Every great Chef has a signature dish – one that defines their culinary point of view and highlights their particular skill set. Ideally, these dishes are so unique that an informed gastronome could name the chef in a blind tasting.

It’s the culinary equivalent of an artist finding their own style, or an author finding their own voice. In practice, a Chef’s signature dish often changes with time or they may claim several signature dishes.

As a solopreneur, you need a signature dish, too. This is the one thing that you’ll become known for (at least, initially). It will also focus your efforts and allow you to develop deep authority in a particular area, not to mention making your marketing life a whole lot easier in the process.

Imagine what life would be like if you had a great answer every time someone asked you what you do or sell. Having a signature program or product is the best way to build a lasting business.

So – how do you create a signature dish? You begin with your Secret Sauce – your branding story – and then you build from there.

Here are some guidelines for creating your signature program:

1. Revisit your passions. If you create a signature dish that’s born from something you love, you’ll put three times as much thought, energy and work into birthing it. Plus, you’ll never get bored. Remember, you’ll be writing about it, talking about it, and sharing it with everyone over and over and over again. A good rule of thumb to keep you from burn out is to choose an area or topic that’s held your fascination for at least five years, preferably more.

2. Research your Ideal Customer’s Wants and Needs. What kind of voids are they experiencing? What questions do they keep asking? The answers may come from your work with existing customers. Look back at your process for taking in a new client – do you find yourself repeating the same steps? Do they all need the same initial education on a particular issue? These are clues. Pursue them.

3. Look for the intersections. If you’re a visual person, try putting everything up on a wall in your office so you can look at it for awhile. Your subconscious mind will help you if you provide it with all the relevant information. Our brains are wired to find patterns and categorize things — an awesome ability that can help you figure this out, if you let it.

4. Build from “Flagship” Content. If you blog, look back at your best content (sometimes referred to as your “Pillar” or “Flagship” posts) and play around with ways you could build on this to create your signature dish.

5. Don’t be afraid of weird combinations. Remember the old Reese’s commercial? “You’ve got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” became a huge success precisely because people didn’t expect that particular mix of ingredients. What two juxtaposing ideas or topics could you combine?

6. Mindmap ALL the pieces. Do a brain dump of all the information you can possibly think of (as it relates to your possible product or program). Put them all in one place where you can stare at them for awhile. Let the bits sink in. Put it all on the backburner for a few days so your mind can continue churning. Keep adding things as they pop up for you. When you feel pretty complete, begin to organize.

7. Outline and Build. Now it’s time for your left brain to take over. Let it put everything into place until it begins to make real, logical sense. What’s missing? What do you need to learn more about? Use this opportunity to refine your ideas. Don’t edit at this point – just think BIG and let your imagination help you dream up the most delicious and enticing dish possible. There will be plenty of time for carving this up into bite-size pieces later.

8. Name Your Dish. Take some time with this, too. It’s as important as naming your child. The program’s title or the product name should help build on your branding while also offering a big promise or benefit to your Ideal Customer.

9. Test! Don’t wait for perfection here. Get your prototype out to the world and begin testing it with a small group. Get their feedback. Listen to their questions and fill in the holes.

10. Create a free taste. When you’re ready to begin marketing your signature dish, you’ll want to have a pink spoon (a free gift) you can give away as an enticement for list building purposes (and to identify future customers). Take the logical first part of your program or product and create your offer from that.

11. Expand and Contract. Now, think about chunking your program or product down or out – what spin offs could you create from this signature dish? How could you offer smaller or larger parts in a way that fuels your sales funnel and helps build long-term engagement with your Ideal Customers?

The process of creating your signature dish takes time – so don’t skimp on the space you’ll need to put this together (in your head, your heart and in your office).

Life-changing products and programs require the highest quality ingredients. Stay focused on providing the most excellent experience, but don’t hold back just because something isn’t quite perfect.

The only way you can make a big impact is to begin. Now. And to keep at it every single day.

Do you have a signature program or product? What tools or resources did you find helpful in creating or finding yours? Or, maybe you’re stuck for ideas and not sure where to begin? Leave a question or comment so we can all learn more about creating a signature dish.

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