By Carolyn Campbell, MA, CPPC

One of the biggest challenges for many service-based businesses is defining, in a brief engaging way, what they do. Whether people hear about you through a referral, a brochure, article or web site, you want to establish a relationship with your clients before they even enter your clinic. It can be a huge struggle is to describe what you do without sounding impresonal, new-agy, too casual or too sterile.

For many attempting to write their own copy causes a lot of personal confusion. What I often hear from my clients is, “I’m totally stuck. I have no idea what is unique about what I do.” It can be frustrating and disheartening. What say is this, “Don’t try to write it yourself”.

When you try and write about yourself it can seem like an impossible task. Some freeze, unable to form a sentence much less a paragraph. Others expound upon the ethereal nature of their work, using terms and language most people don’t understand and don’t really care to. For others, in an attempt to be professional and medical, they end up writing promotional materials that lack the personality and character of their practice.

A great way to find compelling language is to get input from. Get input from others. The appropriate colleagues, clients and friends can be a gold mine for engaging descriptions. By asking key questions, you find out how others experience and perceive your work and your style. Through your interviews you might even find out how they are talking about you and your work. This is critical information to know. It gives you a great opportunity to know whether you are being perceived the way you want to be known. And, if you like the way they are describing your work, you can incorporate it into your materials.

Begin by selecting knowledgeable, articulate people who believe in your work and will be honest with you. It is important to interview between 9-12 people. If 2-3 people say something, it might be projection. If 7 people say the same thing, that’s something to remember!

I suggest interviewing by phone. It allows for a more candid response. After all, if someone is talking about you at a party or at a gallery, it will be their first impressions that they share. As you interview, don’t engage in a conversation. You might say, “can you say more about that?’- But please, oh please, don’t correct them. This is a chance to get insight into how enhance your ability to communicate more effectively.

The questions to ask-
1) Use a sentence, or two, to describe me.
2) How would you describe my style of connecting?
3) What is my most unique feature?
4) What do you perceive as my greatest strength?
5) Who do you see as my ideal client?
Their business/personal needs? (depending on your business)
Their personality, life interests and what they want more in their life?
6) What information could be the greatest benefit for them?
7) What topics do you see me speaking or writing about?
8) Where do you see me hold myself back in promoting my work?

As you compile the answers, what areas of your work are captured? What areas do you want to speak more about to increase awareness and educate your prospective customers? Write them on index cards. Then consider what format inspires you. Perhaps it is an FAQ or an article. Maybe it is a simple rack card or a web site. Remember, you get to choose how you will connect with your clients. Start with what is comfortable and enjoyable for you. As a side note, search engines rank web sites based on their information versus advertising. The bottom line, share your expertise and don’t worry about trying to find your uniqueness. It will come through your message.