Don’t knock people for describing something in the negative; what it’s not. Sometimes that’s easier. Or just more relevant to the present moment.
It’s a good place to start defining.
1. A 1st grade teacher revealed her mantra. Not her actual mantra but the thing she had to say several times a week at her work: “What you need to understand is that this is not a daycare“. That was the thing parents often needed to hear. It was also easier than describing what a kindergarden actually is, off the cuff, in response to being asked to perform parenting tasks.
2. The doorperson at the British Library once told me: this is not a reading library for the general public (don’t worry, I eventually gained access; another story for another day). There was no need to describe what the British Library actually is, a one-of-its-kind research library, just the need to fend off my grubby fingers off the collection.
3. I once heard a Flamenco singer say, “What am I, a jukebox?”. (“Yo que soy, una tocadisca?”). She actually was a professional singer. She generously liked to informally perform, though, for her friends; she might even take a request or two. But don’t push it, was her point.
In these instances, people found it easier to say, “this is what I’m not”.
Eventually, you also need to say what you actually are, what you actually make, and what you actually do (are all three the same question?).
But first, let’s focus on the negative.
11 Negative Questions
- Who is it not for? What people think they would benefit from it – but they’re wrong?
- What is it not for? What do clients, partners, and others mistakenly assume it’s for? How is it mis-used?
- When someones uses it, what’s an outcome that you would not define as successful?
- What do others (partners, investors, parents, journalists, anyone) mistakenly assume to be your audience worldview?
- What are members of your audience overconfident or mistaken about?
- What untrue story can you tell about your organization or the things you do/make?
- What will your thing do nothing to fix, change, or improve?
- Let’s say your audience receives or uses your thing but that doesn’t change your status. Why did no change in your status occur?
- Who would be the last people to adopt your product, service, or content? Who would not be early adopters?
- If they hated your product or service or content, what would early adopters tell their friends, family, and colleagues about it?
- If your customers or audience members congregate somewhere (physically or virtually) but don’t talk about you, then why not? Why don’t they mention you?
Answer these questions and you are well one your way to be able to speaking fluidly about your business.
You’ll be able to specify who it’s for, what it does, how it changes your audience, what their worldview is, what their truths are, the true story you can tell them, how it changes some (small) part of society, how all this affects your status, who your first adopters are, what they tell others, and what your audience says about you when they come together.