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This is an installment of The Voice Bureau’s blog post series on Writing Your Smart, Empathetic Website. This series is written with active and aspiring brand creators in mind — those of you who know that your website should be your business’s hardest working “salesperson” — and want to make that more of a reality. This series is geared toward Click here to visit the intro to this series, and to find links to all the other installments.

A huge, cool, graciously-appointed wraparound front porch was the stuff of my childhood dreams.

Home with big front porchRather Anne of Green Gables-esque, I know. I longed for adulthood, when yea, verily, I could procure myself a home with such a porch, and thus begin a halcyon 50+ years of casual entertaining, reading late into the night underneath a blanket on a porch glider, and spying on the neighborhood.

Are you a front porch person? Do you like to keep an eye out for neighbors and passers-by, watch the comings and goings of daily delivery trucks, and take in the changing colors of the neighborhood as one season turns into the next?

When it comes to your online home — AKA your website — it pays for every business owner to embrace front porch living.

Door color, stylized address numbers, wreath, porch swing, retro glider, boxwood topiaries flanking the threshold?

How your home page is like a great front porch. But first, trend cycles.

Web design and layouts go through trend cycles, just like anything. When I first brought my solo-owned business online (back in 2006), it was the Age of the Blog, and it was popular to have your blog landing page BE your home page. No formal home page copy per se, just your freshest writing out front, with a nice header, nav menu, and sidebar to orient people. I bucked that trend and went with a traditional home page for my brick and mortar boutique.

Seven years later (it’s now 2013, for those of you who are counting), blog-as-landing page feels a little passé in the realm of Serious Business (even among solo-owned or very tiny Serious Businesses with a highly personal point of view). It’s not that leading with your blog is wrong (or even amateurish), it’s just that it puts enormous pressure on you, the brand creator, to publish great stuff frequently. And when your latest piece is something that isn’t the most apt reflection of your Value Proposition, you run the risk of confusing site visitors as to what you’re about. Too, it requires your other home page elements to work even harder in terms of communicating what you’re about, while remaining all the simpler, visually, because you’ve already got a blog post going on.

Most of the time, when I get a vote, I advocate for my clients to have a traditional Home page for their business website — one that clearly showcases what the business offers, who the offer is for, who’s behind the offer (if they want to be a visible part of the brand), and how this brand’s solution is the very best for its Right Person.

That’s not asking for much, right?

So back to our front porch metaphor.

A great front porch helps sell a home (ask any realtor). It helps establish curb appeal. It suggests a gathering place — guests to be welcomed, holidays to be prepared for — and homecomings to be had. The front porch starts the conversation — the one the potential buyer is having in her head that goes like this: Oh. OH. I think this might be The One.

Likewise, as a business owner, you have the opportunity to put your brand’s best foot forward, visually, energetically, and situationally speaking. So let’s do it!

Here’s a round-up of important features that every great home page and front porch needs. Take note and see where you could clean up, cozy up, or customize your website’s curb appeal –

Every great home page needs . . . a WORD COUNT LIMIT.

When budgeting for client web copy, we (at The Voice Bureau) allow about 50-300 words for home page copy. (50-150 is often best, for a site on which you don’t want to have to scroll, scroll, scroll).

(This is just like how every great front porch needs to be pared of tchotchkes. Too much going on right when your guests “land” creates a sense of unease, confusion, and disarray. Exactly how you don’t want your site visitors to feel when they land on your site.)

Every great home page needs . . . a POINT OF VIEW.

In business, your Point of View is your differentiator (or Unique Selling Position). It’s what makes YOU and your product or service the best choice for your Right Person. Your point of view must be allowed a chance to be seen and heard. It shouldn’t have to compete with a lot of other signals. A brand without a clear differentiator runs the risk of becoming a magpie brand — a little bit of this, a little bit of that, a shiny object here, a razzle-dazzle here.

