I’ve noticed a recurring theme in many conversations with EJ Insiders. Everyone has questions about how to reach their audience.
While this is an important question, it’s absolutely vital that you answer another question BEFORE you head out and build your audience.
That question is…
What Is Your Big Idea?
Your “Big Idea” is the defining core message that you stand for, which all your key marketing efforts draw upon.
It’s the concept that you derive all your headlines from, which you use on optin boxes on your blog and on standalone landing pages.
It defines your elevator pitch, what you tell people you do when you meet them in person. It’s where your blog slogan comes from, that short sentence or two that explains what your blog is about. It’s also guides everything you say during podcast interviews, on live webinars, and when talking on stage.
Your Big Idea is similar to a USP (unique selling proposition), a term popularised 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.
How To Come Up With Your Big Idea
Everyone in the EJ Insider operates in a market and offers a solution to a problem.
Whether you are like Eileen helping woman with breast cancer, orTracy teaching new tow truck drivers, Matthias guiding families to discover trail walking, Robert coaching children to become better gymnasts, Jenny helping people remodel kitchens or Dan showing bike riders how to get quicker on the track,… we all need to represent a Big Idea to our audiences.
To refine and define your Big Idea there are two key 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 a problem currently.
If you asked a person who is your target audience what they have done already to try and solve their problem, these are the answers they will give you.
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 (won a medal at the olympics).
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 (and you can hear him talk about it during the interview I did with him for 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 so different from how things are now demand attention, especially if they are tied into a desirable outcome a lot of people want.
How Does Your Idea Make People Feel?
It's important when considering the elements that make up your big idea that you factor in two outcomes:
- There is the practical, tangible outcome you help people gain
- There is the feeling they experience as a result of being exposed to your message
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 too. 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 presents about you and your personality, adds flavour – feelings – to your Big Idea.
Start With A Headline
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 to become clearer to you.
To begin with I recommend you focus on creating a powerful headline, which you can use on your optin forms.
Each headline you write is an extension 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 to keep up with the news was the average life of a blogger. A few bloggers actually died because they stopped sleeping for days at a time!
Even my peers 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 popularised 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.
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 Big Idea headline I used was this –
I wanted to show people how to build a 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.
This idea was how I stood out at the time, showing that blogging could be a low labour business, if you follow the right model.
Bear in mind this only represented a part of the whole Big Idea. Other concepts like quitting your job, travelling for as long as you like, creating true freedoms in your life, all are components of the Big Idea I draw upon in all my content.
Now It's Your Turn
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.
For your first headline, keep in mind that 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.
Once you come up with a headline I encourage you to share it with us as a comment reply to this article. This is one area where feedback from other people helps tremendously.
Your Big Idea is going to take time to crystallise. Don't feel that you have to rush it, but always keep it in mind whenever you do any marketing. If you are going to stand out and make an impression people remember, you need a big idea.