That is the question.
And, believe me, answering this question is the key to the strength of your project or business.
You can think of this quest as a part of your story, though this chapter won’t be about you. It’s about your clients. The beauty of this story is that it’s being written right now, as you read these words, and soon it will have new and compelling narrative.
My intention is to help you connect to the people that belong to your client population. I know that sometimes this is the most difficult thing to do for any project or business, no matter how excellent the product or service.
Hopefully, after you read this article, something will shift that will help you to make the connection to your potential clients even stronger.
Let’s begin by asking this fundamental question: what problem or need does your client population have that your project or business can help solve?
To be able to answer accurately we first have to do a different kind of thinking. A change in our way of seeing is required, a strategic shift in perspective. That’s what makes this viewpoint so scarce in the world of business communication.
It’s a shift from looking at myself toward looking at and seeing the other. It is a radical and wonderful change of perspective that moves the focus from me—my business and my products—to the difficulties, obstacles and desires of the people I want to serve.
It means trying to stand in someone else’s shoes. Be inside another’s skin.
These are expressions that trip easily off the tongue, but are they easy to put into practice? No, definitely not.
We live in an increasingly me-oriented environment. Our perspective, seemingly natural in a me-centered society, is focused on ourselves. This doesn’t mean we are bad people, or selfish, or egocentric; it simply means that we have become accustomed to think first from the prism of me—of what I do and what I offer, even if what I do helps people.
But what if we could work on changing that perspective from me to the other. For our projects and businesses it could be a pivotal move to go outside of ourselves and into the thinking, feeling, and lives of the people we serve—our clients.
Why work toward this change of perspective?
Because once it is in focus, it becomes your most cherished point of view and the most valuable part of your professional vision and communication.
When you can identify the principal problems, difficulties or needs your client group has in the area of the product or service that you offer, when you can see through their eyes, you will then be able to show them what you see. You will be able to connect to people by communicating what you know and understand—about them.
What happens then?
This is the best part of the story. Your client population will see themselves reflected in your business.
They will identify with what you offer because it is clearly about their needs.
However, if your client population only sees what you are good at, what you do well or what you sell, they might not be able to imagine what all of it actually has to do with their particular experience or how it is relevant to their life.
Your potential clients might not be able to make the leap from you to them.
So, do it for them.
Create content—on your website, your blog, your professional Facebook page, your written promotion, your videos and any other marketing—that addresses the desires, hurdles or problems of your specific client population. If you do that, your readers will feel the pleasurable emotion that comes with realizing that someone truly sees them, that someone understands and cares about their needs.
That’s the way to connect to people and begin to inspire trust.
We all desire to be seen. To be listened to. To be understood.
Shine the light on the people you want to serve. Show that you understand their experience by illuminating it.
Then, when you have their attention, when they see themselves in your content, you can tell them in detail what your products or services are and what is special about your work.
How can you find out what your clients’ needs are?
First of all, by active listening—all the time.
People will tell you bits and pieces of information about their lives and if you listen closely you can begin to see what they consider to be a problem or need. Many times while we are working with our clients and customers, we are very focused on doing our work well. Sometimes we forget to listen.
And secondly, by asking them.
Don’t just imagine that you know what needs your clients have, don’t decide for yourself. Ask them to tell you.
Ask some of your current or former clients what was happening in their lives that motivated them to contact you or use your product or service. Any client you have ever helped will be happy to talk about it.
Their answers will captivate and delight you. Listen closely to the words they use. What they say will also give you a clear idea of what other people from your client group are experiencing and allow you to tap into new understanding and a fresh vocabulary.
How can you put this into practice?
This is what I did.
While writing this article, I got in touch with three former clients by phone or Skype and asked them all the same question:
Can you tell me what problems, difficulties or obstacles you were experiencing when you decided to contact me?
The answers to this question—in their words—began to help me see how I could shape the communication content about what I offer and what problems I help people solve.
This can happen for you too. And when it does, a marvelous transformation occurs. People see what you do as relevant to their lives. And they will want it.
And there’s something else.
The story of your project or business will be much more compelling when your clients become protagonists and help write the narrative, together with you.
Take a look around these next few days and notice how businesses talk about themselves. I think you will begin to see things differently. I think a fresh perspective will come into focus.
This could be the beginning of a new kind of relationship between you and your clients.
What problem do you solve? It might be just the thing we need.
For those of you who would like to read examples of how people answered the question I propose, below you will find excerpts from three clients who did Strategic Mapping sessions with me:
Me: Can you tell me what problems or difficulties or obstacles you were having when you decided to contact me about helping develop your project or business?
Client 1: I wanted to start a business and I needed to clarify if my idea had a real possibility of being successful.
I knew what I wanted to do but I didn’t know if it was taking on too much or too little… I didn’t really know who would be interested in what I had to offer. I also didn’t know where to begin.
My difficulty was organizing how to make it happen, the steps I needed to take. I would have done it my own way, but without knowing how exactly. More hit and miss.
Client 2: I wanted a very succinct presentation of myself…for my webpage. I was searching for that—a presentation that would communicate my services in a unique way. I couldn’t get to it. I would sit and write and I couldn’t get to it.
I already had a website, but I knew I wanted something different. Many nights I would sit down to write text but I didn’t know where to start or where to end and with what words.
When a friend told me about his experience with you in his process…I thought that maybe I should forget about the website for now and think about really defining what I wanted to do.
I was unclear about who my possible clients were. But I knew my idea was special and different.
I had a lot of insecurity and confusion. I needed to stop the pain!
I needed someone to listen to me and help me find my words or other words I could use.
Client 3: I didn’t have sufficient perspective to visualize what I needed for my business. I needed an external vision.
One important obstacle was me. I couldn’t identify what I needed with clarity.
I had tried two times before to start my own business and … there was too little definition in the project, in the business. And it just didn’t work. There were too many loose ends and too little professional vision.
I was all over the place with my ideas. I needed to define the parameters of my business, define what kind of client I should focus on, what exact products I should offer. I wanted to give more form and definition to my concepts.
I needed to unlearn some things—habits, old vices. I didn’t want to commit the same errors again. I needed the help of a professional, I didn’t want to do it alone this time.
I wonder what your clients would say if you asked them the same question. Curious?