(This is just like how every great front porch needs a stylistic point of view, preferably one that complements the architecture of the rest of the structure. What does a point-of-viewless front porch look like? Oh, you know, it’s the one sporting the Americana tin star, the nylon Bambi flag, the pink flamingos in the flower beds, AND French lavender in pots.)

Every great home page needs . . . to be USER FRIENDLY.

A user friendly home page is one with clear and simple navigation. Seven choices, maybe, in the main nav — NOT seventeen (and yes, multi-tiered nav menus, I’m looking at you). A definite Call to Action, so your site visitors know what you want them to do next. Tell them where they should go. And don’t be coy about it.

(This is just like how every great front porch needs to be user friendly — clear walkways, an accessible mailbox, safe steps and railings. Come on, people. Treat your visitors right!)

And finally, every great home page needs . . . a SENSE OF HOSPITALITY.

Don’t use the word ‘Welcome!’ but DO convey that you’re ready for who is likely to turn up (your Right Person site visitor, of course!). Convey HOW you share their point of view, and do it efficiently. Lightly. Without grasping. Do not barrage your site visitors with a bulleted list of “symptoms,” feelings, or self-identifiers. You don’t have to get very far into their heads — in an obvious, hey!-look-at-what-I’m-doing-here! way — on the Home page. But you DO have to connect. And offer the makings of a promising relationship.

(I’m afraid to think about what the front porch version of this point might look like. A bullet-pointed family credo hanging beside the door bell that all visitors “must” adhere to or be banished? Provocative political signs plastered on every available surface square inch?) You know what to do. Be the person you want to be in your brand, right on your brand’s “front porch.” Don’t be that guy.

Thinking of your home page like a great front porch is the first step to seeing how your site visitors — who aren’t invested in your business like you are — will experience it. It’s the most empathetic way to approach the design and writing of a page where hopefully, your site visitors won’t linger too long, because they’ll be ready to click on through and learn more.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

What helps YOU experience a home page like a great front porch — one you’re eager to step up on to, because you can’t wait to get through the door and see more of what’s inside? What’s enticing or impactful for YOU on a home page?

(Image credit.)

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The Situation:

Do you know the Pressing Problem your business solves?Lourdes [not her real name] is designing a line of high quality, fashion forward toxin-free nail polish to sell at market. She has a 12-year track record in the beauty industry and for the past 5 has been studying organic beauty products and talking with chemists who are committed to researching and making ethically sourced, toxin-free products. She’s beta tested small batches of her products extensively on family, friends, and friends of friends for the past year and has solid testimonials to share.

Lourdes is getting ready to bring her new nail polish line to the web. She wants to make sure that she positions the brand in a way that appeals to her intended Right People buyers: high end, eco-friendly boutiques, as well as consumers who are searching for toxin-free beauty products. She’s a capable writer with lots to say and is willing to blog and participate in social media if she knows there’ll be some yield on her time investment.

Lourdes’ Voice Values are Love, Accuracy, Depth, Enthusiasm, and Clarity.

Lourdes is in Phase 2 of her microbusiness brand development, what we call the Avid Adopter phase. She’s hungry, ambitious, and a bit impatient. But at the same time, she’s not hasty. She’s a Methodical Buyer who approaches decisions carefully.

Pop Quiz Time:

What’s Lourdes’ best next step?

A) Hire a web designer and get this brand built! After all, it’s fun to pin color palettes and that’ll be a nice distraction from the drier work of reading lab reports.

B) Start burning the midnight oil writing site copy for her Right Person buyer, leaning on her hunches and her intuition to guide her, plus the real-life feedback she’s gotten from her nail polish beta testers. What was that her neighbor Martine’s sister Kelly said? Oh, yes, “I liked how the Carousel Coral smelled like cotton candy. Nice touch.” [Note: Lourdes purses her lips and emphatically crosses out Kelly's observation. Cotton candy???]

