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Here's the scenario: you're at a gathering, and you come across someone who would be a perfect client for your business. You engage in a conversation, and the inevitable question comes up, “What do you do?”

You get excited, your eyes light up. “This is it, this is my shot, I'll get him now!”

“Well, I am a small business coach,” you say as you anxiously wait for him to tell you how you are the answer to his prayers.

“Oh, I see… uh… I think I left the lights on in my car… uh… it was nice talking to you.”

And you watch your perfect client rush away to find someone else to talk to.

It's important that you communicate what you do in ways that help your prospective client understand that you are a solution to his problem. How you position yourself makes the difference between getting that deer-in-the-headlight look from your prospect—or having him ask you for more information.

Positioning revolves around your core marketing message, which clearly states who you work with, what problems you solve, what solutions you provide, what benefits you offer, what results you produce, what guarantee you give and what is unique and special about your service. Positioning is the foundation that you build the rest of your marketing upon.

Here are two things that you must not do when positioning:

  • Do not use your label. That is a sure-fire way of ending a conversation quickly. Don't tell someone, “I'm a coach.” (They will then say, “What team?”) When you open with your label, yet you conversation still continues, chances are that the other person is merely being polite.

  • Do not use the process. For instance, a coach might say, “I help people discover their excellence by co-creating the positive environment needed for a powerful conversation by having a two-way structured dialogical process that goes beyond basic listening skills and includes multilevel hearing and co-active interaction by the coach.”

When you, a business owner, communicate the process of what you do, you are not reaching your prospects because you're not communicating what's in it for them. Again, they will be confused and will run off as fast as they can.

Verbally package your services; be crystal-clear when you communicate, in a nutshell, what you can do for your prospective client. The one thing that you must do is this:

Communicate the problem, then the solution.

This approach works so well because people are living in, thinking about and totally immersed in their problems. So, if you relay a problem clearly and quickly and show that you do indeed understand it, you'll get their full attention in a heartbeat.

Be as specific as possible.

“I work with organizations that are facing the many challenges of the slow economy.” Will not get you the same result as “I work with small to midsize business owners who are struggling to get clients.” Now you're getting someone's attention.

Then you follow up with the flip side of the problem: the solution.

If you can now show through logic, examples, testimonials and case studies that you do indeed have a solid solution to your prospect's problem, you will get that person's ear… and business.

Here is an example of a good answer to “What do you do?”

Try this: “You know how a lot of small businesses struggle to find new clients? I have a service that guarantees them new clients.”


You've gotten their attention. You notice now that their body language changes. They lean toward you as they talk, and there is a warm glow in their eyes. You're speaking to a small business owner who happens to be struggling to find new clients. He asks you, “How do you help small businesses get clients?”

“Good question!” you say.

Again, I caution you to stay away from your process. Continue talking about the benefits that working with you provide.

The processes are for later… much later.

If you remember that this is about your customer, not about you, and you engage your prospects by asking connecting questions about their problems and linking them to the benefits of working with you, you will have the perfect opportunity to explore great business relationships.

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Irene Brooks is Founder and President of

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