How to Decline a Networking Invitation

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Usually, when people complain to me about having to network it’s because they feel it’s a waste of time. When we dig deeper into how they are networking, I almost always find that they are networking without a clearly defined purpose, goal, or desired outcome. Without these, there is no way to know with whom and where you should be networking. This leads to an incredible waste of time and energy.

Take 30 seconds and honestly answer these two questions.

1. How many times have you attended a networking event where you just show up and then look for people you know? I know I have, especially when I’m not in the mood to meet new people. Finding people I know allows me to stay in my comfort zone.

2. How many times have you attended a networking event where you had no idea what type of people would be there or how the event may benefit you but you decided to go so that you could mark the act of networking off of your “to-do” list for the month? Again, guilty as charged. I’ve even gone as far as just staying long enough to say I was there and then going back home.

One of the best ways you can be strategic in your networking efforts is to understand who you need to network with. To know, you must understand what you want to accomplish with your networking efforts.  

Here are some common goals that women have for networking.

        Connecting with a specific person you have been trying to meet but may not have any connections to through other people.

        Helping a prospective or current client by introducing them to other people or gathering information that you can share with them.

        Looking for a group of like-minded people who feed your soul and give you energy and encouragement.

        Looking for new clients. (When I say looking for new clients this is not a green light to start giving sales pitches. There is nothing wrong with being in the same place as your target audience so that you can begin to cultivate relationships. Just resist the urge to makes sales pitches.)

        Building credibility. (Networking events are a great way to demonstrate your expertise by volunteering as a guest speaker.)

        Connecting with a prospective mentor.

        Powering up a social media campaign. A lot of times social media campaigns fall flat without the willingness of others to cross promote. Engaging with people who have access to your target audience and who are willing to share your posts will multiply your efforts.

So, use your goals or what you want to accomplish to drive your action steps. This is one of the things that will set you apart from other networkers. Not being strategic is what leads to wasting time and contributes to why you leave feeling like you didn’t get anything out of an event but food.

The more thought you put into your networking goals, the clearer it will become where you need to spend your time and who you need to spend it with.

So, what happens when you receive a meeting invitation from someone that doesn’t align with your networking strategy? Do you go any way to avoid burning any bridges? Or, do you decline the invitation to stay focused on what you need to accomplish.

Just say “no”!

It is perfectly acceptable to decline an invitation that isn’t in alignment. Saying “no” is key to not wasting time. It keeps you from wasting yours and it keeps you from wasting theirs. But how do you let them down without causing hard feelings? I have found these three steps to be the most professional way to decline an invitation.

1.       Ask for details

It’s not unusual for me to receive an invitation to coffee from a relative stranger through social media sites such as LinkedIn or Facebook. Not always, but more often than not, it’s because they want to sell me something. (If you have ever attended one of my networking workshops you know that using this type of strategy is an incorrect way of building mutually beneficial relationships with people. But, I digress).

If I’m not familiar with the person or am familiar but unsure of their intentions, I will simply ask them. It can be as easy as saying, “My schedule is really tight over the next several weeks, is there something specific you wanted to discuss over coffee?” If their answer is not in alignment with your goals, then politely decline the invitation by using step 2.

2.       Be honest

If what they are seeking doesn’t align with you then communicate that information in a polite and honest way. For instance, if they are a financial planner looking for new business but you already have a planner that you work with, then tell them.

“It is so nice of you to offer to share information about your services with me, but I already work with a financial planner that I am very happy with. I’m afraid that meeting would not be considerate of either of our time.”

Being honest allows them to update their records so as not to waste their time or your time any further. Then, following up with step three will allow you to end the conversation in a way that benefits them and leaves them with a good feeling about their interaction with you.

3.       Offer resources

Even though your goals may not be in alignment with the person extending the invitation, try not to end the exchange with just a no. Every interaction is an opportunity to build a relationship even if there is no immediate benefit. This is what I mean. Using the financial planner example above, I always offer to be helpful to them even if I’m not a potential customer. I will ask them to forward their contact information and an overview of their services to me so that I can forward it to others when I’m asked for recommendations.

This ends the conversation on a positive note and maybe they will return the favor by referring me to someone in the future. Your offer will depend upon what they are seeking by inviting you to meet. So make sure you are offering something that helps them meet their goals.

