Are you an accidental intra/entrepreneur?

I recently wrote a white paper and gave a webinar on behalf of Factiva on The Accidental Intrapreneur: Becoming the Knowledge Center CEO. They both look at the different approaches necessary for those of us who are running our own enterprises, whether within or outside a larger organization. (You can get a copy of the white paper here and you can download the slide deck for my webinar here.)

In both, I focus on the need for constant, effective communication, and that applies to any reluctant entrepreneur. So here is the super-distilled version of effectively communicating your value.

Are you sure you really know what your clients value?

I hear it all the time — Oh, of course I know what my clients value. I’ve been doing work for them for years! The fact that clients use your services doesn’t mean you are providing them with the highest-value (and, if you’re a solopreneur, highest-priced) service. Clients only ask you to do what they think you can do; they have no idea what else you could be providing them unless you tell them.

And the only way you can find out what they would value most is to conduct some Reality-Check Interviews. Yes, they take some time, but what you learn from them will enable you to create a competition-proof product or service that is fine-tuned to providing the highest value possible.

Reality-check interview questions that I have found effective in discovering that unique something that can set me apart include:

  • How do you prepare for a strategic decision?
  • What’s keeping you from achieving your most important goals?
  • What do you wish you knew about your stakeholders or competitors?
  • What information/research/analysis services would support you strategically?

And, to find out how to most effectively describe your services to prospective clients, ask:

  • Why do you use my services now?
  • How would you describe my services to a colleague?

Pay attention to how they describe your value; I promise you you’ll hear something you didn’t expect.

Talk about WHY, not WHAT

When someone asks you what you do, it’s easy to talk about activity — what you do. But activity isn’t inherently valuable; what you do is important because it enables something else to happen next. Whenever entrepreneurs are asked what we do, we talk about our clients’ end results, not what specific things we did to enable those results.

Compare the focus and impact of these examples of answers to the question “What do you do?”:

I have access to unique online resources.
OR
I provide insights from experts.

I provide research services.
OR
I enable better decisions.

My expertise is in organizing information.
OR
I make critical research findable.

Think about the reason behind what you do for your clients — what they will be able to do because of your services — and talk about that instead of the specific activity that gets those tremendous results.

“But they don’t listen!!!”

There are times when it seems like you and your prospective clients are speaking different languages. You think you are telling them about the tremendous services you provide, and they aren’t responding by beating a path to your door. Whenever this happens to me, I know that the problem probably lies in one of these areas:

Your audience—WHO you are talking to. Are you sure you are getting the attention of people who need and value (and, if you’re a solopreneur, will pay for) your services?

Message—WHAT you say. Are you sure you are using compelling language that resonates with your market? Are you incorporating the language you picked up from your reality-check interviews?

Method—HOW & WHERE you say it. Are you getting your message out on a medium that your prospective clients are watching? Do your clients read newsletters? monitor Facebook? watch webinars? attend conferences? Have you asked them lately?

Timing—WHEN & HOW OFTEN you talk with your market. Are you in front of your prospective clients when they are paying attention to your message? Are they hearing from or about you frequently enough that your name is familiar to them?

Reflect on each aspect of your communication strategies — who, what, how, where, when and how often — and start modifying them until you get the results you want.

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