Be an inch wide and be prepared to go a mile deep with your target market.
“Good enough” simply will not cut it, anymore!
Volunteering to serve on the board of a professional association takes time. Professionally, your time was a value. Perhaps you are “worth” (professionally speaking, of course) $80,000+ a year. Maybe you charge clients $350 an hour. If you are really in-demand, perhaps your clients pay you a six-figure retainer, just in case they need your expertise to solve a problem! No matter the amount, your skills have value, right?
Board service is often more give than take. Long hours, un-reimbursed expenses, and the added stress of carrying the responsibility to keep said organization on the right path often take a toll on your energy (or worse, your own business & family). When you serve, however, the journey of your tenure is often repaid by way of making new friendships, establishing connections you might otherwise have never made, and often learning that “one little nugget” of information that has eluded you for years.
A couple of years ago, my friend and colleague Lois Creamer (Visit her at www.BookMoreBusiness.com) was in town to speak at our local chapter of the National Speakers Association. As has become customary for our chapter, the night preceding the monthly meeting includes a dinner with the visiting speaker and members of the board, along with their spouses – as an informal way to help the presenter get a feel for the chapter & enjoy some time with fellow speaking professionals. What typically happens, though, between the laughter, connections, and sharing of stories from the road, is the bubbling through of constructive ideas in a rare, one-on-one session with an expert. That is the real payment for the job, and it is awesome!
That night with Lois, the conversation turned toward the inevitable, “So, what do you speak about?” For the first time that night, a few of the attendees were speechless (funny, if you consider the association). What followed next for some was a collection of responses so convoluted even the best cryptographers would have struggled. Not to be outdone, others delivered a concise retort so vague and broadly worded Lois STILL did not understand “what they meant” any more than the first group. Then it came to me. “Well, Lois,” I began, “What I want people to understand …” Then she stopped me and gave me this: “Scott. When someone asks what you do, I want your topic to be an inch wide…and a mile deep. Your expertise needs to be obvious and relevant right away. When you cast too wide a net, the listener hears a lack of conviction and does not understand why they should hire you over someone else more specific.” We worked on it after the dinner, and came to a confident, concise statement that says “I work with financial services professionals and sales teams to enable them to build lasting, profitable relationships with their customers and clients.” [A statement which conveys my expertise in a way that solves the kind of problems my ideal client might be willing to pay to address. You’ll have a chance to try out a statement of your own in a minute…Keep reading.]
Be an expert. Vague does not sell. Audiences, buyers, and the people with whom you network do not have time (or the incentive) to work through everything you have said, just to try to figure out what you really meant or why you are relevant for what they need. Do people really KNOW how you can help them solve THEIR problems? (This is critical if your livelihood depends on it!)
You have an expertise.
No matter your job title or professional role, you know something better than someone else. Your expertise may have nothing that directly ties to what you do at work, but may lie in a passion. Do you like to cook? Maybe you are into running, cycling, or working out. Perhaps you are the world’s greatest avoid-er of commitment. Whatever your talent, draw a connection back to your profession. (e.g. Chefs take raw ingredients to create wonderful dishes. Explain how you do the same, figuratively, with your clients.) Regardless of how the recognition manifests itself, deep down, we all want to be respected for our knowledge of some task, skill, craft or ability. For you, it may be mission critical that others be so confident in your expertise that they are willing to pay to access that expertise. It is your job to connect the dots for them, so you become easy to hire.
Be clear about your area of knowledge.
If you are not sure what that is, ask 20 people whom you trust to tell you an honest response. Your expertise may not be what you think it is. Should that be the case, I challenge you to consider how that might shift how you approach what you do or how you do it -leveraging that expertise.
Grow confident in your expertise.
Continue to refine your practice and knowledge in your gifted area. It will open doors for you. Most importantly, your enjoyment and satisfaction in how you spend your time just might become even more rewarding for you. What a great repayment for just being “you”.
Give it some thought and share in the comments to this article what your reflection or research says might be your own area of expertise. If you have a website relating to who you are or what you do that allows you to leverage that expertise, please include a link to your website / Pinterest page / YouTube channel / Twitter account in the body of your reply below. Let’s connect a network of experts and see what happens!