Your #1 Coach Statement

The What for Whom Exercise

How to go from Good to Best to Only

The point of this exercise is to keep getting more and more specific about ideal coaching package and your ideal coaching client until you are the #1 coach in the world for that client.

The other name for this exercise is “Best Coach in the World.”

Marketers call this concept category design.

The idea of category design is to create a brand where you are not only the best option, but actually the only option.

So, if you imagine the trainers at a gym. Some are better than others. Those good ones keep their clients longer, get referrals, and generally make more money than the less good trainers.

One of those trainers is the best in the gym. That best trainer can work as many sessions as they want — they always get first pick of new clients. That’s a good position to be in.

But lets say this best trainer tells the gym owner they want a raise or they are going to leave the gym. The gym owner is going to say no, because the next best trainer is basically just as good from the gym owner’s perspective. That’s the problem with being the best — you’re still replaceable. (There are a lot more problems than that too)

So, let’s say instead that one of the trainers is a former Cirque de Soleil performer and creates a class routine combining those Cirque performance techniques and yoga, Cirque de Yoga. The local news covers it, Oprah drops in to the class when she’s in town, and hundreds of people sign up for the class.

This teacher has created a situation where they are the ONLY teacher of Cirque de Yoga. Now they can call their own shots. They can raise their rates. They can threaten to take the class to a different gym or even rent their own class space.

How can you be perceived as great?

Everyone I’ve ever talked to has resisted specialization because they are afraid it is limiting.

And yet, specialization is a simple trick that can make you the best in the world, sometimes overnight.

The explanation for the power of specialization comes from Scott Adams, the cartoonist behind Dilbert. He explained his career as he is a little bit funny, but that he had no chance at being the funniest guy in the world. And he was a little bit artistic, but he had no chance at being a great artist. But he combined those two skills together and that was enough to be a great cartoonist (a little funny and a little artistic).

But what made him rich and famous was that he wrote a cartoon about a topic that nobody else was covering: the absurdity of office work. That’s category design. He kept specializing and narrowing, until he was best in the world at something. He’s the #1 comedic cartoonist covering how meaningless office work feels.

He is a specialist. He would not have succeeded if he tried to cover all topics or if he’d tried to do a funny cat to compete with Garfield or a trouble making young boy to compete with Dennis the Menace. All that would have led to was competing with people who were already better than him. Instead, he narrowed his focus until he found something where he could be the clear #1.

The framework I like is “What for Whom.” The Who is you imagining your ideal audience. Your actual audience will always end up being broader. But start with imagining yourself talking to a single type of person. Here are some examples.

  • The Four Hour Body is “Low-carb diet for single men who like short cuts.” Women and married men do it too. But that’s what I mean about ideal audience. Tim focused on one type of person and got them to love him. That enthusiasm brought in other people. And, truthfully, he was even more specific. His original target audience was single men in tech.
  • I got half-way into writing a book about meditation. But I wanted to reach entrepreneurs, investors and athletes who believe in science. Their shared trait is that they are competitive. So the working title was Strongest Mind in the Room. I told that to my meditation teacher, Will Kabat Zinn, and he said, “That sounds like the dark side.” Which is exactly what I was looking for — I wanted to be the best choice for competitive people and I wasn’t going to be afraid to make the existing meditation market uncomfortable.
  • Scott Adams is Funny Comic Strips for Office Workers.
  • I have a coach working on a product right now: “Learning to code for entrepreneurs who want to build their own website rather than outsource it.” She’d helped a few thousand women learn to code and had run into this market over and over again — business owners who liked doing things themselves, thought coding was just a touch too hard, but also thought $30k for outsourcing was crazy.

Step by Step Until You Are #1

Broad topic.

A) A lot of coaches coach productivity and exercise. But for this process, you have to pick one. You’ll narrow this down again later.


What demographic is most attracted to your coaching? Why?

The specifics of that question are key. You are looking for who is attracted to you, not the other way around. And you want to arrive at why? It’s not enough to say old people. You have to be able to understand why.

B) Men or women. Is there a certain energy you give off that makes you more attractive to one than the other?

C) Age. Youth, early career, later career, retired?

D) More attracted by science or by spirituality? This is a huge dividing line in the market.

E) Money or meaning? Do people come to you to get rich and establish their worth in the world or are they trying to find meaning and make an impact beyond themselves?

F) How are they motivated? Are they looking for motivation or looking for ideas? Some clients want to be challenged? Others inspired? Is permission a form of motivation? Others already seem motivated.

G) What did I miss? We’re doing this as a group so that coaches can prompt each other with ways they look at demographics. Level of anxiety?

Take a deep breath

H) For many of you, this is going to be hard and your first attempt isn’t going to feel particularly sharp. Take a deep breath, this is normal

Refocus your topic

I) Of all the things you coach in your general topic, what is the one that is most useful? What is the most desired by your audience?

J) Create multiple “What for whom” statements based on what you have so far. Try to create one terrible one (I’m serious) so that you don’t get bogged down in perfection. Once you have 3–5, try testing them on other coaches. One of these is going to become your #1 coach statement.

Case Study

The case studies are going to be coming today from other coaches. For now, I’ll just give myself.

I run a coaching group, Heavy Mental, that has the tagline: “Training your brain the way an athlete trains their body.”

Based on that group, I know a lot about my clients, but I can’t give you a #1 coach statement. So, my answers to the exercise are:

A. Topic: mental training for productivity

B. Gender. I’m confused. The branding appears slightly masculine, but it attracts a pretty mixed group. It hasn’t attracted any hyper-masculine people — so I take that as a sign that it’s not supposed to be strongly gendered.

C. Late career. A lot of people have had some success and now are trying to balance family and impact. I think that early career people still think they can “gut it out” and so it’s “late career” people who recognize the wisdom of what I do.

D. Science. Strongly science. There is very little wu-wu in the group.

E. Meaning.

F. Motivation. I do not give “football coach” like challenges or “rah rah” pep talks. I mostly speak to reason. I do not consider myself a great motivator or someone who even wants to motivate people.

G. Missing demographics. I generally don’t think humor works well in personal development, but the group seemed to like the name Heavy Mental, which is a bit of a pun. So is part of the branding about personal development being fun? My advisors say I stand out for being un-abashed in my love of personal development — it’s not about guilt or fixing people for me. I bet that is a part of my personal brand that I don’t completely understand.

H. Deep breath. I resist doing this exercise because I am interested in so many things.

I. Focus my topic: meditation. The group covers 13 topics per year and meditation is the most useful.

J. What for Whom. Current one is “Mental Training for Performance.” More focused ones would be “Meditation for Performance.” but that still doesn’t put me at #1. “Meditation for Business Performance.” It’s hard, right?