C) Hire a college student at $12/hour to research online shopping cart options for her. There’s so much to do still when it comes to “branding,” but the practical stuff can’t get lost in the shuffle.

D) Get clear on the Pressing Problem her business solves so that she can articulate her Brand Proposition clearly and powerfully to her web designer, to her copywriter, and most importantly, to her Right Person buyer.

Spoiler Alert!

Choice ‘D’ is the best use of Lourdes’ energy right now. While it’s true that Lourdes already has a product to sell, she’s not ready to do the deep (and FUN!) work of branding her business unless and until she’s clear on her Brand Proposition.

A Brand Proposition is a clear statement of The Value (what your business offers), The Vibe (the style or manner in which you deliver — AKA your Voice Values), The Who (who you serve), and The View (what makes you different — your individuated point of view on the solution you offer).

But before your (and Lourdes’) Brand Proposition comes shimmering into clarity (or mortared in soundly, if that’s more your vibe), you (and Lourdes) must identify the Pressing Problem your business solves.

Your Pressing Problem is the thing that makes you pound your fist on the table.

It’s the issue in your industry or the challenge you see good people facing that gets you all riled up.

Because life/laundry/dog training/living with an autoimmune disorder/throwing a surprise party for your partner shouldn’t have to be so damn hard.

IMPORTANT: The Pressing Problem doesn’t have to be a life-crushing, I-can’t-get-up-off-the-floor-because-of-this issue for your Right Person.

Nope. Not all businesses solve problems that are dire or drastic or grave in nature.

Your Right Person might experience the Pressing Problem your business solves as a minor ache, an irritating lack, or an annoying itch. The Pressing Problem pokes at her just acutely enough to keep her aware of its presence. (Note: The Pressing Problem pokes acutely at her. You don’t have to poke.)

When your Right Person finds you and your solution, she’ll think, “Hot damn! I’d LOVE to get rid of this problem.”

And YOU want to be someone who creates a solution to that Pressing Problem.

What Happens Next

Well, for Lourdes, it’s time to get clear on what words her Right People might think about when they’re looking for products like hers online.

This can be easier said than done.

What might be obvious to us — “Lourdes, they probably are thinking about — and most likely searching for — non-toxic nail polish” — can feel like a mystery to the brand creator herself.

Lourdes is a very smart person. She’s done her research, she’s deeply invested in the product she’s creating, and she wants nothing less than for her online brand presence to reflect The Value of what she’s got clearly and powerfully.

But when she thinks about what her Right Person buyer might be searching for online that would lead them to her and her brand, she thinks like this:

“Well, women want to feel beautiful. They want to feel alive again, light and free in their own skin. They feel a deep disconnection from the mainstream beauty industry, which says to be young and beautiful at all costs. They buy these over the counter beauty products with no understanding of the chemicals in them. Much less, what those chemicals are doing to their bodies from the insides out. They are all endocrine disruptors. Anyhow, I digress. My Right Person wants to feel beautiful, and sexy, and young. Even well into middle age. That’s important to her. I could see educated, savvy women ages 40-65 really liking my line. Although, my Right Person could probably be a teenager, too. So, maybe my Right Person is actually anywhere from ages 15 — or 13? — through 65. Wait a minute! Maybe I need three different Right Person Profiles. I do, don’t I? Three different Right Person Profiles, one for each color story in the collection. But oh, there’ll be crossover in which colors different women like. Oh my God, this is confusing.”

So again, Lourdes, what’s the Pressing Problem your business solves?

Many of us can relate to Lourdes, including me in one phase of my brand development. It’s a normal transition when you’re moving from passion to clarity — and it can occur even after you’ve launched your website and sold your first product.

Sometimes, we feel the urge to launch already, and at the same time, we still sense we’re not seeing the (very rich and well-groomed) forest for the (very distracting) trees.

If this is you, it’s time to get clear on the Pressing Problem your business solves.

