When Your Business Has a Split Personality


I have a confession to make.

I am a hypocrite. When I give advice to small businesses, I tell people to focus on one offering, one direction, one message, one primary audience.

Except I also have to tell them to do as I say, not as I do. Because I have two.


Now, I didn’t set out to be a hypocrite. My consulting business naturally evolved into its current bifurcated shape, and I have no regrets. But it is a bit complicated; and as I met with another Clarity Therapy client last week who has a similar setup, I had to think afresh about how you approach a two-headed business from a branding and messaging perspective.

This client had some little magnetic figures on the conference table, so here is the way I illustrated it:

Dual Business

First, we figure out the specific audience(s) that are being approached. In this case, it was two distinct audience (with slight overlap), requiring two different messages.

Then, we define what the distinguishing and compelling offering and message is for each audience. How is my company’s approach and/or deliverables differentiated from all competitors? What will be the first foot forward?

(Note: here is where most companies stumble. If they do 5 different things, they give them all equal weight – “we do this and this and this and this…” – which means that they just blend into the competitive landscape as a commodity provider. Each company should have a LEAD offering, and then perhaps several subordinate “oh, by the way…” offerings. Earn the client’s trust with what you do best, then talk about the other things you can ALSO do.)

Finally, it is vital to extract at least one common theme that marks the entire company. It might be longevity, or a user design experience, or scalable software approach, or a network of resources, or one of a hundred other things. Something that is the hallmark of the COMPANY, that flows into its particular offerings, yet stands above it. This depicts the DNA of the organization.

So how have I, the hypocrite, dealt with this? My original approach when launching 8 years ago was to be a consultant to the commercial biopharmaceutical sales training industry, including not only drug manufacturers, but also a bunch of outsource vendors (I’m a client-vendor “matchmaker” of sorts). Evolving out of my work with vendors over the years was this practice I now call Clarity Therapy – helping businesses and professionals discover their “fit” in the marketplace. And that has a much broader audience, though with some biopharma industry overlap.

And, yes, I have two websites, two sets of business cards…the offerings are distinct enough that I have to embrace a certain level of professional split personality!

In both cases, however, I’m using consulting smarts and large-scale networking to help find the optimal “fit” – whether it’s the client-vendor fit, the vendor-marketplace fit, or the professional-career role fit. That’s the high-level DNA basis of both Clarity Therapy and Impactiviti.

By the way, you see that “Don’t bother with these…” groups? That’s one of the best parts of this exercise. You employ the discipline of exclusion – putting aside the projects and clients you really SHOULDN’T be pursuing, in favor of the defined approach based on your sweet spot(s).

How about you? Do you have a singular offering/message/audience, or are you having to work more than one group? Either is possible; but be forewarned – the more audiences you’re addressing, the trickier it gets not to have a scattered and diluted identity.


Related blog post: When People Tell You to Evolve, Listen!

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  1. Thank you once again Steve for hitting the nail on the head. This is exactly what I’m up against lately as I’m adding a second audience who has a whole other networking circle. My two audiences are: 1) introverted women especially around career/business needs, and 2) introverted girls especially around bringing their voice to the world. That requires me to connect with different networking circles. But to me I’m still focused on one underlying purpose: helping introverts find their clarity and confidence to bring their unique gifts to the world. Sometimes I think I will have to have two websites but the jury is out on that so far. I hope not. The biggest issues for my “split personality” are the branding, networking, and making my message clear for both groups without diluting it for everyone. Thanks for listening. 🙂

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