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What To Do About Your Not Quite Right People

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Photo of woman in yellow trench coat walking with perplexed expression on her face by Helga's Lobster Stew courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

In this post about why your right people aren’t falling all over you {yet}, we talked about two as yet undefined groups: your almost right people and your wrong people who think they’re your right people.

Today we’re going to describe hallmarks of each group. Then we’re going to talk about how to get them out of your head so you can connect with more of your right people.

Your almost right people are the people it’s easiest to default to creating content for because they breathe the same air as you.

They might be the people you talk to most often, like your peers and mentors. {This is especially true if you don’t have many clients at the moment.} They’re the people you’re used to exploring ideas with, the people who are right there with you in your brain. You want their opinions on stuff. You trust their judgment implicitly.

But — and this is the key distinction that makes them your almost right people — they are not the people who need to buy your goods or services.

They are people you may love and adore, but they’re not buyers.

You can create content for your almost right people all day long, be impossibly awesome to them, and have them sharing and spreading your stuff every which way from Sunday, and still not get one cent richer.

{And if you weren’t in business to earn a livelihood, then that’d be okay. But you are in business to earn a livelihood, so you need to adjust your content creation strategy accordingly.}

The fix?

Start intentionally creating the conversation your right buyers need to have with you.

What do they and don’t they understand about what it takes, from your perspective? What are they looking to you for? {This goes back to the old don’t-take-what-you-know-for-granted axiom. So true!}

Yes, you can and should hold onto your almost right people.

They’re often terrific brand evangelists for you, singing your praises and touting your strengths wherever they go. Sometimes you can refer people out to them. Often, they have complementary strengths to yours and can serve your right people in ways you cannot {maybe you’re a graphic designer and you have a copywriter friend who thinks like you’d think if you were a copywriter}. So please keep your eye on your almost right people and keep them in your life.

But creating content for — i.e. “talking to” — your almost right people will keep your business in the same place it is today.

Now on to the second group, which is wholly more nefarious: your wrong people who think they’re your right people.

Your wrong people who think they’re your right people are the human equivalent of car horns that go off in the middle of lunch with a friend you really love, and you can’t quite refocus on the conversation at hand because you’re worried it could be your car going off.

Your wrong people don’t necessarily have bad intentions, but they would like you better if you were something and someone other than who you are. They either aren’t paying close enough attention to realize that you’re not talking to them, or they’re desperate for solutions, have already identified you as someone with great content, and are hoping that you’ll magically deliver exactly what they need in your signature style.

The problem with that?

You don’t want to do the stuff they want you to do. And even if you did, you wouldn’t want to do it for them.

Snobby perspective? Nah. You’ve got limited bandwidth and limited hours in the day to do what you do. You have to be choosy.

Your wrong people who think they’re your right people want you to give them Facebook tips, but you’re a coach who specializes in self-care for entrepreneurs. Your wrong people want you to create $17 products for them, but your brand archetype dictates that you need to be selling high price point programs. Your wrong people try to engage you in bawdy jesting on Twitter {yep, I just said ‘bawdy jesting’ — live it, love it, own it}, and that type of humor horrifies you.

Your wrong people try to extend you in ways that are profoundly uncomfortable for you because they’re not fully seeing you. They’re focused on their needs and desires and how you could meet them, not your strangely powerful talent, which is, as we know, where your extreme goodness resides.

Your wrong people are a dime a dozen. Your right people are a very precious, very select few who want you just as you are when you’re standing in your best, deepest, and truest message.

Here are a collection of statements you might hear from your wrong people:

  • “Have you ever thought about [insert some idea or activity you would never, ever dream of implementing because it’s so off-brand for you]? I would totally love that and I bet a lot of other people would, too.”
  • “Can you blog about [insert topic that is not a focus within your suite of ideas]?”
  • “Would you mind reading over this 5,000 word email and giving me your take on where I’m at and what I need to move forward?” [requests for free help are often indications of wrong people who think they’re your right people; your right people deeply get and respect the work you do and don’t ask you to deliver your livelihood-maker for free]

And don’t even get me started on whether you can convert your wrong people to being your right people. Or do get me started. We can talk about that some other time. But I’m pretty sure you already know which side of the fence I come down on that one.

So how do you get your almost right people and your wrong people out of your head when creating content?

Brand Editor’s note: Content includes site copy, blog posts, sales pages,
multimedia, products, services, Tweets, Facebook updates,
and all other social media marketing moves.

