The title is a pretty bold statement, I know. There’s lots of very tangible and intangible things that we know are necessary for our business — time, financial capital, our personal networks, steady leads, and our personal expertise. So why clarity? And why have I made that my mission with fellow leaders and entrepreneurs?
What I’ve noticed, especially as a content strategist, is that a synonym for “strategy” is clarity. Without brand and business clarity your marketing is just guesswork. Imagine getting into the car and not knowing your destination except “somewhere East.” It would be ridiculous waste of time and gas and what’s worse is you’d never know if you actually reached it.
Clarity informs how you talk to collaborators and potential clients about your business, which strategies you implement and which ones you ignore, the type of community you build, what your brand stands for, and it makes your social media and other content marketing come easily. Clarity is leveraging what you’re good at and ignoring the trends.
Without clarity people won’t invest in you or share your message.
I’ve discussed what having clarity in your personal and business values mean for your business in this post, and I think that is the best way to start on your journey to clarity. It helps you not to stray too far into inauthenticity and help attract your right people. This is your WHY, your origin story — otherwise why would you forsake the comfort and relative security of being an employee in the corporate world and become an entrepreneur in the first place? Your value statement is just the beginning.
A huge part of clarity is learning to listen to your own internal compass. You should also be very clear on your own strengths. Too many of us try to mirror how others in our industry become successful without realizing we have our own unique advantages and experiences we can draw on that not only help us stand out, but make the marketing and sales processes feel less exhausting and you don’t have to feel gross about promoting yourself.
You need self-awareness to understand your strengths. When things come easy to us, we tend to take it for granted. We assume it’s like that for everyone. This is where having an outside strategist or support person is helpful, but it can also be assessed solo both via reflection and other tools such as Clifton StrengthsFinder and Fascination Advantage. Either way, it requires taking some time away from the daily grind of admin and client work and focusing on the big picture of your business, something that sounds much easier than done in practice.
Do you remember in school when you realized if you were a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner? Maybe that was just something we did in school, but it helped you plan your attack of study. Marketing can be the same way, if you know that conversation comes easy to you; launching and making a podcast could be your main strategy. Or you bring folks onto Facebook Lives and talk to your community that way.
The people that I’ve worked with are incredibly intelligent creative folks. They’re constantly bettering their skills in their profession as well as their business building skills.
They make it so much harder than it needs to be. Is it due to a mindset block? Maybe. But likely, they think that the more effort they put into their marketing plans and strategies the more likely they will convert.
The 80/20 Rule suggests that this isn’t the case. When we focus on where we’re strong at, we will get a far bigger return. Not only does it help you stand apart (because you’re truly being YOU), but you’re not trying to swim against the stream. What’s popular and working for others may be something that’s exhausting and time-consuming for you because it’s not in your wheelhouse.
Here’s your marketing permission slip– do what you can, do what only you can do. It’s okay if it’s simple. It doesn’t need to be highly produced and polished, it just needs to be consistent. Just keep showing up.
Stuck in Tagline/Pitch Limbo
When most people think of clarity in their business, they’re concerned with their message and tagline. I find that as I’ve helped service-based entrepreneurs, refining your message into a sentence or elevator pitch tends to come at the very end. If clarity is a journey, there has to be some stops first. You have to have a good understanding on who you serve and what problem you solve.
There’s so much information on there on figuring out ideal clients (like here and here), that I won’t go too much into this except to stress that getting the demographics and slapping a name on them and calling it an “ideal client persona” isn’t enough. Far more important is understanding the psychographics– what those who you serve are really thinking and feeling. This is why I specialize in storytelling. We are all the heroes of our stories. It’s how we think and it’s how we consume our content and media. If you don’t feel like you know your ideal client’s narrative as well as you should, then your next course of action is having as many conversations as possible with them to hear from them their stories and struggles in their own words. This should also give you a better handle on the problem that you’re solving with your services.
Let’s say you have this pretty well figured out as you have already validated your business idea before you officially launched. That’s great. Now that you know the WHO, you can still potentially missing the fact that your WHAT, the solution you deliver, what you offer, just isn’t clicking or connecting with them. This could be a language problem, but it could also be a deeper and more murky issue.
You might not have clarity on your offering and the results your folks are getting with it. I’ve found this is especially true with people who run health or spiritual practices where the results are not always tangible. What we as the business owner think people need for their problem is often not what they think they need. It can also be an issue with how you’re packaging your services. For example, if you’re a coach who thinks that what everyone wants is a home-study course when in actuality they may know what to do but need some hand-holding or extra resources like meal plans or grocery lists to actually figure out how they’re going to get there.
