Methodology: your business suitcase

January 22, 2013

I'm sharing the Story Mapping methodology that I'm using in my consulting sessions with artists and creative business owners. In my last methodology post I wrote about business trees. In a nutshell: the goal is to grow your creative endeavor out rather than up to increase stability. And, to do this you grow your content, your product, and your collaborators + relationships. 

But, to grow wide effectively, you first have to get really specific about your content: your message. It's your message that sets you apart from other individuals in a similar endeavor. 

Imagine that you're carrying a suitcase. The suitcase contains all of the different elements you're bringing into your creative endeavor-- the different pieces of you. It contains your

  • Training.
  • Past experiences.
  • Interests.
  • Personality.

This information holds the seeds for shaping your message and talking about what you do and who it's for. 

Take my client and friend Jesse Haas: She's a massage therapist and nutritionist. Her 'suitcase contents' hold what sets her apart from other nutritionists. 

Jesse's training is diverse. She has a certificate in Holistic Health Coaching, a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition, and is a Certified Massage Therapist. She's constantly taking classes and researching new therapeutic modalities. Jesse has a diverse toolkit for working with clients, depending on their needs. She doesn't practice the one-size-fits-all approach. This shapes how she talks (and writes) about her client philosophy.

Past Experiences: 
Massage and nutrition helped Jess heal her disordered relationship with food. Her healing journey lead her to recognizing that the changes she made in her lifestyle had to be sustainable to effective.  Meaning, rather than permanently eliminating foods that she loved, she realized that moderation is key. She's a nutritionist that won't shame you for eating the occasional french fries, or drinking a beer. Her past experiences helped her realize that food should be about joy. Because, food is good!

Jesse is passionate about the local foods movement, yoga, cooking, and growing her own food. She's always taking in new information and connecting with potential resources.

All of these 'suitcase contents' shape the type of client that Jesse should be trying to connect her message to. 

Jesse's ideal client is someone looking for an individually-tailored approach to helping them reach their health goals. Maybe they've tried radical dietary and lifestyle changes without success. Instead, they're looking for tools to help them listen to their body and integrate sustainable food and lifestyle choices. 

Finding Your Suitcase Contents:
Sit down with a pen and paper and ask yourself some questions about you and your creative endeavor (inseparable, if you ask me).

What training do I bring with me? Think about experiences with mentors, books you've read, and workshops you've taken-- anything that influences what you do and how you do it.

What past life experiences have shaped what I do? How?

Who and what am I interested in, obsessed with, and drawn to?

How do I connect with clients/audience members the best? Are you a writer? Do you get nervous in face-to-face interactions with people? Do you take amazing photos? Take note.

-- and finally--

What contents feel like they're missing? Looking at weaknesses and insecurities can be enlightening. Do you wish you had more effective business skills? That you were better at collaborating? Is there an area of your business that you wish you felt more savvy about? 

The goal is to put it all on paper. And then, to figure out how to effectively use it in your creative endeavor {another post}.

What's in your suitcase and how do you use it in your business?

[Photos by the talented and fabulous Emma of Emma Freeman Photography.]


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