Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Supertight Brand: 5 Steps to Specialization for Therapists

The “Shrink Wrap” System

Hey Y’all.  In honor of my upcoming second session with the Denver Therapists’ Network, we’re going to hyperfocus (Ah, the Gifts of Un-medicated ADD!) on an extremely vital and potentially tricky process:  the therapist of today choosing (and articulating) a highly specialized brand that speaks powerfully in the marketplace.

We’re going to be focusing on therapists today, because the law of specialization says you get more traction for any specific offer the more specific you are about who it is for.  However, these principles and steps are valid and valuable for all my visionary, mission-minded entrepreneurs out there, so don’t be shy to test ‘em out and put in practice.

After all, as all you consciousness professionals know, there is no better teacher than our own experience.

Let’s get started with a quick review of the basics.

What is a Brand?  What is the Difference Between Branding and Marketing?

On the deepest level, your brand is your essence, your presence, the particular offer of service you are to this life.  On a more practical level, however, your brand is your reputation.  It’s how you are known; it’s what you’re known for.  On this level (the level of money and the marketplace) it is not a “brand” unless others can notice and recognize it.

If a brand fell in the forest and no one was there to hear it, would it make a sound? No, no it would not.  You can get as theoretical as you want about this, but according to what’s going to help you in your actual life and business, the answer is No.

It is an AWESOME idea to get clear about the distinction between your branding and your marketing.  Brand, as says international branding expert Al Ries, is a concept you own in someone else’s mind.  I would say it’s the story you own in his/her mind.  It’s the purpose, the passion, the focus of your business. 

If brand is a story, marketing is all the myriad of ways you tell that story.  It’s your website, your content, your collateral, your social media, your presentations, etc.  If your brand is compelling, powerful, and “sexy,” then your marketing doesn’t have to do so much heavy lifting.  If your brand is not on point and on target, then despite your 10,000 followers on Twitter, likely all you are accomplishing is boring or confusing or annoying 10,000 people.  Sorry folks. 

So.  How do you smart and sophisticated therapists get that Big Gorgeous Powerful Sexy Brand?   

2 Rules and 5 Steps.

2 Rules:  Keep it Light and Get it Tight!

Actually, if you can just get these two things, like Stephen Stills sings, you aint gonna need any more advice.  However, since our culture (overall) actually pulls in the opposite direction of both, it takes some practice to master the Light and Tight Principles.


This is hugely, vitally important for therapists—and for anyone that has big, weighty work on the planet, the work of mission, the work of healing, the work of transformation.  It is absolutely flabbergasting how many passionate pioneers of this planet set out to release more joy and freedom and wind up with incredibly grinding, overly full, yet strangely empty lives.  This is NOT the fault of the pioneer, but it’s pretty hard to argue with the results.  Kinda like gravity. 

I am not arguing that this is true for any of you, but I bet you know some hugely talented healers and teachers of which this could be said.  So, my basic rule is, the bigger, broader, and “weightier” your current mission (and your daily responsibilities) the more airtime you’re going to have to surrender to joyful, playful, restful, energizing activities.  Stuff that lets you feel the Light That You Are. 

We’ll talk more about this in our session on Friday, April 10, and I’ll share my personal techniques and “Lightsaber Secrets” with you.  For those of you participating online, I know we’d all love it if you shared any tools or questions you have about keeping your huge mission light.


As my evil merciless pilates instructor Mari Windsor says, “this is going to challenge the strength of your powerhouse.”  Now that you’re all light and bright, it’s time to get all rigorous and focused here, which (since there’s plenty of room for “error”) can potentially get you heavy and grim all over again.  You can get as serious as you want about this, but do try to avoid the grim.

It’s not easy—specialization brings out the agitated deer in the headlights for most of us.  You therapists can probably guess why. We’ll talk more about this later, but for now, just keep in mind the serious intensity of children building a very important project in a sandbox.  We’re going to try some shit out, but we can always keep shoveling and molding, try out some different flags and Lego figures, etc.

Here’s the most essential formula for a supertight brand:  we are looking for a specific person, with a particular breakdown, for which we will provide a remarkable solution.  And what we’re about to do is use the five steps to fill in that formula so we can blow their sweet little minds with power of our brand clarity.

Step One:  Find Your Peeps.

