That used to be the question I dreaded most. I had a different answer every day.
“I’m too busy to know for sure.”
I was trying everything I knew to grow my company. I had a great staff but I needed more clients. So I bought ads in newspapers, magazines, on television, billboards, etc. I didn’t have a coherent marketing message or strategy. If a salesperson suggested something, I was likely to take a chance on it.
Some people responded to our ads, but not enough to pay for all that advertising. That was super painful.
In retrospect, I understand why that sort of advertising didn’t work for us at that time. The fact was, I was getting the word out, but I hadn’t built a system that allowed me to share who I was and who we were in an authentic way.
I had an epiphany one day when a brave friend told me, “Your advertising is so generic, it doesn’t feel like there’s any substance to it. I can’t tell if you can really help me or not.”
Ouch. That was a painful lesson, but one I took to heart. I started to look at our advertising messages through the eyes of my potential customer and I had to agree. Generic. Boring. And I was embarrassed. Because the truth is, our marketing messages didn’t reflect who I was, who we were, or how we were committed to serving our clients. Instead, I was trying to play it safe.
Here’s what I know now: generic feels “safe” because you’re not likely to offend or alienate anyone. But generic isn’t safe because your customers don’t really get to see or know the real you, and they sense that something isn’t right. They may not be able to articulate why they’re put off, but they are. So they don’t call, come by, or buy.
Here’s what I recommend instead of trying to play it safe.
Start with you. Who are you? Who are you really? Beyond being an accountant, a physical therapist or a [fill in the blank]? How did you come to do what you do for a living? What’s your passion? What energizes you? What’s your story?
When you share your story, it will resonate with the people you’re meant to serve. Your humanity will shine through, and that will help people to know, like and trust you. And people do business with people they know, like and trust.
When a potential customer becomes aware of you or your company, they will probably check you out. They may check your company website, your company Facebook page, or your LinkedIn profile. And when they do, they’ll be asking “Do I have a good feeling about this person/company? Do I believe this person/this company can help me solve my problem?” If you tell your story, sharing yourself and your mission to serve others authentically, then people are much more likely to have a good feeling about you.
And if the answer is “Yes, I think they might be able to help me,” they will likely give you and your company more time and attention, an opportunity to earn their trust and their business.
But what if you share your story and some people don’t resonate with it? What if they don’t like your story? Then don’t worry about them. They’re not your people. If you’re doing business right, there will be others that you will be able to serve, and they will be the right ones for you.
So here’s your homework:
- Check out your current marketing materials/messages. Do they reflect you and your mission, or are they generic?
- Take a look at your website, company’s Facebook page, and/or your LinkedIn profile. If you replaced your name/info with your competition’s name/info, would it make any difference?
- Share your story authentically. Why you? What energizes you? What are you excited about? Why do you choose to serve those you do? What specific success stories can you share with your audience?
I know this may be a lot to take in, and it may be helpful to talk to someone about how you present yourself to the world and where you might need to tweak things. If that’s the case, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org . Let’s set up a time to talk. I’d love to be of service to you.