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What Question Is Your Work Trying to Answer?

When speaking with authors and thought leaders I typically ask them to tell me about their work. More often than not the answers I get are fairly complex and somewhat confusing. I’ll probe a bit and try to get them to clarify and be specific. For many this is a challenge. The reasons for this vary – some folks are cerebral or academic, others don’t think enough about how people use their content to solve personal or business issues, and for many they are too close to it to really understand the value it should have to a specific market.

If I ask them to describe for me the question their work is attempting to answer they typically pause for a bit, and then begin to clearly articulate what their content does, whom it is best suited for and the results and impact that can be achieved if it is used effectively. Is this marketing? Communications? Positioning? Basic consulting?  I’m not really sure but my instincts tell me it’s a bit of all of those things.

Clients don’t want to be confused, intimidated or patronized. They’ve got problems that they need to solve and questions they need to answer. One of the key things you can do as a thought leader is to put some thought into the question and come up with a few answers and variations to those answers so that you can make it easier for clients and prospects to understand what you do and how you/your organization can be of service to them. It seems simple, but actually for many it requires you to interact very differently.

Many people find it easier to spout forth their accomplishments, CV or to speak in techno-jargon when describing who they are and what they do. Most people won’t be honest enough to tell you they don’t understand what you’re talking about or how you can help them so they nod, they smile and then they don’t return your calls or emails. Instead of diving into your credentials or the technical underpinnings of your work, what if you told people, using easy to understand language, the types of problems you help your clients solve? Again, this is certainly not rocket science, but for a rocket scientist it is actually not an easy task.

Peter Winick has deep expertise in helping those with deep expertise. He is the CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Peter on Twitter!

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Enjoyed your post,
    Business leaders have the same problem when I ask ” what problem does your product or service solve?” It should be a easy , quick answer, but far too often people struggle answering this. Or I ask ” why do people buy from you?” as I share on you tube
    If you want to have a strong year in 2011, you must know the answers to these questions.

    Mark Allen Roberts

  2. It seems basic, but many business owners forget the basics, like KISS. Entrepreneurs tend to get wrapped up in a rarefied environment slightly divorced from reality. For me, I use my kids as a sounding board. If I can explain to them what it is I do, then the message should be clear for most of my prospects. It sounds corny, but the more esoteric your product or service, the more important it is to find ways to simplify your message.

  3. Loved the blog post Peter. And timely too. As I plan 2011, I will make sure that I have a good answer to this question.

    Happy holidays to you and your family.


  4. Hmmm, wow, that could be a really good question. I’m applying it to my own work now, and realizing how much it makes one draw upon the basic need being addressed/core passion for creating the work in the first place. Thanks so much for the suggestion!

  5. Thanks for this perspective. Reading ut, I wanted to say “yeah, that’s exactly what happens”

    Then I remembered how many times I thought I had clarity on something , called you and rambled and heard the same probing questions.

    Oh yeah. This ones for me.

  6. […] In a similar vein, just like company mission statements, when people ask us what we do we usually answer with an uninspiring answer that doesn’t provoke any authentic engagement. So, to help us think differently about what we do, a better approach is to ask ourselves: what’s the question that our work is trying to answer? […]

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