A core concept for your business is the big idea that you wrap your products, programs or services around, that you create a demand narrative and story for, and that enables you to showcase your thought leadership and earn your worth. It’s something you can really lean into, and get excited about, and your audience can too.
Identifying a core concept helps you can turn your expertise, passion, skills into laser focused offer to generate a floodgate of demand so you get better clients and can charge higher fees.
Lack of a core concept is one of the single biggest mistakes consultants, coaches and other expert service providers make. In the first of three parts focused on helping you earn what you’re worth, I explain why and what you can do to find your core concept for better offer positioning.
The big promise for our whole online business academy, my book, my articles and this podcast – is to help people work smarter not harder – because this is what gives you true freedom to live your life on your own terms. We all want that, right? It’s why many of us choose the entrepreneurial path, and because we love to share our expertise in service to others.
In this article, and click the player below if you prefer to listen – what you’ll learn is:
- What is a core concept and how it helps your business grow
- Marketing’s dirty little secret that an expensive distraction
- Attracting the best clients isn’t about tactics
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Lack of a core concept is one of the single biggest mistakes consultants, coaches and other expert service providers make. Today’s episode will be a primer for diving into this in the next two episodes. And it also runs well with episode 63 I did on brand positioning too, so if you may want to listen or read that piece or revisit it before the next one. You can read it as an article or listen https://jayallyson.com/podcast/showcase-your-expertise/.
Today, I’ll be explaining why and what you can do to find your core concept for better offer positioning so you can attract more of the right clients and charge higher fees.
The core concept here is to help people move from struggling freelancer to strategic entrepreneur so they can earn what they’re worth.
Even if you don’t call yourself a freelancer, if you’re jumping from contract to contract without a consistent process to bring new clients in and earn a dependable income, then you’re essentially in a freelancer stage of business. And even if you don’t see yourself as an entrepreneur, at least the ‘strategic’ part should be the vehicle for business growth.
What is a Core Concept?
A core concept is something I learned from Rich Schrefen – I love his way of thinking about strategic marketing – and I’ve talked about that in my book – if you have a copy, go to chapter
The most profitable ideas stem from a core concept that helps someone do something new, different, better or faster. I’ll talk about building a ‘performance boosting’ course more in the next episode – but for now let me just say that most experts go about course creation all wrong. They pick a topic. That can work, if it’s a strategic and core concept. But often it’s not strategic, it’s not compelling and it’s not transformative.
A CORE CONCEPT should:
- present something NEW
- be unique & feel original
- be prospect focused
- be a bold breakthrough & ‘sticky’
- have a built-in benefit
- be supported by proof
- be easy to explain
- abdicate from previous failures
- be better, faster, cheaper or more certain
- support your USP.
When people desire a very specific thing and can clearly see what you offer is “just the thing they need”, they want it – now! And, they’re willing to pay more than the going rate to get it.
Your unique expert brand often emerges from the one core concept that your audience resonates most deeply with – it can even send your business off in a whole new direction. It needs to be so specific that it provides a badge of honour and distinguishes you from others in your niche.
One way to achieve this is to build a brand around a “core concept”, as we talked about earlier. This is usually a key thing you’re known for doing; it should be a simple idea, complex to solve; transformative and of premium value to your target clientele.
I know that as a consultant, it’s hard to pin yourself down to a single distinctive expert area. You probably rarely do just one thing, you have a menu, a “smorgasbord” of possibilities. All the talk about pinning down a specialism, sub-niche or micro-niche can feel uncomfortable and constraining.
For me, having different niches and client types used to feel discordant in terms of the (dreaded) question “what do you do”, until I found the common theme and focused on a specific field, that of helping businesses grow through strategic planning.
Nevertheless, I always got frustrated that “I have ALL this expertise and knowledge, how come I can’t get more clients?” That’s because I wasn’t focusing on one core niche but rather working in lots of different roles plucking at all the various strings on my bow.
