What Do You Do?
The question “what do you do?” is uninspired, lazy, and a staple of networking events, first dates, and other small-talk situations. It’s unavoidable in both personal and professional contexts.
How do you respond?
Most people respond to this question with an “I am” statement, filling in the role they play: Lawyer. Doctor. Writer. Real estate broker. Creative director. Speaker. Investment banker. Coach. Homemaker. Web developer. Marketer. Teacher. And so on.
If this is how you respond, you are missing out on an opportunity to win business. In fact, you might be stepping over thousands of dollars.
This article is about how to ensure this doesn’t happen to you.
This is About Marketing
At its most basic, marketing is the story you tell about what you offer, the people you serve, and the promise you make to them.
It should go without saying that to effectively tell the story about how you serve, you need to understand this for yourself. And you need to tell this story in a way that your tribe can hear it.
Marketing is like a bat signal; it’s not intended for everyone to hear it. Only those who resonate at the same frequency need to hear it.
What Business Are You Really In?
A more effective way to tell the story about what you do so that the right people can hear it is to reframe the question as what business are you really in?
3 Elements to An Effective Marketing Strategy
Here is how understanding the business you are really in impacts three core elements of your marketing strategy.
Who do you serve? Who are your ideal clients?
News flash: you cannot serve everyone.
You may know this, unless you’re a real estate agent. Most real estate agents believe that everyone with a pulse is their ideal client. And even people without a pulse, if those people owned a home when they died.
Trying to help everyone will lead you to chase every potential lead and drive you straight to burnout. You need to define some parameters for who you serve.
Here’s the good news: you don’t necessarily need to specify your ideal clients’ exact demographics or psychographics. The key is to understand what business you are really in.
Articulating the business you are really in — rather than the role you play — will send the bat signal to the right people.
Case Study: How the Bat Signal Invites Pursuit
Here’s an example of how understanding what business you are really in can attract the right clients to you and end your cycle of chasing leads.
A few years ago, I was sitting in the waiting room of my chiropracter’s office. A man in the waiting room asked me that lame question: what do you do?
Instead of telling him my role — real estate agent — I described the business I am really in:
I am a coach for people who are navigating major life transitions.
That statement was the bat signal to another man in the waiting room. He told me that he was going through a major life transition and asked for my card. Two days later, we spoke on the phone. Although he didn’t need to move, I knew I could help him navigate his big life change.
He was exactly the type of client I wanted to attract as I contemplated expanding my practice to serve clients beyond the strict confines of real estate. I made him an offer and he enrolled on the spot as a long-term coaching client.
If I had responded to the question of “what do you do?” with my role as a “real estate agent” I would have lost out on thousands of dollars in income.
Positioning is a crucial ingredient in the recipe for effective marketinh. How you position yourself and your offering is crucial to differentiating yourself and to claiming the value your work deserves — whether that work is your services, a course, a book, a home, or something else.
Positioning is also a key driver of pricing (which we will cover later in this series).
Case Study: Positioning to Differentiate
There are 50,000 licensed real estate agents in New York City. Most of them say they “sell real estate.” Most consumers, when they think of real estate agents, picture a pushy sales person who wants to move them along and move on to the next deal.
Many real estate agents focus on their access to information and the data they can provide. This leaves them vulnerable to advances in technology that make the data available to clients.
When I share with people what I do, the general reaction is “I’ve never heard anyone else describe the role of a real estate agent like that.” It’s clear to them that I’m not in the same business as other real estate agents. I’m in a field of one.
This is the magic of positioning. When you tell people your role, you don’t get a chance to reframe the understanding of what you do.
By sharing the business I am really in, I give people a different perspective on how to think of real estate agents and I separate myself from the pack.
A third element of marketing is your promise. What is the promise of your offering? What is the promise you make to your client or customer?
Beyond the surface promise, what’s the deeper transformation that you offer to your clients?
To know your promise, you must understand what business you are really in.
You must understand your clients’ desired outcomes and the fears and doubts that are likely to get in their way. How will you help them avoid those obstacles?
Case Study: Finding the Promise Beneath the Product
In my real estate practice, I understand that my clients fear making the wrong decision. Sellers fear that they will leave money on the table. Buyers fear that they will make the wrong choice.
My offer is not just that I help my clients find their home or sell their home; that’s only a small piece of what I do. The promise runs deeper than the “product.”
Part of my promise to my clients is that they will make major decisions with confidence and clarity, so they don’t regret or doubt their decisions. I coach them through the dynamics of change: letting go, staying calm amidst chaos and uncertainty, stepping into the unknown, moving on. And I help them get clear on their values and priorities, so they can seize the right opportunity at the right time.
Whatever your product or service you offer is just the starting point for your promise. Asking yourself what busines you are really in will force you to look beneath the surface to find your real promise to your clients.
Your Turn: Sending Your Bat Signal
When you understand what business you are really in, you will have the elements you need to tell an effective and compelling story about what you offer, what you stand for, and what you promise in a way that sends a bat signal to your ideal clients.
This is the heart of effective marketing.
Some questions to consider:
- what business are you really in?
- who do you serve?
- what is the promise you make to your clients?
- how do you position yourself and your offering?
I’d love to hear your responses. Please share in the comments!