If you’re a service-based business, one question keeps coming up…
…when you sit down to write a sales letter or web page
…when you hire a copywriter or marketing consultant
…when you set up your LinkedIn page
…every time someone asks, “What do you do in your business?”
…when you plan your next offer
It’s the question, “How are you different from your competition?”
People may not ask you this question directly, but they’re wondering.
It’s the foundation for your business and your brand.
If you’re just starting out, you may not have the answer right away. And you may find your answer shifting over time. Occasionally your answer just emerges as you do your work.
But at some point, you have to answer that question…even if nobody asks you directly. And the first place to start isn’t with you. It’s with your client’s backstory.
What makes you different? means, “What makes you special in the eyes of these clients?”
It might seem a little farfetched to imagine how your client’s story helps create your brand, but I’ve seen this pattern over and over when I work with my own clients.
Begin With Your Client’s Backstory
Your client’s backstory has 3 parts:
What’s the problem, pain, or puzzle?
What obstacles stand in the way of their solutions?
What’s their baggage: what have they tried so far and what happened?
That’s it. You don’t need to get into demographics. In fact, demographics get in the way.
Suppose you’re a financial advisor. You’ve been taught to frame your target market in terms of demographics. So you define your ideal client as a “newly divorced women over 50.”
But now it’s too easy to buy into conventions and stereotypes. You might have an image of this fifty-year-old woman with gray hair who doesn’t have the latest gizmos on her iPhone. You might even suspect she’s still got a flip phone and an AOL account.
But suppose you look at the clients you enjoy working with. You enjoy working with people who have been through major life crises, such as divorce.
One backstory might be:
Problem: “I’ve been married for twenty years. My spouse always handled the finances. I haven’t worked in over ten years. I need to make my funds last as long as possible while I figure out what to do next.”
Obstacles: “I don’t know where to get information. I need to figure out how to make investments, whether to buy or rent my next home, and how much I can spend before going broke.”
Baggage: I asked my brother, who works in a bank. He told me I’m lucky I’m not on welfare.
Then let’s compare with another story:
Problem: “I’ve got my own successful career. Now that I’m divorced there’s a lot of paperwork to put my accounts back in my name and reconfigure my portfolio.”
Obstacle: “I’ve got a pretty good handle on all this, but I just don’t have time. I need someone to dig into the numbers and make a series of recommendations.”
Baggage: “I’ve tried to do this myself and I asked my divorce lawyer. The first person she recommended talked to me like a five-year-old. The second never returned my calls. I’m going to be very careful who I choose to work with.”
When you work with these stories, you avoid focusing on qualities that will be irrelevant to your market. You’ll figure out how to tailor offerings and presentations to meet their needs.
You’ll know how to position yourself on attributes they find important. The first might respond to stories of the Role Model Archetype: “I’ve been where you are.” The second most likely will look for credentials and success stories.
In other words, one type of backstory focuses on empathy, one on expertise.
When you work with two or more backstories, you’ll need to come up with a strategy to manage your content. When you can respond to just one strong backstory, you’re going for the gold.
For example, one business owner runs a high-end training four-figure website development training program, geared to a very specific backstory:
Problem: “I want to have a beautiful, professional-looking site. I was willing to pay for professional design. After going through so many webmasters and tech support people who charged e a lot of money and disappeared into the sunset, I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and do it myself.”
Obstacle: “I’m not tech-savvy and have no desire to learn tech.”
Baggage: “I’ve worked with half a dozen webmasters – all disasters. I’ve tried to learn systems from YouTube videos and short courses. I need more hands-on support.”
The client’s backstory is just the first step, but it’s a necessary one. Your next step will be to find your own story. You’ll then build your strategy — do you have one backstory or several? — and share with your audience.
If you need help doing this, check out the Small Business Branding Advantage. In this course, we begin with finding your client’s backstory (which may not be obvious at first). You’ll then discover how to find your own story and join them together to build a meaningful brand, so you stand out against the competition, even in a crowded market.
Take advantage of my free training – “The Surprising Way To Recognize What REALLY Motivates Your Ideal Target Market” – Click here to learn more and sign up.