There is no rule that says you have to accept every invitation you receive to meet people. Saying “no” in a professional way will keep you from wasting time, keep you focused on your goals, and earn you the respect of those who seek your attention.

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Top Confidence Hack

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Have you ever met someone who made a lot more money than you do but ranges somewhere between a complete idiot and somewhat less intelligent than you? More than likely, it has a lot to do with their confidence.

There was a study back in the early 2000s that led to the term “The Dunning-Kruger effect”. This effect is the tendency for less competent people to substantially overestimate their abilities. What they found is that the less competent people are, the more they overestimate their abilities—which doesn’t make much sense, but is true.

The fact is, confidence can get you far in life. When people are confident, when they think they are good at something, regardless of how good they actually are, they display a lot of confident nonverbal and verbal behavior – like a lower vocal tone and a tendency to speak early and often in a calm, relaxed manner. Because they do a lot of things that make them look very confident in the eyes of others, whether they are good or not becomes irrelevant.

If confidence is not necessarily a by-product of competence, then why is confidence important? Well, because in any encounter the most confident person wins.

Perhaps the clearest, and most useful, definition of confidence is the one supplied by Richard Petty, a psychology professor at Ohio State University, who has spent decades focused on the subject. He says that “Confidence is the stuff that turns thoughts into action.” Of course, other factors also contribute to action. If the action involves something scary, then we might also need courage. Or if it’s difficult, a strong will to persist might also be needed. But confidence is essential because it applies in more situations than other traits do. It is the factor that turns thoughts into judgments about what we are capable of and that then transforms those judgments into action.

It’s very simple when you think about it. Confidence is a belief in one’s ability to succeed, a belief that stimulates action. In turn, taking action bolsters one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed. So confidence accumulates—through hard work, through success, and even through failure.

On the flip side, the natural result of low confidence is inaction – which holds people back.

So, what if you aren’t inherently confident and what if you haven’t had a chance to build confidence through hard work, success, and failure? Well, sometimes, you have to fake it until you make it. Or, “fake it until you become it” as Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and TEDx speaker, likes to say.

According to Cuddy’s studies, confidence is not about how you feel, it’s about how you act. She believes that body language not only affects how others see us but it also changes how we see ourselves. So essentially, our thoughts and feelings are impacted by our own body language.

When looking at primate research she found that alphas, when tested, have higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol (created by stress) in their brain then the rest of the group. Which leads to the question, are alphas born that way or is it something they acquire when they become an alpha? What has been found is that when a non-alpha rises to the rank of alpha, their testosterone levels increase and cortisol levels decrease simply because their role changed and they begin to display alpha behavior. So, displaying the behavior causes the chemical changes that make it real.

I stated earlier that people who act more confident are seen as more confident and successful, even if they don’t know what they are doing. So, fake it until you become it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you fake confidence, you will feel more confident, which means people will see you as being confident, which makes you confident! 

There are a lot of ways you can appear to be more confident. Making good eye contact and smiling, having a solid handshake, dressing the part, and taking up space are all ways to come across confidently. But one of my favorite ways is to practice Power Poses.

So, back to Amy Cuddy. Using the information about testosterone and cortisol levels in alphas, Cuddy hypothesized that using something called a Power Pose, even when you don’t feel confident, can change your testosterone and cortisol levels and therefore change your confidence level.

Power Poses are poses that people typically display when they are feeling particularly powerful, confident, or successful. For example, The Wonder Woman – which is standing with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands on your hips. Or, the Victory Pose – where you stand with your arms over your head in a “V” shape.

Cuddy’s experiments showed that the testosterone levels of participants increased and their cortisol levels decreased after holding a Power Pose.

You can test this yourself. Sit at your desk, slumped over and mumble, “I love my life.” Then do a Power Pose, smile, and let out a loud and powerful, “My life sucks.” Because there is a disconnect between your body language and what you are saying, your mind believes your body language, not the words.

How do we apply this to the real world? If you are going into a sales meeting or making a pitch to potential funders or partners, do you come into the room with your arms raised and then sit down at the table and put your feet up on it? No, of course not. But Cuddy’s research found that doing Power Poses ahead of time has the same affect.

