Two Holes In Your Marketing

You know what I haven’t done in 25 years?

If you said, “Ask a stranger to dance,” you’re close.

But, if you said, “Set foot in Seattle,” you’re exactly right.

And yet there I was, not two short weeks ago, stepping off the plane at Sea-Tac Airport with my wife Linda and my very excited daughter Emily.

Listen To This Post

Emily, you see, is attending the University of Puget Sound this year; we arrived a couple of days early to have a look around.

Ask any Seattleite (or whatever these friendly people are called) what to do in their fair city and they will, to a person, recommend a visit to Pike Place Market, a frothing, multi-level jumble of food, flowers, crafts and humanity.

And so we did. We wandered around for a couple of hours, trying out the jam and cheese samples on the top level and perusing the vintage stores in the shops down below.

And then something really interesting happened.

As we were walking back to our car along the sidewalk, a smiling man stepped in front of my wife, put out his hand to give her something and said, “Here, it’s just about ready.”

The “it” in question, was a fist-sized, oddly-shaped, ceramic blue thing which the smiling man had apparently just finished warming in a microwave. Linda took it and he immediately began explaining the benefits of massaging oneself with said thing.

I have to tell you, he was good: informative and friendly, but not the least bit pushy.

But there was more. Because over the next couple of minutes, he managed to massage each of our backs and necks, never once pausing to stop the conversation.

Like I said, he was good. And so I’m sure it comes as no surprise to learn that 15 minutes later, he was $45 richer and I was carrying a warm blue thing in my pocket (insert your own inappropriate joke here).

I share this with you today because the smiling man demonstrated two very important marketing techniques:

  1. You need a good opening line.
    He didn’t say “Excuse me,” or “Do you want to buy one of these?,” or any one of a thousand other worn out phrases which would have resulted in our walking right on by. Instead, he said something intriguing (“Here, it’s just about ready”) while deliberately handing the thing to Linda.
    Try to do the same in your own communication.

    What’s the first line of your newsletter or blog post? What’s the first thing out of your mouth when you start speaking to an audience? What’s on the home page of your web site?
    How you begin has a lot to do with how willing people are to let you continue.
  1. You need to offer a free sample.
    A sample is valuable because it lets you try out whatever it is you’re thinking of buying. Obvious.
    What’s not so obvious, however, is that a free sample also creates a subtle (but compelling) sense of obligation.
    As Robert Cialdini describes in his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, when somebody gives you something – whether you asked for it or not – you feel a need to give something in return. (His description of the Hare Krishnas’ use of this principle in their airport fund-raising successes is fascinating.)
    When smiling man massaged my family for 15 minutes, he was applying this same notion.

    When it comes to marketing yourself and your business, you too will benefit by being generous with your time and knowledge. That means doing things like publishing free content, answering unsolicited questions over the phone, or letting an information-seeking stranger buy you a cup of coffee.

    Will some people take advantage of your generosity? I guarantee it.
    But others, and in addition to getting a better sense of who you are and how you think, will give more consideration to working with you than they would if they were just objectively evaluating what you offer and what it costs.

Here’s the bottom line. As a solo professional, you need to be good at what you do in order to get and keep wonderful, happy clients. But “good at what you do” is really just the price of admission.

If you can find ways to gain attention and create a connection, you’ll find it easier to get the clients you want.

Discussion questions (post your answers below):

  1. Where do you plug in a microwave on the sidewalk, anyway?
  2. The University of Puget Sound’s school motto is, “Once a Logger, Always a Logger!” Are you a Logger? Give examples.
  3. What do you do in your business to gain attention and create a connection?

Small Is The New Big

Do you like hot dogs? Yeah, me too. And even though they’re not healthy (I’m not even sure they count as food), I admit to indulging in one every now and then. My favorite spot? Snappy Dogs, an occasionally mobile (it sits on the back of a trailer) hot dog stand located in the rear of a supermarket parking lot about half a mile from my office. Listen To This Post Here’s what they are not: Open very much. They’re […] Click to read more…


There’s No “Q” In Penguin

There’s a lot to be said for penguins. They’re cute, quite harmless and, if Morgan Freeman is to be believed, remarkably dedicated parents. They’re also well dressed which, given the frigid conditions of the Antarctic, is all the more impressive. But you know what they’re not? They’re not spelled with a “q.” Listen To This Post P-E-N-G-U-I-N. I’ve checked several times and nowhere within a penguin, living or on paper, does the letter q come into play. And yet, as […] Click to read more…


Niche Craft

I’ll get right to it. What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done in your life? Not so easy to answer, is it? Because depending upon how old you are, you may need to think back over several decades to isolate that one event that stands out among the rest. Freshman year of college alone could take you several hours to review. In my case, however, it’s easy. Because the dumbest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life occurred just […] Click to read more…


What Problem Do You Solve?

Back in college (McGill University, Montreal), my friend Rick and I were somewhat obsessed with Sixties music. I’m not sure how that came about, particularly since neither of us is quite old enough to have paid much attention to this decade as it was happening. But it didn’t matter; we were hooked. We bought 45s down at Sam the Record Man on St. Catherine Street. We made Sixties mix tapes and brought them to parties. We tried to impress women […] Click to read more…