The F Word – Focus

May 30, 2009

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of hearing Stephanie Ward of Firefly Coaching speak to my networking group, Connecting Women, about how to attract more clients in less time (tip you can download a free report on just this from her website). She had a packed house. It’s always the same when Steph comes to speak to us. She gets the highest attendance of the year. Always. Stephanie is a business coach who specialises in helping small businesses get more clients and make more profit. Did you get that? Stephanie helps small businesses get more clients and make more profit. Stephanie is a great example of someone who knows about the F word – Focus. According to the book ‘The Long Tail’ the successful businesses of the future all have focus, sometimes called a niche.

I can’t tell you how important this is. Whether you are writing a book, writing an article or own a business, it must have focus. It must fit a defined niche. If you can’t describe what you are doing in simple language in just one sentence, then it will be too confusing. If your book does not have focus, then a publisher won’t be clear what he’s buying. If your article does not have focus, then your editor won’t know where to put it in the magazine. And if your business does not have focus, then potential clients won’t know what they could be buying and your friends and contacts won’t know how to refer you to others.

But back to Stephanie. You see, one of the ways to attract more clients in less time is, of course, to have a defined niche. As I said earlier, twice, she has a very clear niche. Of course, as a business coach, she can do much more than just help small businesses to get more clients and make more profit, but she doesn’t tell everyone that. She sticks to her short and snappy message and lets people find out about the rest of her services for themselves.

At our meeting, the room was buzzing with people pleading to be given permission to hang on to a selection of services, but Stephanie was adamant.

‘I’m sorry,’ she said, shaking her head sadly, ‘but you just have to let some of those things go. You simply must have a niche.’ Being American, she pronounces the word ‘nitch’.

I’m sorry too, because I know she’s right and I have had to say goodbye to some of the services I have clung to for years. Remember last month’s Inspirer, when I talked about flogging a dead horse? Well, I know how hard it is to put some of those dead horses out to pasture. But since last month’s newsletter, and since Steph’s pep talk I have been sure to remember her advice. Not only in my business, but in every area of my work. I now answer the question ‘what do you do?’ with, simply, ‘I help people to write and publish their books.’

But focus is not just for business. When I’m helping a client to come up with a winning formula for a book with a wow factor I am careful to ensure that the idea can be described in one sentence. I’m working on the new brochure I’m developing that focuses on my newly-defined niche and I’m trying hard to keep my message short, clear and appealing. Further, when I watched the Apprentice the other week I took note of the fact that professional advertisers claim that the maximum number of words you should have on a poster is 10. Did you notice that Stephanie’s focussed business ‘offer’ also has 10 words?

Keeping focus is tough. But sometimes we have to be cruel to be kind. Just as writers have to learn to ‘murder their children’ and delete swathes of text in order to stay on track; just as we benefit from weeding our wardrobes and chucking out clutter every now and again; we all need focus.

So then, what do you think? Is focus your F word or could it perhaps be your new best friend?