Lead With the Long Blade
The other day I was sitting down with someone who had a great deal of business experience. As a result of the work he had done, he had literally worked in almost every capacity within his industry and held more than a few positions. He referred to himself as a Swiss army knife with a wide range of skills, but he was finding that whenever he presented this fact to people who could hire him, they were having trouble placing him. This is something I see a lot. Marie Forleo refers to it as being multi-passionate, many people refer to it as being a jack-of-all-trades, and I refer to it as the 25% Complex.
If there are four things that you are good at and you give everything you have to all four things, then you can only give 25% to any one thing without giving anything to yourself.
A Swiss army knife is a very useful tool, but how many people ask this question at least once? There is one tool that is used more than any other and that is the long blade. In your business there are going to be dozens of things you can come up with that you can do for your clients, but if you want them to trust you then you need to lead with one of those things. The interesting objection that comes up with this is that you get worried about being put in a box and only being called on for that one thing. To this I have one thing to say:
You teach people how to view you when you work with them.
If when you work with them you only do the one thing that got them in the door and ignore your other expertise, you limit what you can help the person with, but when they first encounter you if you present all of the things you can do for them, they’ll get overwhelmed with choices and not want to make one. Think of it this way. If you are having heart trouble, do you want to go to a general practitioner or would you want to see a doctor who specializes in hearts? Hearts is the long blade. Can that same doctor recommend other people and do they likely have some expertise in other areas of medicine? Of course, but if you wanted heart surgery would you want the doctor telling you about all of the other skills he has or would you want him to focus on your heart?
The toughest thing we ever have to do as entrepreneurs and service providers is choose a long blade, but when that choice is made, all of your marketing decisions become easier and you know who is and is not your client. This choice causes a lot of anxiety because often we think once we choose our long blade that is it. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You can start with one message and adjust it over time and no one will even notice. You obviously don’t want to change your specialty every other day, but don’t be surprised if over the course of a year or two, your messaging shifts and your focus shifts according to the market and your customers. I am constantly testing names for services and ways of presenting information and no one has called me a scatterbrain yet.
So here’s a challenge for you: take a look at your business and hone in one aspect of it. Really dig deep and get super clear on it.
Make that your long blade and tell people about it.
Pay attention to how people refer you once you’ve done this.
You may be surprised at just how much of the marketing noise you “cut” through.