The Voice Bureau’s Beta Empathy Marketing DIY helps you do that and more. From identifying the Pressing Problem to understanding your Right Person reader and buyer to articulating what makes your solution more desirable to your Right Person from a range of available options (including the option to do nothing), then you may want to check it out.

All the DIY details are here and your password for the page is: innerwork

If you’re reading this before June 8th, 2013, there’s still time to enroll for the very first Beta session. We’ve just opened up five more seats and we’d love to have you with us.

And oh, hey, if you happen to know Lourdes, feel free to invite her, too.

In the comments, we’d love to hear:

Have you been in a phase of business or brand development where you couldn’t see the forest for the trees? How did you find your way through?

photo by: Zanini H.

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Every business has a Right Person — an ideal client.

Orange armchair in the woodsThis is a marketing concept most values-based microbusiness owners buy in to. After all, we can’t serve everybody, and — stop me if you’ve heard this before (you have) — when we try to talk to everyone, we end up talking to no one.

We believe it’s important to be authentic, to differentiate our brands from the pack, and to develop offers that meet true needs, rather than fulfill trumped-up desires.

Most likely, you’ve been focused on doing all of those things over the past however long you’ve been running your business online.

Maybe business is steady. Maybe business is slow.

You have some readers, you’re serving some clients, but could things be better?

How can you gauge if your efforts to understand your ideal client have been working? How can you know if you’ve been slowly and consistently drawing your Right People to you, or whether you could be missing out on a whole lot more of everything?

Here are 7 signs you’re ready for a closer relationship with your business’s Right Person:

No. 1

You actually enjoy blogging — at least sometimes — but despite your intention to connect with real readers, it often feels as if you’re blogging in an open-air theater, with no butts in the seats. (Crickets Forever, anyone?)

No. 2

You’re ready to receive more emails and contact forms that say, “As soon as I landed on your site I knew you were my Right Person. I’m ready to work with you — today!” instead of ones that say, “Hey, I like your work. Any chance you do X, Y, or Z. [You don't.] I’m not sure if you do exactly what I’m looking for.”

No. 3

You write heartfelt sales page — then tweak them and tweak them and tweak them — and your friends and colleagues tweet them and share them and give them huge high fives . . . but no one (or very few people) buys.

No. 4

The prospect of creating content on a regular basis to answer your Right Person’s questions sounds very appealing to you, because you love to teach and to share. If only you knew where to start, or how much to give, or how to partition your expertise into ‘bite-sized’ content.

No. 5

Even your favorite (so far) clients have raised some issue with your prices — and you know you aren’t exactly high-priced for your market. You sense a disconnect between the value you’re delivering and the value they’re perceiving.

No. 6

You catch yourself spiraling into feelings of frustration, shame, and hopelessness about your business. You’ve tried to design a business that draws from your deepest well of gifts and strengths, and yet, you continually feel drained.

No. 7

Something feels ‘off’ with your brand’s visual vibe. Your content is good, but you know it’s compromised by the way your visual brand looks. You’d love to fix that, without investing thousands of dollars in design guesswork.

Getting to know your Right Person — your business’s ideal client — is far from a fanciful, nice-to-do-but-not-really-that-important exercise.

Here at The Voice Bureau, we see clients’ businesses lighting up every day because of their renewed relationships with their Right People readers and buyers. And we practice what we preach. We’ve designed our site, our sales pages, all of our offers, and all of our content, with our Right Person squarely in mind. (Psst — she’s not actually that square.)

Tami and I would LOVE to support you, in a very hands-on and in-depth way, in your getting-to-know-your-Right-Person work. The price of our popular 2-to-1 Empathy Marketing experience will increase on June 1st, 2013, from $1800 to $2700 USD. You can book a start date in late June by putting half-down before June 1st, and secure the lower rate of $1800 total.

Click here for all the details, and to get started.

