Think of a movie or television star…
…Now think of the movie or show they are most known for.
(Arnold Schwarzenegger = Terminator, David Schwimmer = Friends, Kate Winslet = Titanic, Julia Roberts = Pretty Woman)
Next think of an author. What book are they best known for?
(Elizabeth Gilbert = Eat, Pray, Love, Paulo Coelho = The Alchemist, Roald Dahl = Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
Most well known creative people have a huge body of work, but there’s frequently one big break out success that they become known for far above everything else.
Humans are good at association. We remember things by connecting a person with an event or an experience we had with them or their work, often referred to us by another human being.
We like to compartmentalize too. It makes it easier for recollection and transmission to other human beings. We put things into ‘boxes’ in our brains with simple labels we can easily share with others when asked.
As an entrepreneur, your business success also comes down to one big idea that you and/or your business is associated with, and eventually can become famous for (at least within your industry).
In my experience coaching new online entrepreneurs, one of the greatest challenges is clarity around their big idea.
Most people feel they have many positive attributes they could lead with, or interests they would like to explore. Hence they’re not comfortable narrowing to something they see as too small to represent everything they can do (or everything they want to do).
As a result, they end up going out to the world with a very broad generic message, like “we can help you lose weight” or “find direction in your life” or “make money in real estate“.
As you can probably tell, these are not big ideas. These are generic ideas, messages that literally thousands of other people out there also use.
The end result is getting lost in the crowd, struggling to get any attention or customers, and eventually closing up shop.
I don’t want you to go down that path.
Hence you need to come up with your own ‘Big Idea’, one that you are prepared to become associated with and shout to the world.
This is so important. Not only is your Big Idea your point of differentiation from competition and the key to standing out in a crowded space, it becomes a guiding force behind everything you do…
Your Big Idea is similar to a USP (unique selling proposition), a term popularized by the advertising industry. USP started as a methodology for positioning a product in the minds of consumers against competing products.
Your Big Idea is also a part of your overall vision. Your vision is the concept you want to share, the ‘dent in the universe’ you want to make, as Steve Jobs so eloquently put it. Your vision is about spreading your Big Idea as far as you can take it.
Your Big Idea is the ultimate positioning tool. It provides a clear platform for you to stand on that is unique from everyone else. It defines what you offer to people, and is present in everything you do online for your business.
The interesting thing about a Big Idea is you don’t decide exactly how it spreads. Your audience and customers, the people you impact, will ultimately decide the words used, because they will communicate it to other people for you.
You know it’s working when people talk about you, recommend you, and when they do so, it’s very clear what you stand for. Your audience grows organically and customers preselect you (and your products) as clear solutions to specific problems.
You have some degree of control of course, because every time you write any words to market your business, your Big Idea is in there, either explicitly or implicitly. Having clarity around what it is, makes the marketing process so much easier because it gives you an idea to stand on, to represent, to share.
To get this process started, your job is to present your Big Idea in very clear, specific messaging, with a solid understanding of the environment you operate in and people you are communicating with.
Start with these two steps…
Step 1: Identify accepted practice in your industry
The best place to start when defining your Big Idea is to look at what is already occurring in your industry.
What are accepted practices, habits, sources of information or how people go about solving the problem currently.
If you asked a person who is a member of your target audience what they have done already to try and solve their problem, the answers they give you tell you what is current accepted practice (whether it works or not is not as important as knowing what people think is the answer).
Step 2: Identify what is unique about you and/or your solution
The next step is to find a point of contrast about what you do compared to everyone else. You look for unique aspects of your system, your methodology, your story, your way of communicating – something that is not common, that stands out and will make people pay attention.
You’re looking for an angle to tell a story from, to present compelling facts that cut through the normal ideas in an industry.
You might have unique technology (Dyson’s bagless vacuum cleaners), or a special technique (Tony Horton’s ‘muscle confusion’ in P90X), or have lived through a powerful experience (George Forman won gold at the olympics and was a two time world champion boxer, making his cooking grill special).
You can tap into scientific studies to back up your claims (eat fewer carbs to lose weight), or wrap it around a compelling idea (eat like our ancestors – the Paleo diet).
Bear in mind you likely offer the same outcome as someone else in your industry. There are a lot of diets each with their own unique spin on the same thing – how to lose weight. The outcome in this case matters, but it’s what is unique about your way of delivering the outcome that gives you the powerful message, the Big Idea.
The two step process I have just presented to you leverages a concept known as ‘counterintuitive marketing’.
I was first exposed to this idea by Rich Schefren (you can hear him talk about it during his interview in my Exclusive Interviews Club).
Rich gave the example of counterintuitive marketing with this phrase –
How To Lose Weight By Eating More Food And Exercising Less
This is a brilliantly simple example of counterintuitive marketing. It’s a powerful headline that goes so far against accepting practice that you have to know more.
On top of going against what is common knowledge, it also appears like a far superior option too. You can eat more and lose weight? That sounds too good to be true, I have to take a look at this.
As you can imagine, when you have a really powerful counterintuitive Big Idea, you can take it to media outlets and instantly get exposure. What is unique, new, and dramatically different from how things are now demands attention, especially if they are tied into a desirable outcome a lot of people want.
It’s important when considering the elements that make up your Big Idea that you factor in two outcomes:
A Big Idea taps into emotion. It’s a movement, a cause, something strong enough to stir action.
You might be helping people lose weight, but you are doing it so no more children have to go through the pain of losing a parent to obesity related death.
