That’s a question we all get asked a lot.
At conferences or networking events we might get asked it several times in a couple of days.
Do you have a good answer?
For most of my career, I struggled to come up with a clear answer. I’d often give a long, rambling answer that talked about the places I had worked, my specializations, my favorite sports…yadda, yadda. You get the picture.
Most of us answer this vital question poorly every day.
I like coffee in the morning. I appreciate when someone puts extra effort into making a good cup of coffee. Most of us put more effort into making coffee or putting on makeup than we do in telling others what we do.
It’s important for us to be able to clearly communicate to people what we do in a sentence or two. It can make the difference between a successful practice and one not so much.
I don’t mean an elevator speech or a Shark Tank sales pitch. I mean authentic, sincere explanation of what you do and who for.
If you were a website, what would the tagline be?
Don’t you think that is more important than a Starbucks latte?
This is where I think it begins.
“Therapy makes people’s lives better”
That’s what therapists do. We make people’s lives better. If people don’t get better in some way then therapy hasn’t worked.
That’s what great therapists do. They fundamentally make people’s lives better. It might consist of relieving some form of physical or emotional pain. It may be helping someone function better than they did before.
That transformation creates a tremendous amount of value. It’s what I keep coming back to over and over again.
- “How do I make my patient’s lives better?”
- “How do I make my referral source’s lives better?”
- “How do I make my co-worker’s lives better?”
Clarity around this simple statement forces us to answer a couple of other key questions.
Whose life can you make better?
Getting really clear about who you’re going to help changes everything.
Now when I say who, you’re probably thinking about a specific patient type, diagnosis or demographic. Demographics are what people look like on the outside.That’s not what I’m talking about.
In today’s consumer-centric healthcare system it’s far more interesting and helpful to think about psychographics. What does that person believe? What are their desires and dreams? What are they afraid of? Whom do they trust?
This is where inexperienced therapists make mistakes all the time. They think they can help everyone. They think everyone should think like they do. Know what they know. They get frustrated when people don’t want what they can do.But people don’t know what we know and believe the same things we do.
Experienced therapists focus on the people that share a similar worldview and whom they can make better.
Now that you’ve done the hard work of narrowing down who you feel called to help.
“How do you make their lives better?”
The first and most important responsibility of any healer is to make the right diagnosis. Without the right diagnosis, any subsequent treatment will be ineffective. Our first task as healers is to know our patients as best we can. Their ups and downs, pleasures and sorrows, beliefs and values and their problems that have brought them to this point in their lives.
This is no easy task because we must face not only our patient’s pain but our own as well. It’s much easier to bypass deeper issues to offer our advice and treatments without truly getting to know the wounds that need healing.
It’s easy to justify maintaining a “professional distance” to deal only with patients mechanical or medical problem. Because it’s our job to help people, we need people to let us do our jobs. When we approach our role as a healer in this way it’s really about making our lives better.
What I’m asking for is a little bit of humility and perspective.
Retaining our humanity helps us to see our work as a form of service to our fellow human beings. We are all patients in need of help in one way or another.
Dig a little deeper and think about the different ways you can make people’s lives better. It’s not just about what you know, your advice or your manual skills. It’s about making people’s quality of existence better because you’ve crossed paths.
So we’ve come full circle, back to our original question.
“So, what do you do?”
Here’s a short exercise I use with my coaching clients to help them develop brand clarity for their practice.
1. Take out a sheet of paper. Write two or three sentences to each of these questions
- How do you make people’s lives better?
- Whom do you feel called to serve?
- What promise are you making?
2. Sign up for a free account on Strikingly.com
3. Create a webpage that illustrates what you’re trying to communicate, Keep it simple. Focus on keywords. Use images that make your point.
4. Show your webpage to 3 people who are not friends. Write down their reactions, questions, where they click, listen for their honest feedback.
5. Rinse and repeat the process until you’re satisfied with your branding experiment.
6. Share your findings with someone whose farther down the path than you. Listen to their advice. Put it into action.
Feel free to send me a link to your website to email@example.com for my impressions. Glad to help.
Let’s do this!
“So what do you do?”
“You know how kids who have special needs struggle with everyday things? (pause) Well, I help make their lives a little easier…and usually their parents, too!”
…It took me a LONG time to come up with that. It used to be: “I own a pediatric occupational and physical therapy clinic and we work with children who have special needs to improve their quality-of-life.” GAHHH! (And this is the improved version from even earlier days where I tried to insert the “how we do that” into the elevator pitch.) Now, I don’t even mention the OT or the PT unless that first bit hooks the listener. If it doesn’t, then they don’t particularly care, and I don’t want to waste their time, or my breath. Because pediatric therapy is its own animal, and it DOES take a lot of words–sentences–a conversation, usually–to explain it enough for someone to get the flavor of it.
Thank you for your post, Paul. I’ve followed you for a while.
Kris Dickinson, MS, OTR/L
Your conversation starter is wonderful. Great work. I’m compelled to ask “Tell me more.”
I’m helping an OT to launch a wholistic peds practice on her acreage (horses included). Your simple yet extremely effective answer will inspire her.
Thanks for contributing and being a part of the community.