In the comments, we’d love to hear:

Which one of the 7 signs above is most meaningful to you, in terms of wanting to connect more deeply with your ideal client?

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Tami SmithThis is a Contributor’s Post from The Voice Bureau Collaborative Partner and Empathy Marketing Co-Creator & Strategist, Tami Smith.

As a business owner, you’ve been told: an ideal client is a very clear description of the type of client you would love to have more of.

What lens are you seeing your ideal client through? She or he may be an exact replica of a client you’re working with today, or she or he could be a combination of qualities you’ve seen in past and current clients.

You took this advice and you created your ideal client. You’ve even named her. (This is not so kooky as it may sound.) You care about her.

But even with your good intentions to cater to your ideal client through your business and your brand, something is missing.

You have a feeling you might have not be having the same experience as all those other people who rave about the power of knowing your ideal client, because you aren’t seeing or feeling much of a difference in your results.

Oh, the agony and the ecstasy of the Myth of the Ideal Client.

It’s true that ideal client profiling is supposed to be the Holy Grail of building a values-based microbusiness for the web today. And, well, we at The Voice Bureau agree.

But here’s what we see: it isn’t unusual for our incoming clients to feel like all the exercises they’ve done to define their Right Person were nothing more than going through the motions. If you’ve felt this way, rest assured, you aren’t the only business owner who’s had a temporary high of defining an ideal client, only to later feel like Meh. What was that all for, anyway?

An ideal client profile is supposed to be the most important aspect of your marketing. If ideal clients are so important, why doesn’t yours bring significant results?

There’s a good chance the way you created your ideal client is the real problem.

There are 6 common mistakes people make when creating an ideal client. Read on to see if you recognize your past efforts in one of these scenarios.

The 6 biggest mistakes people make when creating an ideal client:

Mistake No. 1: WISHLISTING

Wishlisting happens when you define your ideal client based on your wish list, or all the characteristics and qualities you would just love for her to have. This is the ideal client you “would love to have lunch with” and “hang out with” because she is just so darn nice.

  • What Wishlisting sounds like: This could sound like anything based on what would appeal most to you, the business owner. If you’re childfree by choice, she’s childfree by choice. If you like cupcakes, he likes cupcakes.  [Abby's note: We jest. A little.] Chances are, your Right Person Profile sounds a lot like your dream best friend (you know, the one who “really needs your services”), or like someone you wish existed.
  • Where Wishlisting comes from: More than likely, we do this when we’ve absorbed the popularly taught notion that your ideal client is someone you’d like to have as a friend. This may indeed be true (as some of our Empathy Marketing clients find out), but it’s not the most effective place to start getting a picture of your ideal client.
  • Why Wishlisting doesn’t ultimately work: When we use ourselves as the focal point — if I’d be her friend, she’d be a good client for me -- we risk letting our own ego, our own personal needs, or our own projections of ourselves creep into our Right Person Profile, thus missing the true needs of the person Most Likely To Buy from us.

Mistake No. 2: HODGEPODGING

Hodgepodging is when your ideal client is a hodgepodge of various people, usually all your favorite attributes out of the clients you’ve worked with so far.

  • What Hodgepodging sounds like: “Hank is a 28-year old web developer and unisex jewelry designer who comes from privilege and money (and so has plenty in a trust fund to spend on my services), yet chooses to live a rather minimalist, ascetic life. He’s outgoing, kind, but can also be kind of a jerk in relationships and he doesn’t know why. He refers to himself as a ‘bacon-eating Vegan.’ He wants to travel the world on a dime, reduce his carbon footprint, create big social change (through his jewelry line), and have a great relationship at some point — after he figures out if he should chuck both of his current career pursuits and start a band. After all, you only live once, and why not let it be epic?”
  • Where Hodgepodging comes from: There’s a notion that “if I could just take his grit, her experience, and his sense of humor, I’d have the perfect client!” But alas, people are not hybrids of many different people. They are themselves. Your Right Person deserves to have a complete, nuanced identity unto herself, complete with high sides, low sides, strengths, weaknesses, gifts, and challenges. (And, huge bonus: your Right Person, as unique as he or she is, represents many people.)
  • Why Hodgepodging doesn’t ultimately work: Just like you and me, your ideal client is imperfect, full of internal tensions and paradoxes, and is consistently inconsistent. When we fail to regard and respect our ideal clients as the whole human beings they are, we miss out on lots of opportunities to connect with and serve them.

