16 December 2008

Perfectionism is a disease – and a business killer

If you are starting a new business in this economy, here’s a major secret: strive for good enough. Aiming for making everything perfect before you launch is a form of self and business sabotage.

What? How can that be true, you ask?

Striving for perfection can be a mask for avoiding feelings of fear and doubt. As a psychotherapist for 18+ years, I can guarantee you that you can survive those feelings, and they may even be educational and enlightening for you. They’re just uncomfortable, but that’s okay. You can survive a little discomfort if you’re open to feedback from your SMART* plan.

But you won’t survive falling into compulsive habits of fixing one more thing, and just one more, and just this last thing, if what is driving you is a fear-fantasy that you must reach some magical level of readiness or knowledge or product line. This fear-fantasy actually robs you of the focus and energy and self-confidence needed to critically evaluate how well you do in the first 3-9 months, and where / how to adjust to do meet the wants of your market niche.

Worse, that fear-fantasy gets projected onto your clients. They will feel your anxiety, and will begin to doubt you more than you doubt yourself, creating a downward spiral of poor self-confidence that kills your client attractability. You don't have to explain or give excuses for what you aren't doing yet, or for what isn't ready (as in "perfect") yet. Just fully (emotionally) own what you are offering in the moment.

Here’s the recipe for solopreneur success: Start small, do SMART things, and be good enough.

*SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Aligned, Risk, and Timebound. In referring to your business plans and marketing efforts, be specific about your ideal client, make your goals measurable, ensure that your efforts are aligned with your vision and personality, risk reasonable resources and emotions, and have clear deadlines for launching and timelines for evaluating how well things are working before tinkering with the initial efforts.

Good enough is good enough, folks. Perfection is a mental illness.

01 December 2008

What a Niche is and What it Isn't

I'm hearing coaching students voicing reluctance to declare a niche in the same way that my counseling colleagues are reticent to do so. In the coaching spirit of reframing and shifting perspectives, I offer these thoughts:

What A Niche Is

A niche is a magnet. It's a way of presenting yourself as a specialist in helping an identifiable set of people with a defined range of problems, and drawing those people to you to aquire your help.

A niche is a focusing tool. It helps you determine how to put the range of your skills into language that people who will want them can recognize.

What A Niche Isn't

A niche is not a description of you. You are not the niche. Your clients and their problems are the niche.

A niche is not a way to limit who you work with. It's a way to better ensure that some if not most of the people you work with will be ideal for you -- ideal as in, have issues you really like to work with and feel exceedingly expert at, and who perfectly match your preferred way of working, your personality, don't blink at your policies, and think you're worth every penny.

A niche is not about the work you do. It's about getting clients so that you can DO the work you do. Despite believing that a good coach can coach anyone who is coachable (or that everyone is coachable by a good coach), that idea is not helpful in marketing. In fact, it's counterproductive because it promotes vague, overly general, and confusing messages.

The same holds true for naturopaths, who by training are primary care generalists. Specialize in a condition and/or a population, and you'll have a full practice.

Likewise for mental health counselors, who take comprehensive exams and then feel we can treat almost anyone. Maybe so, but prospective clients want a clinician with some expertise in their specific issue.

Prospective clients will not care or be impressed by the fact that you can coach, counsel or heal everyone on / with everything. That actually may sound implausible and therefore suspect. It will make your marketing backfire.

We all feel special and unique, and when we need help we want the specialist who is expert at our unique problem. We don't want the jack of all trades.

Ironically, holding yourself out as a specialist in one area will make you seem more client attractive to others in other areas. They psychology is that if you are an expert at one thing, you're probably pretty darn good at a few other things. Whether that's true or not, it works for the purposes of marketing.

And that's why niche marketing works for coaches and NDs like it does for counselors.