Two minutes before going into a tough situation, whether there is a lot at stake or you are just nervous, pretend you are powerful by doing Power Poses. Go into a bathroom or shut the door to your office and be as big as you can be. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, square up your shoulders, smile, and strike a pose. And guess what? It works. Every time!

Have you ever tried Power Poses or have a good confidence story? Please share below. We’d love to learn from your experiences.

Create a Memorable Way of Answering, “So What Do You Do?”

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If you follow my posts, then you know that I’m not okay with sales pitches when it comes to networking. I believe that networking is important for building mutually beneficial relationships, not for immediately building your prospect list. However, if you do a lot of networking, both formally or informally, then eventually you will experience a situation where someone asks you what you do for a living. This is where having a well-constructed personal statement (elevator pitch) will benefit you.

A personal statement is a better and more memorable way of explaining what you do when asked.

The great thing is that it also helps you control the stereotypes people may have when you tell them what you do.  For instance, if you say, “I’m in sales.” They may automatically think you are pushy and they are about to get a sale pitch. Or if you say, “I’m a lawyer.” They may think you are argumentative and potentially unethical. Or if you say, “I’m an accountant.” They may think you are boring and geeky. Which we all know is not true. So, creating a personal statement allows you to set the tone on their initial impressions of your profession.

This can also be an energizing conversation starter. If the person you are speaking with assumes they already know everything about you when you say what you do, then the conversation stops there. However, if you are able to explain what you do in a more interesting way, it almost always leads to follow up questions and a genuine conversation.

Developing a personal statement can be intimidating. It’s a lot of pressure to come up with the perfect words to use to describe what you do in an interesting and compelling way. Hopefully, this multi-step process will break it down into a more manageable task and you’ll have fun doing it in the process.

Quick warning: steps 1 – 4 are questions that can be a little difficult to answer. Take your time and really think about these so that you can articulate what you do in a clear, concise, but interesting way.

Step 1: Define Your Value

A lot of people make the mistake of making their pitch all about them. The key to having a great personal statement is to make it about your clients. The focus needs to be on them, not you.

So start by writing two benefits your clients or customers receive by doing business with you. You can start with just jotting down words or phrases until you identify the ones that you feel resonate most with your target audience.

Again, this should focus on the impact you make on your clients, not just a list of services you provide. You want to come up with at least two really cool benefits of working with you.

Step 2: How Do You Provide Value

Now that you’ve identified a couple of ways you impact your customers/clients, write 1 – 2 sentences on how you deliver that impact.

Step 3: Define Your Ideal Client or Customer

This step takes some courage. There is a difference between knowing you can help everyone and knowing who you want to help. Who is your ideal client or the type of client you seek to work with? Saying “everyone” in this instance will not be as effective as if you narrow the focus. The goal is to be specific enough that someone who matches your ideal client profile will know that you are speaking to them.

It is possible to have multiple target audiences. For instance, you may be an accountant who works with both small businesses and individuals. If you truly have multiple categories, then eventually you need to develop statements for each audience.

Step 4: Define Your Unique Selling Proposition

It’s time to create 1 – 2 sentences about what is unique about you and your business. What do you do different than your competitors? If there is no differentiator, then you are selling your industry, not your company and therefore there is no particular reason to do business with you.

Your differentiator may be specific to what you do or provide or it may have to do with a specific set of experiences or background, passion, and area of focus.

Step 5: Call to Action

Be careful here. When most people hear “call to action” they think sales pitch. I like to think of it as the “enough about me” section of your personal statement. To effectively wrap up your personal statement, it’s important to have an eye for continuing a conversation rather than putting yourself in a situation where you end up talking more about yourself.

Bring up something one or both of you brought up when introducing yourselves, ask them why they’re at the networking event, or for their unique perspective on something given their background.

Using this method to wrap up your personal statement is a great way to immediately guide the chat in a direction that involves you and the other person sharing ideas, exchanging best practices, and adding value to each other.

Step 6: Pick a Style

Now that all of your components are written, it’s time to select a style that is true to who you are as an individual. There are a lot of styles to choose from but here are a few popular ones:

·         The Attractor – Describing what you do by telling people how you help people instantaneously removes stereotypes about your job title and explains the value you bring to the table.

·         The Anecdote – Storytelling is a great way to capture someone’s attention and makes it easier for them to understand what you do.