This part typically takes trial and error and getting feedback from those who use your service, or even those who decided to decline. I’m still continually refining how I best can help people, either from doing the content writing for them, writing their story to adapt to social media, their website, and content, and what roadmap will best get them from where they are now and where their want their business to go in the future. Throughout the process of business clarity, the key is listening to your clients and customers. Creating offering and courses in your solitary bubble will only lead to wasted energy and resources.
Where it All Comes Together
Your WHY, your WHO, and your HOW are the most valuable pieces to your tagline. There are a lot of good formulas you can use for a tagline (personally I like this one and this one myself), I’ve noticed that we still struggle with them when we’re trying to figure out how to talk about our business in a way that’s concise and engaging. I just recently went to a workshop on pitching, and much to my and various other attendees’ chagrin, it was not about delivering a better elevator pitch but was actually about how to pitch to investors. Not very applicable to my business and other bootstrappers. We all could improve on our elevator pitch and recognize we need help with it. That’s why we came out. Only to realize it was a totally different kind of pitch we were learning about. Oh well.
I could help but wonder– why is that? This isn’t some arcane sort of skill or strategy. This is literally us talking about our own freaking business.
Surely it can’t be that hard, right?
Therein lies the problem. It’s OUR business, a reflection of who we are. From the inside, what seems obvious to us is not obvious to other people. This is called the curse of expertise. When you’re doing the work day in and day out, you forget what it was once like to be in the dark about the problem you help people with. You lose the perspective of your ideal clients.
We also, as service providers, get hung up on the HOW, what our process is. How we uniquely serve our clients. But listen up– clients don’t really give a shit. At least, not right away. They lack the context that you do. What they really care about is that you understand their story up until now and where they’re stuck. From there, they want to be shown that you can help guide them to their desired result.
Once you’ve developed and nurtured the relationship, then you can start to talk about the process but not until they have a clear picture of transformation that is possible and that’s happened for folks because of your guidance. That’s the necessary context.
Here’s the sticky part– taglines are supposed to achieve that in a sentence. For an elevator pitch, in 50 words or so. That shit is difficult. We need feedback throughout the process to understand how it’s perceived by others because as we’ve said before, we tend to be terrible judges of that.
Clarity as Litmus Test
You’ve heard the terms “on brand” and “off brand,” right? If not, when marketing or copy is on brand, it’s cohesive, eye-catching, engaging. It helps your business feel more like living, breathing personality. But if, for example, your social media posts are “off brand,” it’s jarring and confusing. It looks unprofessional and that you’re trying to be too much to many people. Imagine if Ikea started having an ad campaign about how they were now a luxury furniture brand and adopted black as their brand color instead of their iconic yellow and blue. That would be super weird, right?
This is something service providers have issues with, and I’m not just talking about indecision about fonts and colors to choose (though that is a part of it). When you’re not clear about what you stand for or how you want clients to feel when consuming your content/working with you, the language and visuals are flat and two-dimensional. You have no way of knowing when something’s on brand or not, because you can’t tell what you’re “going for.”
And then we wonder why no one is following us or subscribing. If we haven’t taken the time to be crystal clear about our business and how we want to show up in the world, can we really be surprised that it has people confused?
Once you’ve settled on:
- Value Statement (Why you do what you do)
- Brand Adjectives (A primary word with 2-4 secondary adjectives)
- Ideal Client’s Transformation
- How to Leverage Your Strengths in Your Business Model
You can use that as a litmus test that you put your website, branding materials, social media, content, strategic plan, and even your sales processes through so everything fits and is tailored to how you want to do business aligned to your values while also thinking of your ideal clients and what you want them to experience as a landmark.
Is clarity indicative of sales? Research has shown this to be true. When you’re clear about these pieces, you know where your ideal folks hang out and you know how to better communicate with them. You’re consistently showing up in a way that strengthens instead of drains you. You save time throughout planning and content creation because you’re not guessing on what you think folks care or want to know more about. You’ve had powerful conversations and understand them on a deep level that you are laser focused throughout the creation process. It actually feels joyful instead of this overwhelming and anxiety-producing behemoth task in your entrepreneurial journey. That’s why clarity serves as such a valuable tool in your business toolbox. Because it saves time and all of the other resources that we tend to worry about.
So, if you’re wondering how you go about getting more clarity around your business and marketing, keep connecting and listening. Always be open to inspiration from other places. I find that a lot of my best ideas in this regard come when I’m in the shower. Keep using it and keep practicing. Find a fellow colleague and give each other feedback. If you want, you can even email me and I’ll tell you what I think. Without clarity, it’s easy to fall into overwhelm and just a sense of feeling stuck and directionless. And a business without a direction or strategy is one that’s doomed to fail. So do yourself a favor and carve out time for this because the ROI is immeasurable.