When you position and brand yourself around a distinctive problem your target market has, they realise they need you to help them implement the solution. We can build on our leveraged marketing and leveraged sales approaches to find ways of leveraging your expert system beyond your face-to-face consulting, coaching or “done-for-you” agency types of work.
Your perfect client is one for whom you can deliver their desired result in the shortest possible time. Having your own system in place for how you work with that client – whether it’s 1:1 or in a group – means you can easily design a programme – workshop or a whole course, either face-to-face or online – that mirrors your step-by-step process.
Once you start to earn the “maven” expert status around your big idea, and you start using a particular channel to engage with your audience, where you become known for, this also means you don’t get too distracted by other ideas and shiny new marketing tools.
You can hone your expertise further, because you’ll have much more time and freedom to focus on research, strategy, content and client support, so creating increasingly greater influence and impact, as well as higher levels of income.
Implementing an effective brand positioning plan is not massively different to your usual business as a consultant, coach, trainer etc. First, clarify the expertise and distinctiveness that is uniquely yours.
Next, package the problem and your point of view on it into valuable educational content to satisfy the questions in the mind of your target audience and build trust.
Make sure you give time to study and research and to strategic and creative deliberation. As a professional and an expert, you need space to recharge and think, so you can consistently come up with new insights and communicate them effectively.
So I’m going to change tack for a bit here now…
Marketing’s Dirty Little Secret
There’s a “dirty” little secret in the online marketing world – and that’s focus. If you want to move off the freelancer circuit and go from frustration to freedom, then having a course offer wrapped around a core concept is the fastest way I know.
You need to drop the tactic of the month and start building a real business in a strategic and sustainable way, to position yourself as uniquely different to what others in your profession are doing.
And you’re going to find out the details in the next two episodes of how you can build a course offer around your core concept to leverage you, your marketing, sales and your delivery.
With millions of people affected in some way by the economic downturn amplified by the Covid pandemic, I’ve seen an upsurge in professionals looking to start an online business as their “Plan B”… their way of providing for themselves and their families.
In desperation, they try a “business opportunity” and decide it doesn’t work.
To be honest, that’s how I got started back in 2004 when I went looking for a Plan B when my daughter was born with a severe brain disorder and I knew holding down a ‘normal’ full time JOB might become impossible.
I joined a network marketing opportunity, one where our team were doing things rather differently. We weren’t holding parties and annoying friends and families, our core concept was to draw people in on the front end with some valuable educational content. Back then it was an opt-in landing page and a physical CD we sent out, followed by an email nurture sequence. Nothing new right, but back in 2004 it was very very new. No-one was doing it.
I turned that traditional direct selling, in-person business into an internet business, creating a hybrid offer of products (wellness, weight loss) and coaching to drive sales …I learned a tonne about content marketing, and ended up selling my website for more money than I was earning selling the products.
Just before that happened, I got a call from a friend in that business who told me with that old business, selling products here and here, I’d been riding the slowest horse in the industry! (His exact words, which made me sit up and think … perhaps that’s when the notion of leverage first surfaced …) He told me about a new core concept – top tier products.
So I joined his top tier network marketing opportunity, then another, and then another …I earned 50x more than in that other business, less clients, working 5x less,. I’d learned a tonne about high-ticket sales, but something was off.
It’s such a familiar story … and so many keep doing this – they discover the treasure chest of “silver bullets” and “magic success buttons” that is the world we know as internet marketing and they get sucked into learning mode and then tech mode, and somewhere the needs of the customer gets lost in it all.
To me, not only did it still feel like such a slog, more importantly, I didn’t feel I was having the impact I wanted.
The promise is that it’s a numbers game makes sense – and so we start list building and link building and copy writing and … well you know the drill. Many unscrupulous so-called internet marketing “gurus” each selling their own “tactic of the month.”
And it looks very attractive, so they think “This looks like it will make me some quick cash. I’ll try it!” And what happens NEXT?
They realize it’s much more difficult than they thought to execute these tactics well. So to add salt to the wound of whatever high priced course they invested in, it’s less effective than they hope.