·         Teachable Moment – This style provides an opportunity to educate the person you are speaking with about you, your work, or your industry by sharing something that the other person may not know about what you do.

·         Vulnerability – Being vulnerable helps people understand where you are coming from. Every conversation is building a relationship. Letting people behind the curtain, even just a little bit, provides opportunity for connection.

Don’t be afraid to practice with a couple of different styles until you find the one that feels most natural to you. You may even find that you use a different style depending upon the conversation.

Just remember your personal statement does not have to be perfect out of the gate. Your statement will evolve over time and you will constantly refine it based upon what comes natural to you and how people respond to what you are sharing.

If you need a little help developing your personal statement you can visit my website to download a guide to assist you through this exercise: http://www.minerva.partners/personal-statements.html.

Have you tried to develop a personal statement or elevator pitch in the past? What are some of the issues you came across or lessons learned in the process? Please share your story below.

5 Tips for Making the Most of Internal Networking Opportunities

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When you think of networking, most people think of external networking. You know, the kind of networking you do when you are looking to generate business or for a new job. But did you know that internal networking is just as important?

While most people tend to focus on building their relationships with external contacts building a robust internal network is equally important. It can help you get things done when you need additional input, build your personal brand and reputation within your company and provide you with an effective support system when you need advice and guidance.

Whether you work in a small company or large corporation, invest the time to get to know your fellow associates.  From the receptionist to the CEO, everyone possesses key relationships.  You never know who someone went to school with, is related to or worked with in a prior career.

The best way to approach internal networking is to be proactive and sincere in learning about your co-workers. Connect the dots on how your relationships could help them and where their contacts could help you.  Begin building your internal network at all levels with both your peers and superiors. Don’t be afraid to include those above you in your network. I know networking is built on a mutual desire to help others and it’s hard to think how you may be helpful to those ranked higher, but trust me, you will find that you have more to offer than you think.

Here are 5 tips for networking within your workplace.

1.       Find effective networkers

It is a good idea to build relationships with people who you know to be effective internal networkers, as they may be able to provide you with advice and guidance on who you should be connecting with. If you are already aware of such individuals within your team or the company, why not start by inviting them for an informal meeting and asking for some initial hints and tips on internal networking? They might even be able to introduce you to the people you want to meet.

2.       Get involved

Contributing to cross-functional or company-wide projects and initiatives is not only good for your development, it can be a great way of growing your network. Projects like these are likely to expose you to a range of people with whom you would not otherwise have a chance to work, so it’s a good idea to get involved when the opportunity arises. There may be ongoing projects or initiatives that tie in to your interests, but if you’re unsure where to start, your manager or supervisor should be able to point you in the right direction. In addition, taking part in company-wide roadshows or presentations, training events and seminars or special interest groups can also expose you to people with whom you would not normally work.

3.       Join in

Taking part in work-based social events and extra-curricular activities (e.g. charity projects and challenges) can be a good way of raising your profile and building your network in a less formal context. When such events arise, it is a good idea to find out who else is taking part and identify which individuals you should seek out on that day. This will help you to ensure your participation has a positive impact on your internal networking efforts.

4.       Focus on diversity, not size

Your focus should be on building a diverse contact base, as opposed to a large one. For your internal network to have maximum impact, it should include a variety of people with different skills, qualities and experiences. Having a diverse network will help ensure you have access to a range of support, guidance, and input when you need it. 

5.       Use your network appropriately

Once you establish your internal network, make sure you are providing as much support to them as they are to you – be careful not to rely on it too heavily or to ask people for an unreasonable amount of their time. You should always aim to add value to them. If someone helps you, you should always try to reciprocate. Offering unsolicited help is not only good practice – it can also be a highly effective way of establishing your value as a member of other people’s networks. Depending on your contacts and their needs, this could involve introducing relevant individuals to one another, inviting others to join a special interest group or get involved with a project, or simply sharing your advice and expertise.

As with external networking, it is important to adopt a targeted approach to your internal networking efforts. Think about your objectives for building an internal network: perhaps you are seeking to grow your career within the company or build relationships with other managers or leaders who could advise, or even mentor you. Maybe there is a specific skill you wish to develop or you want to grow your career outside of your current department. With your objectives in mind, consider who in your company you should start building relationships with and how you could go about doing this.