Mistake No. 3: CAVALIERING

You’re Cavaliering when you define your ideal client around all her problems or claim you can help her with “anything” because you have “the power of helping people get clear.” Like boiling the ocean, this is a problem of trying to solve too many problems at once, often using a single tool.

  • What Cavaliering sounds like: “Miranda is tortured. She hates her messy closets — she thinks of them as ‘closets of shame.’ On the outside, she’s warm, competent, and pulled together. Her friends and neighbors would never suspect that underneath her cool exterior, lies a tidal wave of unopened mail, years’ worth of receipts, and clothing with the tags still on — all enclosed behind the perfectly painted-and-trimmed doors of her suburban upper middle class home. She’s not just messy, she’s desperate, lonely inside, and feels ugly and worthless because of what she’s keeping stuffed inside her closets. She wants to get a grip, she NEEDS to get a grip, and when she finds me, she knows that someone can finally help her get clear. She sees that I’ve done it for myself, and she automatically believes that I can help her do it, too. She knows I can help her with more than closet organizing — I can help her get clear on who she wants to be. Because I am that woman she wants to be more like.”
  • Where Cavaliering comes from: The origin of Cavaliering is the misguided belief that people reach out for help when they are all but flattened by their pain, and thus respond to sales pages full of pain points and Calls To Action that promise to save them. Also, in some cases, Cavaliering comes from — dare I say it? — a God(dess) complex: too much ego projection into the business. This often sounds like: “I’ve been put on this planet to help women like you do X, Y, and Z! It’s my gift to the world and to you, so you, too, can live a fuller, richer, sweeter life — just like me.” Oftentimes, it’s presented in a more subtle way than that, but the subtext is still clear: my life rocks, and I can help you make your life rock, too.
  • Why Cavaliering doesn’t ultimately work: Despite what some ‘turn up the heat’ marketers will tell you, people don’t seek solutions from the depths of their despair. Usually, people buy products and services from integrity-based businesses when they are in a more resourceful, emotionally integrated place. In fact, some values-based coaches and consultants have a policy where they refuse to start work with a client who’s in crisis mode. A healthy, resourceful buyer is still aware of his pain points (as awareness of pain points is a critical piece of the buying process), but he’s standing on his own two feet again, looking to the future, and ready to do something about his problem. He doesn’t need (or want) you to save him.

Mistake No. 4: STEPFORD WIFING

This is similar to Wishlisting, but instead of including ‘everything but the kitchen sink,’ Stepford Wifing draws the description of the ideal client into a very narrow view of the person, one who perfectly fits your needs, whims, and predilections as a business owner. (You’ve seen the movie or read the American cult classic novel, The Stepford Wives? It’s a satirical thriller.) Meanwhile, your ideal client’s imperfections are glossed over, as you narrow in on her extreme and oversimplified needs/desires.

  • What Stepford Wifing sounds like: “Marika is a smart, savvy, fit 40-year old wife and mama who, although her family lives on a tight budget, always manages to pay for her premium fitness coaching with me. Despite staying home with 4 kids under the age of 10 while her devoted husband works full-time plus, she never skimps on personal time because she understands the importance of putting herself first. She manages to maintain her size 6 figure through healthy eating and regular intentional movement, though it isn’t always easy. All of this plus she uses social media like candy so she’s a HUGE brand evangelist for me!”
  • Where Stepford Wifing comes from: Fear — specifically, the business owner’s fear that a “real” person with “real” problems and “real” challenges won’t hire her. So she draws her Right Person Profile to a (rather self-serving) tee.
  • Why Stepford Wifing doesn’t ultimately work: When you gloss over a potential client’s challenges, struggles, and imperfections, you risk having her miss herself on your sales pages. If she can’t see herself reflected in your brand, she won’t buy, because she won’t believe you ‘get’ her.

