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.”

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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 someone who’s owned a company called Blue Penguin for over 14 years now, I can tell you that approximately 20% of English speakers (ok, it’s always Americans) attempt to spell penguin like this: Penquin.

Over the years I’ve received invoices, checks, direct mail, email and any number of communications in which this error is made. It happens so regularly, in fact, that I went out and purchased the misspelling of my company URL (, just so everyone could find me.

I really don’t know why people make this particular mistake.

It’s not like the word is pronounced with a q sound. Nor are the letters q and g next door neighbors on your keyboard, something which might otherwise account for the occasional slip up.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Many people commit this error and my worrying about why or, even worse, spending time trying to educate the world on the correct spelling would be a waste of time.

When it comes to marketing a solo professional business, I think the same logic applies: You can waste a lot of time and effort trying to convince people that they need a solution to a particular problem, droning on about how your research or your experience or logic itself suggests that they need whatever it is you’re selling.

But you’re not going to convince many people. Because until and if they decide they have a problem that needs fixing, they’ll never hire you. It doesn’t matter how right you are.

So here’s what I recommend instead: Adjust your marketing to match up with what they already believe.

Start by finding five people who look like the kind of people you want to work with and ask them what their problems are.

What keeps them up at night? What do they believe is getting in the way of their success? What specific words and phrases do they use when describing all this?

Then find five more people and ask again (believe me, your questions will have changed just from talking to the first five).

Keep doing it until you’re not hearing anything new (it won’t take long) and you have a very clear sense of how your ideal client sees the world.

Then, take whatever it is you do and line it up, both in terms of how you describe your work, as well as in what you actually offer.

Here’s the bottom line. Being right and getting hired are not always the same thing; spending time proving your point to prospective clients can be an uphill slog.

You’ll find selling to be both easier and more productive when the services you offer line up with the way your prospects already view the world.

Discussion Questions:

1. Wouldn’t it be cool if it turned out that Morgan Freeman really is God? Discuss.
2. What’s your favorite type of penguin? (Hint: Blue)
3. How have you adjusted your business and/or marketing based on what prospective clients have told you?


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