What are some tips for internal networking that you have found helpful in your career? Please share them below.

 

Sometimes You Just Have to Survive

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I have the privilege to participate in a couple of women entrepreneur groups. I love hanging out with these super smart and driven women. Every Monday you can pretty much count on someone sending out a note encouraging all of us to share our goals for the week. I love this! It ensures that I start Monday morning thinking big picture and how my tasks for the week support the direction I’m moving.

As I sit at my desk this Monday morning, I came to the realization that this week does not leave me enough room for big picture thinking and my main goal is just to survive. In the past this would have panicked me. I would be panicked because if I’m not thinking big picture I can’t accomplish big things. Panicked because if I’m in survival mode, I can’t be in growth mode.

But over the years, I’ve learned that it’s okay to  have a period of time where the #1 goal is survival.

Survival isn’t necessarily strategic but it is necessary from time to time. It can be very beneficial as long as you don’t get stuck there. Here are three ways to ensure you don’t get stuck.

1.       Evaluate

When you feel like you are in survival mode stop (briefly) and do a quick evaluation of why. For me this week, I have a lot of balls in the air and will have to rely on others to make sure none of them drop. Any time I have to coordinate a lot of moving pieces I usually feel myself slip into survival mode. Even though I have a lot to coordinate this week I’m not feeling overwhelmed because when I look at what is scheduled, every single thing moves me closer to my big picture goals. In other words, my activities are supporting my big picture even though I don’t have time to think big picture this week.

What do you see when you do your quick evaluation? Do you see a week full of activities that support your goals or do you see a week full of busy work and commitments that don’t further your mission?

If the week is full of activities that aren’t serving you, then ask yourself if any of them can be eliminated. Editing your calendar is the fastest way to get out of survival mode. If the week is full of activities that are serving you and are moving you closer to achieving your goals, then just put your head down and move through them.

2.       Breathe

If after your evaluation you discover that you just have to get through it, then get through it. If all of the activities are supporting your goals, then there shouldn’t be the feeling of overwhelm. And when all of our activities are supporting your goals, then there shouldn’t be any whining and complaining but instead a huge sense of gratitude that these opportunities have been sent your way.

Once you survive this stretch take time to celebrate! You did it! You survived! Not only did you survive, but you also moved closer to achieving your goals.

Finally take a well-deserved rest. Once I get through this week, I have a 3-day holiday weekend to sit back and enjoy. And I won’t lie, I’m really looking forward to it!

3.       Reset

The final step to ensuring you don’t get stuck in survival mode is to reset. Schedule some time the following Monday or sometime during the following week to think and plan strategically. Then begin implementing that plan. If you do it right, you’ll need to go back into survival mode before too long.

I used to feel that survival mode was a bad thing. I felt like I was doing something wrong. But when I realized that if my activities are aligned with my goals survival mode can be a good thing. It means that I’m getting it done! So, I quit beating myself up over it. In all honesty, if you are doing it correctly, you should need your survival mode every once in a while because it means that you’ve done your planning and prep work to the point where you need a week or so to push through the implementation. And if you survive that, you are one step closer to realizing your dreams.

Are You a Victim of a Victim Mentality?

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I have found that there seem to be two camps of people on social media. Those who share how wonderful and perfect their lives are (almost to the point where it can’t be believed) and those who share how unfair and catastrophic their lives are (almost to the point where it can’t be believed). Social media has given people free passes to vent, accuse, blame, and complain out in the open for all the world to see. It’s always existed. We all have that friend that believes the world is out to get them no matter what they do or even have felt that way ourselves. I know I’ve had periods in my life where I feel that no matter what I do, the odds and people are against me. 

My husband and I have dear friends that always seem to be stuck in this cycle. We love them more than anything but are never sure how to help them get out of their own way without offending them. I think the reason this has been on my mind lately is because of a recent conversation I had with a friend’s child. We were talking about summer break and the upcoming school year.  All she could focus on were the injustices against her, how people are out to get her, and gossip about this person, that person, this place, and that place. This was coming from a teenager and it made my heart hurt that she may go through her entire life being a “victim.” You see, her parents have a victim mentality. I’m not judging. It’s just a fact. And this approach to life has completely rubbed off on their children. It’s so sad to see parents unintentionally disempower their children by teaching them this mentality.