1. Develop an ideal client avatar {or two or three if that’s more appropriate for your biz model}. Be as curious about this person as you would be about a brilliant new friend or paramour. Spend time daily visualizing this right person and watching him move through his day. {I do this with my right client avatar all the time. Even though she’s imaginary, I’m pretty sure she follows me on Twitter.} Start evaluating your own digital consumption through his eyes, not just through yours.

2.  Figure out how where your ideal client is in relation to you, business or life journey-wise. Don’t make the mistake that your right person understands what you do about your subject area. Is your right person where you were last year at this time? Three years ago? Understanding where they are in relation to you allows you to position your content appropriately.

3. Deliver your offers to your right person with compassion and savvy. Talk to her in the way that’ll inspire her to respond. Her response might be leaving a comment on your blog, forwarding your e-newsletter to a friend, or {woot!} clicking your Buy It Now button. You know her. You know what gets her up off her sofa and into your world.

Questions? Observations? Let’s hash this out in the comments.

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Marlene Hielema March 28, 2011 at 10:37 pm

I never realized it until you put it this way Abby, but you’re so right, the not-quite-right people really do distract us from our goals. And, often they are our friends, so it’s hard not to appease them when they ask.

I’m printing this out so I can read it every morning for the next couple of weeks to get in ingrained in my brain. Thanks so much for your insight!

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Abby Kerr March 28, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Dude! Thank you! I love that this piece helped you get so clear. :)

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Erin March 28, 2011 at 10:53 pm

oh Abby, again with the words for things i’m struggling with – dealing with the wrong people who think they’re my right people isn’t just an entrepreneurial thing for me – i think it might be *the* major roadblock in every part of my life when I whittle it right down.

Those people can be so convincing that I should be doing something they want me to do – but whenever I would whine to myself ‘but they don’t *get* me’ I would feel….well, whiny. and selfish. it’s taken a long time to break that dynamic down for what it is and allow myself the freedom to *choose* who I work with, give to, connect to and interact with.

These words: “Your wrong people are a dime a dozen. Your right people are a very precious, very select few who want you just as you are when you’re standing in your best, deepest, and truest message.” create an image very similar to the one I hold in my body and visualize whenever I feel the temptation to diffuse my best self, my most potent aspects in order to be more palatable. The risk is delicious and divine once i’m in it – but I have needed something to anchor me to the value of taking it when I am unsure.

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Abby Kerr March 28, 2011 at 11:16 pm

an image very similar to the one I hold in my body and visualize whenever I feel the temptation to diffuse my best self, my most potent aspects in order to be more palatable. The risk is delicious and divine once i’m in it – but I have needed something to anchor me to the value of taking it when I am unsure.

Pretty sure you need to be blogging like this, Erin, if you’re not already. You have a beautiful way of translating your experience through imagery and emotion. Nope, not everybody thinks this way. :)

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Erin March 28, 2011 at 11:22 pm

well – I *do* blog, actually. It’s unclear to me whether I hit the marks I mean to when I start out. I find I aim much better when i’m responding to someone in particular than when i’m exploring ideas in the abstract. I’ve been thinking of making posts entirely of comments i’ve made elsewhere ;)

Eventually, I intend to hire you to read what i’m writing (the website I re write almost entirely everytime I gain a new insight from you) and tell me how it comes across to you – with all these pieces you’ve been fitting into place for me taken into consideration.

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Abby Kerr March 28, 2011 at 11:27 pm

Erin, your comments are rich enough to be blog posts unto themselves! Don’t hesitate to let other people’s posts inspire your own content and give a link back to the original post that inspired yours. Bloggers do that all the time. It becomes almost like an academic conversation — people referencing other people’s theses and then expanding, deepening, or countering them. {Which I love.} That’s part of the beauty of the blogosphere — its interconnectivity. You go! :)

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Abby Kerr March 28, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Oh, and when the time comes, I would love to work one-on-one with you.

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Jac March 28, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Hey Abby!

Your right-client avatar isn’t imaginary–she’s me :)!

I have been waiting for this post and didn’t even know it. You’ve just brought me so much clarity on the difference between my almost-right people and my right people and how to structure my content accordingly.

I had this aha where I can see how my right people are deep in conversation with me over on my Highland Coaching Facebook page but Twitter still feels more about my almost right-people {the brand evangelists helping me to raise my profile.} This clarification was *really* helpful.