Mistake No. 5: BANDWAGONING

Bandwagoning happens when you jump on the bandwagon of whatever the popular teaching is and use a list of over simplified, means-nothing-really-but-sounds-good qualifiers as your ideal client characteristics. Bandwagoning oversimplifies the holistic and the nuanced aspects of what it means to stand in your Right Person’s shoes.

  • What Bandwagoning sounds like: “My ideal client is ready for what I have to offer, and happily pays what I’m asking without question because he sees the value in it.” Is this true? But of course. It’d better be. Is this all there is to understanding your Right Person? Absolutely not. Do these qualifiers help you see, clearly and with empathy, what your ideal client’s core needs and motivators are, his developmental desires, and his emotional triggers (for better and for worse)? Not even almost.
  • Where Bandwagoning comes from: Again, fear. And then dismissiveness of the necessity for a deep understanding of who your business can serve best. Knowing your Right Person and practicing empathy as you design your brand conversation for her is a complex practice. It requires us, as business owners, to go deep and to set our own assumptions aside. When this gets too difficult, it’s all too easy just to say, “Ba-da-boom, ba-da-bing: here’s all I need to know. The rest is just extraneous details.”
  • Why Bandwagoning doesn’t ultimately work: When we design our brand and our offers based on assumptions about who our ideal clients are (or, worse, when we say, it doesn’t matter who they are as long as they need what I’m selling and will pay my price), we end up with a Throwing Spaghetti At The Wall To See What Sticks brand. We become a hammer, to whom everything and everyone looks like a nail. Boom! There’s a problem. I can design a solution. Boom! She’s got a symptom. I can address it!

Mistake No. 6: SHADOWING

In shadowing, a business owner unconsciously projects his or her own problem onto an ideal client. Projection is a psychological defense mechanism where you “project” undesirable or unacceptable thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings onto someone else, in order to distance yourself from the discomfort of experiencing them for oneself.

  • What Shadowing sounds like: Shadowing can take many forms. But if reading your Right Person narrative — Ohmygod, that’s meeeeeeee! — feels like reading a page from your diary, you’re probably Shadowing.
  • Where Shadowing comes from: The current microbusiness coaching landscape sometimes pushes us toward the idea that a powerful Value Proposition comes from taking people through the transformation you yourself underwent to get the results you got. While bringing your own personal experience into your brand can be a wonderful and valuable thing (in fact, how to invite your story in strategically is part of the work we do with Empathy Marketing clients), problems start when a business owner can’t see past her own projections of what her ideal client might want and need.
  • Why Shadowing doesn’t ultimately work: Shadowing can often turn up online in the form of what a writer friend of Abby’s [Abby's note: Hi, Angela!] calls a “vanity venture.” In essence, the business exists to reflect back to the business owner that she has done a good enough job of healing herself, or fixing herself, or creating for herself the result she wants. While this is by no means a ‘wrong’ reason to have an online presence, Shadowing is not at the heart of a values-based business that offers a viable solution in the marketplace.

Why these mistakes will keep you from realizing the benefits of an ideal client

Your ideal client isn’t one person, a hodgepodge, or a wish list of characteristics. An ideal client isn’t a projection or a tidy little list of how much she values you. An ideal client is an ideal list of qualifications that make someone more inclined to buy your solution, rather than less inclined.

Creating a persona — what we at The Voice Bureau call a Right Person — is a way to avoid the common mistakes in creating ideal client scenarios.