How do you know if you have a victim mentality? Ask yourself a couple of questions. Do you feel that life happens to you and your circumstances are beyond your control? Do you feel that everyone/the Universe is against you? Do you feel stuck in self-pity, sadness, and anger? Do you blame others for what happens to you or has happened in the past to you? Then likely you have some degree of a victim mentality.

So how do you break this cycle? Because it is a cycle. It’s a horrible cycle that gives your power to others by relinquishing control. It keeps you from living a life worth living and forces you into a life of suffering. It results in a life of no action, self-pity, and sadness. Here are 4 suggestions to help break the cycle.

1.       Know the benefits

It’s hard to admit, and even a little hard to understand, but people will stay in a victim mentality because there are benefits to doing so. You might say, “What you talking about, Willis?” But it’s true. There is typically something that a person gains by being a victim. It may be that it gives them the attention, validation, or significance that they seek. I mean, how much more significant can you be than to have the entire world out to get you? Maybe it gives you permission not to have to take risks. No action equals no rejection or failure. Or maybe it gives you permission not to take responsibility. Responsibility equals hard work and most times it’s easier to blame someone else than it is to put the work in. Another benefit is being right. When you are the victim that means that everyone else is wrong. It always feels good to be right.

Awareness of how being a victim benefits you allows you to choose alternative ways to achieve those same feelings. This will result in action which removes the feeling of being stuck and puts you back in control.

2.       Fill the void

Not being a victim can create a void. Think about all the time you spend every day thinking and talking about all the wrongs and injustices against you. Having that empty space can be uncomfortable. The temptation will be to fill it back up with being a victim. But now that you know how you benefit from being a victim, you can fill that space with the alternative ways you’ve discovered that give you the same benefits.

3.       Take responsibility

To take the power away from others you have to take responsibility for what happens. Responsibility in this case is not the same as self-blame. For instance, if you are sitting at a red light and someone rear-ends you, you are not to blame for the accident. But, you are responsible for how you react to the accident and how you move forward from the accident.

Here’s another example. My daughter is a visual learner. She has a teacher who is a verbal instructor. As one might imagine, she struggles in his class. She’s like, “It’s not my fault his teaching style and my learning style don’t match up.” So, she gets frustrated and blames him for poor grades in his class. NOT THE RIGHT ANSWER. So, I challenged her to look for her responsibility in the situation. It is impossible for her teacher to adapt his teaching style to every single student. And, even if it wasn’t impossible, she has as much responsibility for learning as he has for teaching. And, it is not impossible for her to adapt to his style. We set out to determine how to do that.  I have a friend that specializes in using visual tools to facilitate corporate meetings. In other words, she takes boring meeting discussion and turns it into brilliant picture stories that bring the content to life in a way that everyone understands. She was more than happy to share resources with us that would teach my daughter how to convert what she heard in this teacher’s class into engaging doodles and pictures that would make it easier for her to digest the content. The result? She is no longer the victim in this situation.

Learning how to take responsibility builds stability, happiness, and positivity in your life.

4.       Break the pattern by creating a new story

Once you recognize the benefits you receive by being a victim and you decide to take responsibility you can break the pattern. This can be done in several ways. Gratitude is a great way to break the pattern. Focusing on the good in your life and determining what you can learn or the hidden opportunities in a situation will begin to shift your story.

Forgiveness is an important way to break the pattern. Forgiveness breaks the bond between you and your “wrong doer” and sets you free from the cycle.

Having a victim mentality is self-centered because you are always focused on your own pain. Turning your focus outward is the fasted way to break this pattern. Being of service to others lets you shift your focus away from yourself and how you can be of service to others. Asking how you can be of value to others helps to provide the same benefits as being a victim – like attention, validation, and significance – in a healthy and positive way.

Dumping the victim mentality leads to increased happiness and positivity while allowing you to regain power and control in your life. You will be glad you did. And so will those around you.

What are some ways you have found help you get out of a victim mindset? Please share them below.

3 Steps to Define Your Avatar

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I have the opportunity to interact with a lot of female business owners and know that being an entrepreneur can be scary. We are working so hard to build our business and make it sustainable that we find that we end up chasing every opportunity to do so – often to the point that we lose focus and veer off track. Quite honestly it’s one of the biggest mistakes that I see business owners make.