Thanks so much for this juicy post!

xo Jac

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Abby Kerr March 28, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Three cheers for clarity and aha moments!!! {And three exclamation marks, apparently.}

I had a feeling this post would rock it for ya based on feedback you’ve given me on Twitter lately. I love that you can the divided camps between Twitter and Facebook, too. Totally comes in handy to see that for your future content creation. Strategy galore packed into that awareness!

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Abby Kerr March 28, 2011 at 11:18 pm

Make that “you can SEE the divided camps.”

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Abby Kerr March 28, 2011 at 11:18 pm

Make that “you can SEE the divided camps.”

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Nathalie Lussier March 29, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Abby this is pure genius. When I started my first business I wrote for my peers. Then I realized that they didn’t need my advice or my services, so I wrote for my potential customers. Amazing how silly it is to be focused on the wrong crowd, and how that can really slow your business down.

Now I’m working on the “not quite right” ones, because that’s something that I feel is always on my periphery. There is a lot of possibility and flexibility, but I need to be clear about what I want to offer and how. Thank you for this brilliant and amazingly written piece Abby!

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Abby Kerr March 29, 2011 at 6:40 pm

So glad this one helped you out, Nathalie. {Love your French-y spelling of that, BTW.}

Amazing how silly it is to be focused on the wrong crowd, and how that can really slow your business down.

I think this is something that so many of us do unintentionally. Like Pace & Kyeli say, it’s the usual error — assuming our right people are just like us. They often are, but they’re often the us from last year or a few year’s back.

Thanks for reading, Nath!

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Linda Eaves March 29, 2011 at 10:32 pm

“….assuming our right people are just like us. They often are, but they’re often the us from last year or a few year’s back.”

Exactly. I began a sentence with: “I would have been ripe for my services when I was ________.” I remember her well. She was rebuilding, fresh start, reclaiming herself and examining the ways she goes after what she wants. Ready to tweak things and find a better way.

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Abby Kerr March 30, 2011 at 12:33 am

Love that clarity, Linda. Sounds like you know her well and have great affection and compassion for where she is. :)

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Christy Bower March 29, 2011 at 9:53 pm

I wish my right people were just like me, but they’re not. I recently realized that the reason I feel some tension with my right people is because they need what I have to offer. That changes things.

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Abby Kerr March 30, 2011 at 12:34 am

I recently realized that the reason I feel some tension with my right people is because they need what I have to offer.

Ooh, interesting! Now your challenge is, how to talk to them in a way they’ll hear it?

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Smiley August 27, 2014 at 11:00 pm

Thanks for that! It’s just the answer I neddee.

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Tara Swiger March 29, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Oh goodness sakes, YES!
I’ve had the Wrong People try to insert themselves into my business and oy! So frustrating! It shakes me (not because I think they’re right) because I worry that I’m doing something *really* wrong to attract them.

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Abby Kerr March 30, 2011 at 12:36 am

Good awareness, Tara. I, too, was attracting wrong people for a while and it was a big awakening for me to realize that I was not-so-subtly sending messages to them that they WERE my right people. Had to take a good look at my business’s voice. When I shifted to writing in my purest, strongest voice, everything readjusted.

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Ali Mac March 30, 2011 at 10:11 am

This is fascinating, Abby. I have struggled with the ‘right people’ concept as I’m not sure I have enough experience chalked up with the truly right people to be able to discriminate.

However, I’ve had a mini-epiphany. I was reading something Catherine Caine wrote over on Copyblogger and it occurred to me that my right people might be (might! i’m experimenting!) people who are terribly rational and logical. I work a lot with scientists, and it strikes me that one of the things I’m doing for them is bringing in knowledge of what makes ‘ordinary’ people tick and how to communicate with them in a way that’s warm and productive. I like scientists (I’m married to one, I used to be one, and I work with science organisations) and I had thought this was all about science communication, but I think I’m bringing a set of skills which scientists often don’t develop very well. Also computer programmers.

I may be barking up the wrong tree, but this is making me think…

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Abby Kerr March 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Hi, Ali — Feels to me like you’re on to something. What you’re talking about are psychographics {as Catherine Caine talks about} and those are much better indicators than demographics {i.e. scientists, men ages 40 and over}. For instance, when it comes to my right person, her demographics are incidental to her psychographics.

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Linda Eaves March 30, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Thanks for the reminder, I wanted to read CCaine’s copyblogger post.

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Abby Kerr March 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Hi, Ali — Feels to me like you’re on to something. What you’re talking about are psychographics {as Catherine Caine talks about} and those are much better indicators than demographics {i.e. scientists, men ages 40 and over}. For instance, when it comes to my right person, her demographics are incidental to her psychographics.

