Week 2 Challenge: Get Recognized

[Please note: this article, and the rest of the articles in this series, together constitute the 15  emails in the It Starts with Clients Client Growth Challenge. Please subscribe here to receive them on a weekly basis over the next 100 days]

Which comes first–recognition for being really good at something, or relationships that lead to your being recognized?

In 1969, a 19-year old James Taylor landed in London. His original band had collapsed, he was broke, and he was trying to break a fearsome drug addiction that had gripped him. He played his guitar for friends and even busked on the street. He eventually cut a short demo tape of four of his songs, and wanted to shop it to the newly-formed Beatles’ record company, Apple Records, which was inviting submissions. It turns out a member of his old band knew Peter Asher, who was the brother of Paul McCartney’s girlfriend at the time, and a talent scout for Apple Records. Taylor got Asher’s phone number, and called him. Days later, Taylor was invited to Apple Records office and opened a door…in the room were Beatles Paul McCartney and George Harrison–two of the Fab Four, the most famous band on the planet. Taylor then played one of his songs for them (Something in the Way She Moves). After the audition, McCartney simply said to Asher, “Sounds good” and offered to sign Taylor. Today, James Taylor is considered one of the finest singer/songwriters of his generation, and he has sold over 100 million records.

So were Taylor’s connections the secret to his recognition, or was it his talent that attracted the right relationships? Don’t buy the common wisdom of our culture, which is that it’s all about making a magical connection with the right celebrity who can sponsor you. That can help, of course–a lot. But the truth is, you need to have something of value to offer if you want to attract the right people into relationships with you. Knowing the Beatles’ talent scout would not have mattered if Taylor had been an average musician. Recognition, in a professional setting, comes from having ideas, solutions, and skills that help others achieve their goals. But it’s not enough to just come up with good ideas–you have to codify them and then get them out in front of your client, prospects, and your wider network.

TIP: Grow your thought leadership–your intellectual capital–and you’ll grow your client relationships and revenue

Grow your thought leadership--your intellectual capital--and you'll grow your client relationships and revenue Click To Tweet

What is good thought leadership? Here are some criteria to consider as you develop yours:

1. It is, to some degree, fresh and original. You can’t just copy or parrot what others are saying. You don’t have to invent a totally new, revolutionary mousetrap–your ideas can simply represent a new angle on an old problem, or a more efficient way to think about implementation. Or, they might explore an aspect to a problem that others have not written much about (my first book, Clients for Life, was like this. 20 years ago, no one had as yet written a book about my topic).

2. It addresses common client challenges. What are the three to five most common, important issues your clients are grappling with? You should be developing solutions and strategies to address those. An issue may be interesting to you but a low-priority for your clients–which is fine, but in that case explore it as a hobby or sideline.

3. It is action-oriented. It’s okay to develop an “interesting” framework that stimulates a conversation with your client, but in the end, you have to demonstrate the “so what?” and show clients how their business can benefit from your concept–how it can be applied.

How do you start? It’s not that hard. Make your implicit knowledge explicit. Pick an important client challenge or problem, and write down five strategies for overcoming it, drawing on your experience and expertise. Suddenly, you have a one-pager you can share with clients as a short checklist or white paper–and something you can blog or post on LinkedIn. Grow your efforts from there. In a year, you could have 10 or 20 such short pieces, and maybe some longer articles as well. Or, interview five of your clients who face a common challenge, and synthesize what you learn into a handful of key principles. 

Your Week 2 Challenge: Increase your recognition

Especially right now, if you have some down time due to the current crisis, you should invest in building your thought leadership and your recognition. It’s not enough to have good ideas–although that’s a great start–you also need to grow your network of people who are interested in your ideas. So here’s the Week 2 Assignment: Complete pages 14-15 in the Growth Guide. You’ll be asked to assess your current recognition, and identify steps you can take to strengthen your thought leadership. You can also click here to download this assignment as a separate PDF: Week 2 Assignment.pdf

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