There's plenty of philosophers out there. Most of them have “day jobs.” It’s hard to…
In working with a wide range of authors and thought leaders, one of the key things that struck me is the connection between clarity, the ability to prioritize activities effectively and success. Clarity is not exactly a binary state, but it isn’t something that exists on a continuum either.
To gain clarity, I ask my thought leader and author clients the following:
1) What’s your platform? What is it that you expect people to be able to do, think, act or behave differently as a result of being exposed to your content?
2) What markets are you serving or would you like to be serving?
3) What are the offerings that you have or are in the process of creating that are derived from your content?
4) What are you struggling with relative to getting your message out to a broader audience?
What I’ve learned is that if they can clearly answer the first question with a level of specificity (which only about 30% do) the other questions are pretty easy. Many fall into the trap of believing their content could be all things to all people. Theoretically, that may be the case for some content, but in practice it rarely works.
This really plays out when you try to define your markets and develop a suite of offerings, products or solutions. You can’t serve the Fortune 100 and the housewife from Idaho at the same time with the same content in the same format. Those who try are distracted and struggling the most. They have little to no clarity, focus, direction, traction or momentum. While it may be noble to try and change the world, it’s almost impossible to do it all at once.
There are several ways to define a market and in the world of content there are no formulaic answers that work for everyone. There are some that focus very narrowly on a specific industry (and on occasion get decimated when that industry tanked). There are others that focus on a specific population in an organization (such as newly minted managers or emerging leaders) or on generational segments (baby boomers, millennials, etc). Some do quite well with specific role or a function (sales managers, creative types, project managers, etc.) or on specific types of individuals based on a life event or a personality trait (new mothers, entrepreneurs, people in a state of professional transition, etc.).
The list is almost endless as long as the content resonates with them and you can clearly identify sustainable behavior changes in individuals, teams or organizations that can be attributed to your work. Conversely, if you lack the clarity relative to the markets you choose to serve (however you define them) it becomes very difficult to set your priorities in such a way that they are driving you towards your objectives of reaching more people with your work in a variety of formats and modalities.
The same pattern clearly emerges when discussing the offerings of the authors and thought leaders. In some cases they are a one trick pony (“I’m a keynote guy”) and given the lack of diversification of their “portfolio” they are struggling and trying hard to get back to where they once were. I do not believe that flat is the new growth, or being off 25% is “break even.” Growth is growth, flat is flat and a shrinking business is a shrinking business.
In other cases they have offerings that are not clearly defined (“Yeah, I can do that”) and if they are not well defined, clearly articulated and targeted, then guess what? Clients don’t beat a path to your door to buy them.
Others have a very clear product strategy. They can defend why they had certain offerings (an assessment tool, a coaching model, a train the trainer solution) and why they chose not to offer others (2 day workshops, consulting engagements). Those who have the greatest degree of clarity over how clients can obtain the largest impact from their work seem to be growing and thriving while those who don’t are either struggling or surviving.
Now here’s the kicker…everyone is very busy and have a list of things they are doing and things they’d like to be doing (writing, speaking, developing products, marketing a book, serving clients, etc.), but those who have the greatest clarity are able to logically justify why they are doing what they are doing and why they aren’t doing certain things as well. Those that don’t have the clarity are (for the most part) “busier” but I don’t see a correlation between activity and achievement.
It’s wise to take a step back and audit your priorities. It’s even wiser to do so if you’ve got clarity around the markets you would like to serve, how you can best serve them and view all of your activities through a clear lens.