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Abby Kerr March 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Hi, Ali — Feels to me like you’re on to something. What you’re talking about are psychographics {as Catherine Caine talks about} and those are much better indicators than demographics {i.e. scientists, men ages 40 and over}. For instance, when it comes to my right person, her demographics are incidental to her psychographics.

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Treyz Social Media April 4, 2011 at 5:12 am

Thank you so much for writing about your “almost right person” and “wrong person”! You see, I had this very situation last week and I got freaked out. We have a team of two in my business, and my business partner said, “I don’t feel right about this client.” And I freaked. We were TURNING DOWN BUSINESS!

But the potential client was getting so needy, wanting more and more work on our part, (for free) such as the names and emails and phone numbers of references, (even though we have 20 years of combined experience with hundreds of sites to our names and they are listed on our websites) and they wanted a total breakdown of what they needed to do to merge their site with wordpress, and other things, and we set a deadline for when our proposal would expire, and THEY PASSED IT.

So we emailed them, and verbatim, said, “hey, it seems we’re a bit busy at the moment, deadline passed, and we can’t work with you, lots of other clients that need our attention, best of luck,”

And then all hell broke loose, they emailed back and said, “NEVER IN ALL MY LIFE have I gotten such an email, you probably don’t HAVE references, you need to be more flexible, we will CERTAINLY be going with a local person from now on” blah blah blah.

So I am so so so happy you talked about almost right people and wrong people masquerading as right people, because it was clear after this completely nutso email that this particular person was not operating with a full deck and that working with them would have been a nightmare from start to finish and we probably wouldn’t have even gotten paid. And the entire proposal was under $3,000, to give you the scope of how small it was.

Thank you. I feel so much better after reading your blog post.

Mazarine

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Abby Kerr April 4, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Hey, Mazarine —

Thanks for your comment. Wow — those wrong people can sure show just how wrong for us they are, can’t they? ;)

Some editorial commentary here: it’s not that we expect our right people to NEVER take issue with us or that our work with them will ALWAYS go smoothly and delightfully, but you and I both know that when we ARE working with our right people, it’s usually pretty smooth sailing. They appreciate us and the way we do business.

Glad you made it through this experience and learned something great in the process!

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Anonymous October 14, 2011 at 12:41 am

I am so glad that I found this.   It seems like I am afraid of my right people.   The people who actually spend money.   It seems like I keep surrounding myself with the almost right people because we have the same ideals.   The thing is if I am going to make money and eat something other then peanut butter and jelly.  I need to focus on the right people.   I need to stop caring about what my peers think.   Thanks so much for this post.   I can’t wait to read more.

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Abby Kerr October 14, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Hi, Anika —

Thank you so much for this heartfelt comment. I can totally relate to how much easier is to just keep talking to those almost right people. The *upside* of that is cameraderie and connection, and probably a great base of referrals, which is an AWESOME asset.

And — I checked out your site, Anika. Beautiful. Wishing you *so* much success and fun along the way. :)

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Kristen November 6, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Abby – do you think that your “right” client has to be a specific moment in time behind you on the journey? I was thinking that pretty much anyone “behind” me (or who knows different stuff than I have learned) would be my customers…that may be too vague…hmmm

Also – I am finding it a bit daunting right now to go out in search for them, because I know so many not right, almost right, and flat out critics will be out there trying to stop me from reaching them – scary!

Anyway, thanks for the article! Wonderful thoughts! I would like to print and hang too ;)

Kristen

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abby November 6, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Kristen, great question about where your Right Person is on his or her journey as opposed to where you are on yours. I think the idea that you need to be ahead of or deeper than your Right Person around the problems you help solve — this is very much true IF your business is built around an expression of your personal journey, which not all businesses are, at least not explicitly. (In other words, not all businesses are designed around the proposition, I solved this problem for myself, and now I can help you solve it in your own life. But if yours is, it’s difficult to help people solve problems you haven’t yet solved for yourself!)

So I think your ability to identify your client’s phase of readiness or awareness in the arc of their journey is very important, and it’s the first step. The second step is getting really clear on the habits of mind and behavior that drive this person every day. Who is she really beyond the problem(s) you help her solve; how does he show up in the world?

It’s an in-depth exploration, that’s for sure. Glad you’re here, and thanks for participating in this convo. :)

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Kristen November 7, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Thanks Abby! :)

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abby November 7, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Thank you, Kristen. And thanks for your email. We’ll be responding to you shortly.

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