on health and wellness podcasts. She’s working on a subject title for what she can talk about, the main headline she will approach podcast hosts with when pitching herself as a guest.
Initial attempts almost always start with broad terms like this – “How women can lose weight, feel great, and learn to love themselves again.”
On first inspection, this headline might seem pretty appealing. Who doesn’t want to lose weight and feel great! The problem is this headline sounds just like every other headline out there and says little to distinguish Sally as a specialist or speak to a specific type of person.
On a coaching call with Sally, I ask her who she has helped in the past to lose weight. I also ask for her own origin story, how did she decide to become a coach on this topic.
Sally, like so many kind and generous coaches and teachers wants to help everyone she can. She knows losing weight is a journey, and for most people there is no simple solution. From living her own weight loss journey she knows that mindset, habits, food choices, sleep, stress management and so many other elements play a part. There’s a lot she can teach and she doesn’t see why every woman on the planet in some way couldn’t benefit from learning from her.
As an entrepreneur, Sally also wants to make a lot of money, so she figures by going out there and appealing to as many people as she can is the best way to get lots of customers.
By talking to Sally I learn that she has helped a number of clients who were new mothers. They had given birth and then struggled to lose the extra weight that came along with pregnancy.
Sally explains that these women are often trying to lose that last extra 10 pounds so they can go back to wearing their pre-pregnancy clothes again.
I suggest to Sally that she has an opportunity to go out there and focus on a specific type of person – new mothers who recently gave birth – and offers a solution to “help them fit into their pre-pregnancy clothes again”.
Sally at first doesn’t like the idea of only appealing to recent mothers as it narrows her audience and the scope of what she can talk about. I explain that this angle is just for a marketing campaign, it doesn’t define her as a coach — it’s just a topic that allows her to stand out from the crowd and position her message differently from others.
This angle means more podcast hosts will say yes to having her own the show, and it also means she will resonate so much more with a specific type of person.
Although hesitant at first, Sally realizes she could corner this market and starts getting excited about creating a program specifically to sell to this sub-segment of the weight loss niche.
She now knows who she is speaking to (pregnant women/new mothers), what they want (how to lose pregnancy weight to fit into clothes again) and how to reach them (in this experiment, podcasts).
By working backwards, narrowing in, then extrapolating forward, Sally has a much better message and potentially a much better business.
This line of strategic thinking won’t work every time, but it does force you to look for opportunities to specialize, to narrow in, and most importantly, focus on your customer first, then let the products and marketing flow out from there.
I’m Running A Summer Bootcamp Inside The Laptop Lifestyle Academy — And You Are Invited
Over the summer months of June, July and August, I am going to offer my guidance to help members of the Laptop Lifestyle Academy gain clarity on the Who, What And How of their businesses.
If you want help, and by help I mean refining who you should sell to, what you should sell to them, and how to reach these people so you get customers, then this is for you.
I’ll be running this summer bootcamp via the forums inside my academy. Anyone can participate, follow the process I will lay out and ask questions, as long as you are an active member of the Laptop Lifestyle Academy.
I’m running a special 50% off promotion — you will pay just $49/month instead of $99/month for membership into the academy (or save $500 for a full year membership, just $497 instead of $997 for annual membership).
You can sign up here:
Once you sign up, look out for the welcome email with the link to create your account inside the Academy.
The Laptop Lifestyle Academy is more than just a forum membership. There is my entire catalogue of short training courses, my exclusive interview series, coaching calls with me and access to the members only slack chat. It’s the most dynamic resource I offer and you can get access for less than $2 per day.
Just click the link above and review everything you receive as a member, then sign up.
I’ll see you in the forums.