You may be used to thinking of your ideal or target audience as a demographic, but I agree with the brand experts who recommend you get real, real personal.  Create a list of several (8-12) individual characters you’d love to serve.  Base them on real clients you’ve had that you liked, base them on real (or famous) people you admire, and throw in a couple you’re not so crazy about just for clarity of contrast.  These characters have names, ages, genders, or they are not individual characters.  They have sources of income, or they are not good characters for you to target.

Now.  For each one of these people.  What is the thing that is sucking the joy right out of this incredible person’s life?  What would be an amazing breakthrough for him or her?  How could your particular, remarkable offer of therapy (based on both your training and life experience) help facilitate this breakthrough?  Choose your top two or three people and look for a “container.”  We’ll discuss in session.

Step Two:  Look and Love Your Competition.

I know this is crazy, but your potential ideal client has a LOT of therapeutic choices, especially here in a nice crowded market like Denver.  So, you’ve figured out that you really like those highly creative artistic people who are blocked in their art, or you’ve got something to say to those fortune-500 CEO’s who are up all night with their porn addiction, or those parents who are struggling to manage their blended families.  Congratulations!  This is a Supertight Focus!

Now, what if you look and someone else is already doing this, or something close to this?  The good news is this is good news!  We’ll talk about why, and how to position so this person becomes a great referral instead of client-stealing bastard who just happened to get to your sweet spot first.

Step Three:  What’s Your Flava?

This happens to be the name of one of my all-time favorite songs by British hip-hop singer Craig David, but just in case you totally don’t care, “Flavor” is a great way to think about the perfect combination of your brand’s values and your brand’s personality traits—both are well-worth thinking about because they make you money. 

Create your list of Top Five/Six Brand Values and Personality Traits—don’t do more or you’ll have a hard time using them “like a sword,” as I am going to teach on Friday.  For example, I have values of both Mastery and Fun, which means I don’t like “Quick Easy Fix to Make Everything Perfect!” Nonsense, and I don’t work with projects or people who are not (in some way) really fun for me.  As a personality trait, you may have noticed that I am both practical and irreverent.  Sometimes use borderline bad language.  You may not like it, but my people love the crap outta it.

Step Four:  Don’t Be Stingy.  Be 80/20 Generous.

Do you want to get off the “X Hours = X Dollars” treadmill and start making money in a bigger way? Or are you perfectly happy to get on that treadmill just so long as it means your practice is full of great people? Depending on where you are in your career, either can be a darn fine thing.

The good news/bad news here is one of the greatest resources for either scenario is develop and share, share, share original content.  Share 80% for free and then charge for 20%.   No matter what your current story about social media and today’s communication channels, I encourage you (as a therapist who presumably likes people) to think in terms of creating, sharing, conversing, and community.

Does your original content have to be totally original?  If the answer is yes, then I’m in big trouble, because everything I’ve told you here is based on the work of so many others before me.  No, your content just has to be yours—your spin on things, your voice, your way of sharing.  It’s your blog, if you like writing, or its your vlog, if you hate writing, or its your online course, if you hate both writing and being on camera. Then, get some help with your structures, your platform, and GO.  Do not wait for perfection to start your conversation.  Begin by saying Hello.

Now.  This is a big, dense, and potentially heavy topic, so what questions do you have in order to travel light and keep it tight?

Step Five:  Damn it, Ellen, This isn’t Working.

Oh, man, I know.  I hate this step too. 

No, but seriously.  If you are focusing on your Keep it Light and Get it Tight principles, it IS working; it is in the process of working.  Unfortunately, you might be at the stage where you went to the store and got all your ingredients and now you’re mad that you don’t yet have a cake.  Once you choose a Supertight Focus, it’s going to take a while to alert the marketplace that you are that focus, and then a bit longer to get them agitated enough to care.  Play a long game and don’t get fussed.

Share more, speak more, be powerful, keep moving to get in front of your people.  Also, as you know, you don’t necessarily have to be superchirpy extrovert to be a great therapist, and you don’t have to be that way to be a great supertight brand either (you could be an introvert standing for introvert power, as has been proven).  One of my favorite therapists is a more reserved, quiet person, who kinda wants to throw up in her mouth at the thought of speaking, blogging, vlogging, etc.  So we figured out a way for her to get in through the back door to speak directly to her people.  Questions about that, contact me.

Lastly, to all those of you brave enough to help ‘ologize the psyche, I salute you.