How to talk about what you do with people who don’t get it

By Brittany Taylor

My dad’s office has been packed with women’s shoes since before I was born. His first job as a teenager was selling shoes at J.C. Penney. Now, he runs his own company. The best thing about it (aside from the free shoes) was Career Day.

Some of my friends’ parents were doctors. One was a pilot for Delta. There’s an up-front cool-factor with obvious professions, but after the initial “I save lives” pronouncement, the presentation is boring. Every kid has seen a stethoscope.

But when my dad got up and plunked a series of bizarre things on those bitty little elementary school desks, kids leaned forward. What the heck is that hunk of wood? Oh, it’s a last. And this metal thing? It’s a shank. And this inside-out shoe is what your shoe looked like, once upon a time. My dad opened eyes. He’s just cool like that.

The difference between talking process…and not

Back when I was a kid, Dad traveled a lot to shoe factories in China to over-see production. When you tell your friends’ parents that your dad is in China and they ask why and you say, “Oh, he’s in the shoe business,” you get used to the raised eyebrow/change of conversation topic combo.

I used to get that look a lot now when I explain my business to non-business people. It didn’t matter how many times I revised my elevator speech or my job title, all I got in return was a few blinks and a pivot to the weather.

The problem wasn’t that they didn’t understand the words “content” and “strategy.” The problem was that they had no frame of reference for what is involved in my craft. They didn’t know what a content strategist or a web copywriter did, period.

If I wanted them to grasp my work, I needed to break it down for them. I needed to lay out my process.

Suddenly, there was clarity. Nods instead of rapid blinking! Questions about my clients! Requests for business cards! Boom. I was in business.

What had changed? By walking through my process, they realized that I wasn’t a girl who sat at her computer all day and strung sentences together. In their eyes, I became a business woman whose writing job was more about strategy than thumbing through a thesaurus. They were impressed by the amount of unseen effort and careful decisions that went into my work.

Guys, the process has always been there. When I started communicating it, though, I achieved a new level of respect and admiration and interest from other business owners.

Sound dreamy? Want some of that? Read on to get in on the good stuff.

Why you need to talk about what you do to support your value

When I say “process,” I’m talking about taking your audience behind the scenes of your business. What does it look like to be you, the boss? How do you go from a consultation to a final result? What goes into a coaching package to make it worth thousands of dollars?

Think of it this way: Your business is like a big old oak tree

There’s the stuff above the ground—the trunk, the branches, the leaves—that everyone can see. But below the ground and beneath the bark and in the cells of each leaf are where the important work happens. You can’t see the tree suck up water or turn light into energy, but you know it happens because that tree is thriving.

But let’s say you didn’t know about all the science-y stuff that makes trees grow. Let’s say you’re 5 years old and all you know is that this big old oak tree has been in your yard since you were born. It’s not impressive. It’s not unusual. It’s not valuable. It’s just there.

This 5-year-old is your average audience member. They have no clue about the inner workings of your business, what it takes to transform their life. For all they know, you wave a magic wand and voila! Stuff just happens.

You need to take them under your wing, like a parent would a child, and explain the intricacies of your work. That’s the only way they can learn to value not just the end result but the process necessary to achieve it. And that, friends, it why you need to talk about what you do.

I firmly believe process is a key factor in value

There is a difference between a logo designer who takes your business name, asks you a few questions, and fiddles around in Canva; and a brand developer who mood boards your business and gives you multiple directions and works with you on taglines and different mark displays and brand colors and typography.

There is difference between a running coach who checks in with you weekly and offers motivational tips, and one who tracks your workouts in real time, sends you custom food plans, and collaborates with nutritionists and physical therapists to give you the best possible advice.

There is a difference between a corporate training consultant who flies in for a prepared workshop and flies right back out, and a consultant who builds a custom curriculum for your company and checks in regularly to retrain and tweak the program.

There is a difference

But there’s only one way for you to communicate this difference to your audience, and that is to get out there and tell them exactly what you do and exactly how you do and exactly what the results are for your clientele.

action plan

How can you bring your process into play?

There is no such thing as one right way to do anything.

That’s why I’ve come up with 10 ideas for how you can start talking up your working process to your audience, starting right this second. I dare you to put one into effect today, before you stop working, before you close that laptop. It’s so doable—if I can do it, you can, too.

  • On your website
  • On your blog (or as a guest blogger)
  • Over email
  • Through video (think: YouTube, Periscope, Blab, and webinars)
  • On a podcast (whether you’re hosting or guesting)
  • On Pinterest
  • On Twitter
  • On Facebook
  • On Instagram
  • When you on-board potential clients

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- Brittany Taylor