Even worse, is the fact that they’ve become a victim of the “dirty” little secret I mentioned. These people would love to have a real business they can count on to provide for them today and far into the future.
Because they don’t have experience with some kind of real business, they try to become successful through the eyes of an “opportunity seeker” almost, and certainly they never set out to have an online marketing business.
Here’s how they messed up, and didn’t even realize it was happening…
See, what those internet marketing gurus KNOW is that it’s MUCH easier to sell their Tactic-of-the-Month to opportunity seekers. And they make a killing taking advantage of this fact.
Are you guilty of frantically looking for the “one thing” that will finally work for you online? A real “silver bullet” that fills your bank account with cash… and lets you spend all day on the golf course or the beach?
Well don’t worry. There is a much better way to get what you want out of life. And it’s NOT learning and gathering more Internet marketing “tactics”.
Attracting the Best Clients on Reputation, Value and Visibility
Here’s how to make it with a real business – whether online or offline – is with a core concept, not a tactic. It will make you bullet-proof to those “shiny objects” and promises of “push button” profits.
In hindsight, it’s easy to see that my reputation, value and visibility are what attracted clients and kept me financially afloat rather than any direct selling per se.
It finally hit me that standing out, as an expert authority on a specific subject and being seen as a thought leader with something clearly defined and of value to offer, that is the one of the most critical aspects of a leveraged consulting strategy.
Focus on achieving three levels of influence:
- What we say about ourselves – strengthen your belief, be confident, and yell louder!
- What others say about you – gather social proof and stories that really resonate with people
- What we DEMONSTRATE about what we do – the most effective yet under-utilised marketing tactic, because it triggers an internal decision towards trust.
A core concept will rescue you from having to decide which of a hundred different courses to run, and which of ten different customer avatars to pick. You WON’T have to frantically search for that “one thing” that will be your cash cow.
Instead, you’ll have a new, fresh perspective that will steer you toward building your brand positioning in a distinct way, gaining you maven status for your unique point of view.
You prove yourself and build trust when you actually help someone make progress, such as with one or more of the following:
A goal – something that your ideal client absolutely must achieve
An opportunity – what they’d like to do better or faster
A challenge – something that removes a block to achieving goals.
When you help someone do something better, the value you deliver takes you from anonymous freelancer that people treat as a commodity to trustworthy teacher your audience wants to hear from.
Taking this approach to building a brand is what Rich Schefren of Strategic Profits terms “mavenship”. It requires a fundamental shift in mindset, one that embraces generosity to put your ideas out there, rather than secrecy to protect your intellectual property. It builds your brand equity.
What if people loved your brand and liked you SO much in the marketplace that they’d be willing to pay up to 300% MORE for your services and products than your competitors …. just because they were yours?
And wouldn’t it be cool if they would jump through all kinds of hoops (not that that is necessary, but they’d be willing to do just about anything) just to be able to get your stuff, to buy from you, that they had that much respect for what you are doing, what you stand for, how you help people …
Well you can actually CREATE that kind of raving fan base with a core concept and associated product that has intrinsic value – practical value & intrinsic value.
Cars – my BMW has a lot of practical value – FEATURES, BENEFITS ….
Rolls Royce has the same … in terms of practical value it’s a car, but it’s a car that costs 300% more than the BMW. Similar on the inside, apart from the engine, differences are largely cosmetic, almost identical. Rolls Royce are now even owned by BMW, even has the same chassis!!!
It’ all about intrinsic value – and perceived value. We covered this in a previous article on creating a visible value proposition in the marketplace – episode 38 of the podcast.
So how do we get people wanting your stuff just like Rolls Royce.
And what better way to build your brand equity than with thought leadership and a course.
Last article/episode I talked about online learning design (in five steps) and starting from a place of the outcomes you want – and we won’t go over that all again. What I want to share for part 2 is how you can make sure your course is really going to deliver a performance boost to your participants.
That’s what we’ll focus on in the next episode, how to go from core concept idea to creating a vehicle for the transformation you promise…. And then in part 3, we’ll turn to how you bring that course to market. Ciao ciao for now.