What’s your line?

Salvador DaliIn the 1950’s game show, What’s My Line?, individuals would appear before a panel of celebrities who’s job it was to guess what they did for a living.

Here’s an interesting clip of the show with Salvador Dali as the guest. It’s a perfect example of just how hard it can be to guess what you do. Especially if you don’t make it perfectly clear what industry you are in. When you try to be all things, it’s impossible for your potential clients to understand how your offer fits into their needs.

Check out the clip of Salvador Dali on What’s My Line? here.

The purpose of defining your industry not only allows you to clarify what you do for your clients but also allows them to compare you to others that can meet their needs (your competition.) Focusing on a niche within your industry helps you to define your point of difference compared to your competition.

High-level industries could be retail, automotive, healthcare, marketing, real estate, law, education, personal or professional development. The list could go on. In order to define your industry niche or where you are positioned on the industry landscape, you need to first step back and take 30,000ft view. Ask yourself, “What is my larger general area of service I’m engaged in?” Then, from there, start to brainstorm all the subsets of the high level industry. One thing that might be helpful is to create a hierarchy of definitions or descriptions. This will help you to define your industry niche.

First, it’s important to make the distinction between where you play (Industry), what you do (Benefit), how you do it (Tools and Techniques) and who you do it for (Clients).

There seems to be a lot of coaches struggling with this. So I’m going to use that specific example to show how to define your brand in that areas. The same theory applies to any industry. But first, I want to clarify that coaching (or any role, title or method) is a technique or modality that you use, it’s not an industry. A coach or consultant would use their coaching techniques to help people in the industry of Personal or Professional Development.

To be more specific for this example, let’s focus on Personal Development as the high-level industry. When I talk about personal development, I would consider this the industry that serves clients who are looking to expand their potential or recover from a limitation in some way. From there, we could look at the potential subsets of that industry? People may need personal development at different narrower industry areas, for example: physical, mental, emotional, social or spiritual level. (Are you noticing a pattern here?)

There are many ways to divide your industry landscape. The natural elements is only one way to look at it. Though I find that when it comes to human nature, you can use the natural elements, that I touched on in Module 1, in many different ways. The other relevant aspect of nature in this example is the rhythms of expansion and contraction. I find that rhythm relates significantly to the desired outcome or needs that people have. Generally, people want to move toward or away from something in their personal lives.

It doesn’t matter what business you are in, you should consider this in your industry landscape. What are your clients’ seeking to get more of or less of? What do they want to add or take away from their current state of being?

Back to our example of the Personal Development industry. I’ve touch on a couple of desired outcomes, transformation or benefits in the somewhat incomplete chart below. This is by no means a full list of desired outcomes, but only serves to demonstrate the concept. Those of you that are experts in the industry of Personal Development will be better skilled at fleshing out this chart. The more detailed you can get with the specific benefits or outcomes that you provide the more narrow you can get with your industry niche.

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The next question is HOW do you help your clients achieve these outcomes. These are the modalities or techniques you use to move your clients from their current state to their desired state. One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is describing the modality as their business. So even though you may use coaching techniques, Reiki, music therapy or train people with meditation or other relaxation tools. These are simply the tools of your trade. There can be an unlimited list of tools that you have in your toolkit. So don’t limit your own growth potential by defining your business by the techniques you use. Also keep in mind that those tools can serve many different industry niches. Meditation or visualization techniques can be applied to personal development in physical, emotional, mental, social or spiritual transformation. The key is focusing on the outcome that you specialize in within your industry. This is what will speak to your ideal client that most.

As you start to map out your own industry landscape I hope this helps you to clarify where you position yourself within that industry. Once you have defined your general and narrower industry’s, perhaps you can look around and see if there is an area that is lacking when it comes to meet the outcomes, desires or needs of potential clients. Is there an empty space that you could claim in the overall landscape? This is a niche – gap that needs to be filled. A need that is not yet being met.

When I asked you to identify the standard practices and benchmarks, it is my intention to get you to think about the baseline expectations of someone in your industry. These are the ‘price of entry’ into your business. These things are expected. It could be skills training, certificates, techniques, approaches, standards, etc that a buyer might demand to do business with you. What can you offer beyond the expected? This is one way to find your niche.

So when thinking about What’s Your Line? It’s not only asking about your artistry but more importantly, “What makes you the Salvador Dali of your industry?” What makes you different that every other artist out there creating art? Where do you see yourself playing in the landscape of your line of work?