Simple Simon Says, Do This

I got a call on Monday from Laurie at Midsize Consulting Firm (not their real name).

She said, “I know you only do email newsletters, but we like your writing. Can you recommend somebody like you who could help us develop other types of content?”

I said, “Absolutely. I know someone very much like me who could help you. In fact, the similarities are striking. Me.”

And then I went on to explain that although I specialize in email newsletters, and even though my web site header, email signature, LinkedIn profile, bio, business cards and pajamas say “email newsletters for professional service firms” – and little else – it’s not actually true.

It’s a deliberate oversimplification.

What I actually do is coach solo professionals; conduct short and long format workshops and classes; speak at conferences; sell products and programs; and develop all kinds of custom content for all kinds of individuals and companies … some of which involves email newsletters for professional service firms.

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She said, “great,” and off we went on a discussion of how I might be able to help her.

Marketing is not reality

“But hold on there just a minute,” you’re probably thinking.

“You’ve got custom pajamas? And not only that, aren’t you limiting your chances of being hired for more work by more clients by only talking about one thing?”

I don’t think so; three reasons why not:

  1. It’s not a lottery.
    Claiming proficiency in more things doesn’t get you more clients. It’s not like they drop names into a hat and whomever is holding the most tickets has the best chance of getting hired.

    Instead, it’s about standing out from the crowd and making it onto the short list for a particular prospect in a particular situation. You’re not looking for “chances,” you’re looking for clients; getting hired is about standing out as the best.

    When you emphasize one, narrow thing, others assume that you must be pretty good at it. Yes, it reduces the number of chances, but among those, you’re way (way) more likely to get hired.

  1. Nobody but you is going to remember or take note of all the things that you can do.
    If you insist on broadcasting a laundry list of capabilities, you’ll blend into the crowd like a middle aged bald man at a high school parents night.

    Focus on one, simple thing in all your marketing activities, on the other hand, and now you’ve got a chance that I’ll come to associate you with that particular thing.

    From a word of mouth perspective, that’s exactly what you want.

  1. Your clients don’t care about your marketing.
    “But what about my existing clients, many of whom have hired me to do work other than a single area of focus? What do I tell them?”

    Let me begin by saying that you’re asking some pretty good questions today. But the short answer is, you tell them nothing.

    Marketing is for the people who have yet to hire you, not those who already know, like, trust and have benefited from your services.

    Your happy clients have firsthand data regarding your work; they care little about how you sum it all up for the rest of the world.

    If they like you, they’ll bring more work to you, no matter what your marketing says.

Here’s the bottom line. As a small business owner or solo professional with limited time, energy and money to spend on marketing, you’ve got just two options: Either I remember one thing about you, or I remember nothing.

And while I know you’re capable of much more, if your own description of the work you do doesn’t feel like a blatant oversimplification, you’re not doing it right.

Discussion questions:

  1. What’s the one thing you’d like to be known for?
  1. Are you?
  1. Do you wear pajamas? Give examples.

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