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 the 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 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 troublemaking 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 shortcuts.” Women and married men do it too. But that’s what I mean about picking an 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 through 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. That's a much more narrow audience than the general case of "Learn to Code" but it's also an audience where she can raise her rates.
Step by Step Until You Are #1
Start by describing the broad topic you coach. You're going to start broad and then the exercise below will help you narrow it down.
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 prompts people to hire you? What is going on in their life when they decide to start looking for a coach?
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.
Below are a few examples from our first bootcamp.
- A life coach who ended up saying "I help fatherless men in their 30s find their life purpose."
- A diet, fitness, and productivity coach who ended up with "I coach mindfulness as a way to lose weight."
- I coach creativity habits to "I help people turn their creative hobby into a business."
The LinkedIn & Facebook exercise
You can refine your whom even more by imagining you are giving directions to a supportive peer in the coaching community. This supportive coach wants to recommend a client to you.
What they want is for you to give them directions for how to pick one person from their LinkedIn or Facebook network. What directions would you give them?
In the first bootcamp, a former CPA and business coach who helps stagnating businesses get unstuck gave this instruction:
"Look for small business owners who are frustrated."
The bootcampers wondered though, how do you tell if someone is frustrated based on what they post on LinkedIn? Very few people post frustrations there. So this business coach revised the instruction:
"Look for small business owners who have gone quiet for a few years. Generally that means they are making money, or else they'd have gone out of business, but also that they aren't growing or else they'd be posting more optimistic news. That's my ideal client. I want to help them grow again."
If we're doing this live at the Bootcamp the facilitation is:
- Round robin introductions with one sentence descriptions of their coaching.
- Intro to Best Coach in the World.
- Ask for a volunteer and get their starting answer for What for Whom.
- Talk them through the exercises.
- Ask them to complete "I am the best coach in the world at coaching WHAT for WHOM."
- Now ask them to do the LinkedIn Exercise.
- Now ask the other coaches to volunteer a friend they could introduce.
- Repeat until the session is over.