Business gurus have long believed that if you market to everyone you will serve no one. But narrowing your business focus can feel risky especially if you aren’t making the amount of money you wish you were making. “What if I overlook someone? What if my target audience is too narrow to support my business? I can be helpful to everyone so why should I limit myself?” These are all questions that small business owners ask when challenged with narrowing their business focus or creating a clearly defined target audience.

But there are some very real risks to not having a well-defined business focus. Without a clear focus, there is no way to know what activities to engage in to build your business, costing you time and money. Without a clear focus, it’s impossible to know the language needed to attract your ideal client. If you are trying to speak to everyone, then no one will know you are speaking to them.  As a result, we find ourselves chasing the next shiny object and diluting our message, products, and services which confuses potential customers and does nothing but cause us to work harder without the results that we seek.

It takes courage and confidence to focus your business. But there is power in knowing your ideal customer in a refined way. Being in alignment creates precision that results in momentum for your business. That’s why it’s so important to have clarity in this area of your business.

And here’s where your Avatar comes into play. One of the ways that you can focus or refocus your business is to ensure you have a clearly defined Avatar. What’s an Avatar? In its simplest form, your Avatar is your ideal client. Getting clear on your Avatar allows you to filter all your development strategies, including marketing decisions. When you filter your decisions through your Avatar it helps you clarify what activities you will and will not do. It determines your product and service offerings as well as helps you decide on special events, offers, and how to use social media. If you are unclear about your ideal client or still thinking you need to help everyone, here are three steps to get you there.

  1. List words or phrases that describe our ideal client

As I said earlier, it takes courage to clearly define an ideal client. But it’s downright terrifying to put a stake in the ground and say “this is who I specifically want to help” which is much different than identifying everyone you can help. One of the best ways to start is by listing words or phrases that describe your ideal client. Not all the people you can help but the characteristics of the people you would get the most joy out of helping.

Start simply by looking at their demographics. Are they male or female, how old are they, where do they live, what is their household income, are they married, do they have kids, what type of jobs do they have, etc.

Then you can move on to their psychographics. This would include things like their deepest desires, their internal pains, and their external frustrations.

Once you have a pretty good list of descriptive words for your Avatar, move on to Step 2.

  1. Figure out what makes them tick

Now that you have a general idea of who your Avatar is, it’s time to dig deeper to figure out what makes them tick. Here are a couple of questions that will help you do just that:

  • What does your Avatar’s schedule look like? How do they feel about that?
  • What are some things that are most important to your Avatar?
  • Where does your Avatar like to shop? Where would they like to shop? What are some of their favorite brands?
  • Where does your Avatar hang out? What do they do in their spare time?

The answers to these questions may not come easy but spending time to think about them are important. The better you understand your Avatar, the easier it will be to make the right decisions on how to reach them.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to nail this perfectly the first time. Your ideal client may evolve over time as you gain more clarity on what your likes and dislikes are.

TIP: It is not uncommon for a person to start a business because they are seeking to fill a need that they have had in their own life. For instance, a woman may start a coffee shop that has a play area for toddlers because she always wished “something like that existed” when her kids were young. So, if you really think about it, she is her own ideal client. Being able to recognize that fact will make it easier to begin to describe your ideal client because its you!

  1. Write their bio

The final step is to continue to clarify your Avatar by writing a brief bio of your ideal client. This should take 2 – 3 paragraphs. Boil down your notes and begin your bio by describing who your avatar is in a few sentences. In the next paragraph talk about what they love, their frustrations, and pain points. Then finally, describe why they need your product or services. Or, how using your products or services make their lives easier, eliminate their frustrations, or give them more of what they love.

And that’s it! That’s how you get started. Even though your ideal client may evolve over time, many of your marketing and branding decisions will now start to fall into place. You can know what to say YES to and what to say NO to. You will know how to evaluate new opportunities and activities. You will have that focus that you need to make the money you deserve.

If you are struggling in this area and would like some help, I encourage you to check out our Minerva Boss Lady Mastermind that starts in September. In this Mastermind we will use individual exercises and group coaching (via phone) to refine your Avatar so that you can make strategic decisions within your company that keep you from wasting time and money. You’ll get laser focused so that you can build momentum and start seeing the success that you deserve. To learn more visit Minerva Boss Lady Mastermind.