A Right Person persona should:

  • Represent a buyer who shares the problem, paradox, and desires your solution is designed to address

  • Highlight search intent (queries and questions being asked in search)

  • Explain core motivators, desires, emotional needs, and buying preferences

  • Provide a logical way to create content that is optimized for the core practical  and emotional need of your Right Person

Your Right Person Persona will become your ideal client profile. When you understand who she or he is, you understand what he or she wants from you, and why.

When you get to this next level of clarity and create an ideal client based on methods that are proven to work, you will understand the relationship between you and your ideal client. You will see how your strengths, experiences, and intrinsic Voice Values serve your ideal client.

Your ideal client profile, created in an empathic way, is the key to articulating your Brand Proposition and your USP, and it’s the key to crafting even more effective Calls To Action.

Knowing what to say and how to say it unlocks those places where you feel stuck.

Feeling stuck and frustrated about not being able to articulate a strong Brand Proposition isn’t an experience unique to you or your brand (thank goodness, right?). It is incredibly rare to find microbusiness owners confident and clear about how they are a better choice for their ideal clients.

We think it’s important for you to know that these things aren’t easy to do and to know that persona development can bring clarity to your entire process of bringing a new brand online, or realigning an existing brand.

Your Right People are important. Understanding yours at an intimate level will bring significant results when created the right way.

In the comments, Abby & I would love to hear:

What hasn’t worked for you so far in getting clear on your ideal client? What popularly taught advice has fallen flat for you? Have you had experience with one of the 6 Mistakes described above? We look forward to discussing this with you in the comments.

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How do you begin to develop the emotional competency of being a personal brand?Your business is personal.

If you’re reading this article, more than likely you agree with this statement.

As solopreneurs, microbusiness owners, the creatively self-employed — call us what you will — the onus is on us to decide where we draw the line between what’s on the table for ‘business’ and what we keep behind the curtain, or ‘personal.’

And when we consider this idea of being a ‘personal brand,’ or a business brand with a personal feel (like most of our clients at The Voice Bureau), the negotiation between ‘business’ and ‘personal’ gets all the more complicated.

Most of The Voice Bureau’s Right People clients don’t fight the idea of ‘being’ a brand. Around here, we hold that any individual or entity who shows up online, with a purpose, in any sort of a consistent way, is presenting (albeit unconsciously sometimes) as a brand. How you choose to live out your ‘brand’ is your business. (Pun intended.) Our clients tend to accept the idea that being a ‘brand’ comes with the territory of presenting value to the marketplace. Even if you don’t see yourself as a brand, other people will.

Over the past year, Tami and I have had many deep conversations about how we — and by that we mean all of us: she and I, and you (our reader), and our clients — show up online.

We notice what we choose to lead with in our brand conversations and we ask ourselves why.

A big part of our Empathy Marketing work is reverse engineering the rational and emotional logic that’s led a client to show up (or not to show up) online the way she does — both in search results, and more importantly, in her Right People’s realm of interest.

We’ve noticed that perhaps the most important part of leading a memorable, meaningful, and successful online business brand starts way before a Value Proposition ever gets clarified, before copy ever gets written, or before a website gets designed. It’s the inner work a values-based brand creator has to do to shape and lead a brand with strength, love, and intentionality, and be in integrity with herself every step of the way.

One Friday morning during our weekly collaboration call, Tami described this inner work to me as “developing the emotional competency to be a personal brand.” I just about fell off my chair.

I knew this was a conversation I wanted us to be part of — in public, with you.

We feel strongly about the need for this conversation today. We’re hosting three complimentary calls for our readership (and anyone else you might like to invite).

The series starts Wednesday, May 1st, PST. Details are here. We hope you’ll register and join us live or enjoy the recordings.

In the comments, we’d love to know:

What have you identified as being part of the Emotional Competency of being a personal brand? What goes into it, from your view? 

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