The way you communicate is a significant factor. Since you deliver the message, how you present it will impact the emotions your audience feel when exposed to your work.
This is why as bloggers we do so well writing in our own ‘voice’ and sharing aspects of our lives through platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Your voice, writing style and everything that shares your personality, adds flavour – feelings – to your Big Idea.
The Big Idea might seem like an abstract concept, and in some ways it is.
You’re working towards refining an idea that represents something simple at its core – solving a problem for people – but wrapping it up in a unique system, with a powerful emotional story.
It will take time to refine your Big Idea and find the best language to present it. As you learn more about your audience and your industry, how you can best stand out and find your unique place of service, will evolve and become clearer to you.
To begin with I recommend you focus on creating one powerful headline, which you can use on your email optin forms.
Each headline you write is an summation of your Big Idea – it represents a part of it, a narrowing of focus to highlight elements that will help you grab attention and stand out.
Years ago I was working on my first key headline to use on my email optin forms and as the tagline for my Blog Profits Blueprint free report.
At the time blogging was hitting the mainstream, with lots of news coverage about bloggers making money. I noticed a trend in the stories about how hard bloggers were working to make a living. Twelve hour days spent writing ten to twenty blog posts was the ‘formula’ most bloggers at the time followed. A few bloggers actually died because they stopped sleeping for days at a time!
Even my peers back then like Darren Rowse (problogger.com) and Brian Clark (copyblogger.com) wrote about blogging being hard work and not a passive source of income.
Bear in mind this was before Tim Ferriss popularized the idea of a 4-Hour Workweek (a great example of a Big Idea!), so people were not talking about low labour online income methods much back then (‘Lifestyle Business’ was not a well worn phrase yet).
It just so happened that like Tim, I was following the 80/20 Rule. I had created a blog that made a full-time income, but I was only writing once or twice a week.
I had taken the smart step to become an email marketer along with my blog, which gave me much more leverage than other bloggers at the time who relied solely on lots of traffic to up their page-view count to make money from advertising.
Consequently, the first headline I used was this –
I wanted to show people how to build a Laptop Lifestyle blog business, something that could earn $100,000 a year or more, but once up and running only required an hour or two to maintain.
The accepted practice in the industry was to work long hours writing lots of blog posts every day and then you might make a full time living. My Big Idea was you can write one blog post a week, spend two hours a day on your business, and still make a full time income.
People were naturally curious what was different about what I taught that could require so much less time. I had the business model thanks to email marketing added to blogging to back up this claim (and yes to maintain my income at that level really did only take a couple of hours a day).
Around the same time as I worked on this first headline I began to see many other examples of Big Ideas in my own industry and how famous these people and concepts were becoming.
Jeff Walker had his ‘Product Launch Formula‘. Rich Schefren had his ‘Internet Business Manifesto’ including a ground breaking flow chart, Mike Filsaime had ‘Butterfly Marketing‘, while Ed Dale and Frank Kern had the ‘Under Achiever Method‘. Today I can think of more examples like Ryan Levesque’s ‘Ask Method‘, Navid Moazzez and ‘Virtual Summit Mastery‘, and Nathan Chan’s ‘Instagram Domination‘.
Some of these Big Ideas simply ride on the back of new platforms (Instagram), others took what was accepted beliefs (start a business online by yourself and make passive income) and completely rocked them (Rich Schefren’s flow chart showing that it was a completely false idea and he had a better one).
I’d like you to sit down and think about everything I covered in this article. Jot down concepts, ideas, words and phrases that describe what you do, how you do it, emotions, stories and outcomes for your audience.
Your Big Idea will be fuzzy at first. Over time it will become clearer and clearer. You will start to rely on certain stories and concepts that you share over and over again in all kinds of online media to spread your message, all representing that one Big Idea.
Next I recommend you work on your first headline born from that Big Idea.
Remember specifics matter. Things like numbers, time frames, names of people and places, objects, products, brands, popular culture labels and news events are critical ingredients for a powerful headline. When you write a word or phrase, ask yourself if there is a more specific word or phrase you could use instead.
You can then use this headline as your email optin offer in landing pages and on your blog. Hopefully this will take you down a path to more and better headlines, each helping you present your Big Idea to the world in a more concise and powerful way.
Stick at this long enough and you might find one day what you do, and what you sell, become synonymous with a certain idea. That idea will spread, with you and your business, bringing new customers and opportunities with it.
Coming up with Big Ideas for marketing is not easy. It can take years, especially if marketing is not something you have practiced.
You need to synthesize a lot of information together, then attempt to come up with powerful words to convey your ideas. This requires you combine entrepreneurship, advertising, marketing, copywriting and a whole host of other skills together. Even if you are used to these things (as I am), it is still difficult. I anguish over every headline and title I write, wanting to be concise, clear, yet have a breakthrough idea.
When you get it right though, amazing things can happen. Just one good Big Idea can carry you very far. Many of the examples I’ve laid out in this article have led to multi-million dollar businesses, which would not have happened if the Big Idea wasn’t present to help them cut through the noise and garner exposure.
I’d like to offer you my help. I just opened the doors to my membership coaching community called ‘The Laptop Lifestyle Academy‘.
It’s one part mentoring, one part education and one part community.
In the context of you finding and refining your Big Idea, you get to speak to me whenever you need help. I run coaching webinars every month, plus you have access to a membership community and live Slack Chat for members only.
All of this comes as part of your membership in the Laptop Lifestyle Academy for a low monthly or annual fee.
I’ll see you inside the Academy.
Talk to you soon,
Refining Big Ideas