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Twenty Questions to Help You Define Your Signature Program

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    I designed these questions to help you think through developing your signature program.  

    Invariably when I start talking to people about their signature program they tell me that “this isn’t how it works in,” whatever industry they happen to be working in.

    We have all been trained to be broad and to appeal to everyone. But a scalable business starts narrow.

    Focus is the difference between working hard at a job you create for yourself and creating a business that you can grow, mold, and use to achieve your objectives.

    Remember that the signature program fits your business. It is directly related to your mission and helps you achieve your vision.  This is the product that your business delivers. 

    And, yes, all businesses deliver products. In a service business a product is your repeatable service that you have defined clearly and know how to deliver effectively.

    So on to the 20 questions

    1. Question one: How do you / will you make money? Clearly and precisely identify your sources of revenue. These are your broad service offerings, such as bookkeeping and tax for an accountant or estates and trusts for a lawyer.

    Question one is a broad stroke and from here we work on getting more narrow. Start by understanding whom you serve.  

    You deliver a product to a customer/client.  Your business may have many different products that you sell to many distinct customers, but you must define them very specifically.  Fewer products is better.

    These next questions are essential because they help you put your customer front and center.  All marketing is to people, and people only buy transformation, so we start by defining the transformation then get into the how.  

    2. Who is your ideal customer, the person who will buy the services you offer? Think about your favorite customer, perhaps somone you have worked with in the past or someone you know has the problem you solve.

    3. What is the problem you are solving for ideal client? 

    4. How will your character transform as a result of working with you?  Define the before state and after state in terms of what they have and feel and how they define themselves.  Use the before and after sheet to explain this clearly.  

    Now think about how you productize your offering: 

    5. What are the specific services within the scope of question one that you offer? 

    6. How can you break your offering down into component pieces? Bookkeeping might consist of paying bills, categorizing transactions, reconciling accounts, and preparing financial statements.  If the answer to question one is the headline, these are sub-headlines.

    7. What is your detailed process to deliver each of these services? A common mistake is to “do” accounting.  The service itself is not well defined, so you end up redefining the service every time you deliver it.  The alternative is a well defined, repeatable process. 

    8. What effort do you need to deliver the process you identified in question 4? This is the work that you or your team have to put into delivery and the additional resources you may need to apply.  

    9. What resources/tools do you require to deliver the services? There are tools, partners, and even machines you need to do your work.  


    Questions eight and nine will help you understand your standard cost. The next challenge is to give some thought to how this typical cost changes:  

    10. What predictable variables impact this delivery time? These are all of the known, definable variables that impact delivery.  Continuing with the bookkeeping example, this might include the number of accounts and the number of transactions.  These are the things you can measure upfront.

    11. What unpredictable variables impact this delivery time?  These are the identifiable unknowns: how the client will react, how many revisions they will want, etc.  There isn’t much you can do about these now, but you can understand them and measure them.  This will be part of how you evaluate profitability and decide whether a client or project is right for you.   

    12. Considering questions 8-11, what is your cost, and how will this change? 

    Now the question is how you will price your product.

    Price does not depend on cost; price depends on the value that you offer your customer and the competition.  

    13.  What would it cost your customer to do this themselves?

    14. What is the value of what you provide?  More than the cost, what are you enabling?  How important is the transformation that you are offering? 

    15. How much do your competitors charge?  This is not something you want to obsess over but rather try to get a general idea of what what the market price is.  If you are offering a product for $1000 that people can easily find for $100, then you will have to justify the difference.  

    16. Reflecting on questions 13 – 15, what will you charge? 

    Then think about how you will attract people to your product: 

    17. How will you attract your customer?  Based on who they are, where do they get their information?  How can you build a presence in that space?  

    18. How will you convert them from knowing who you are and being interested in what you offer to being a customer?

    19.  How will you continue the relationship?  

    Then there is the question of motivation

    20. Finally: what will keep you from developing and delivering this product?  

    Honestly, the rest is easy. This is the real challenge because it feels like you are reducing your market and limiting your opportunity. But the truth is the opposite.

    When you define a specific market, your customer can more easily identify themselves and work with you. Far from limiting your appeal, defining your signature program expands your market.

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