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 with our knowledge of Sixties music trivia. (File that under, “Yeah, well, good luck with that.”)
But by far, our favorite Sixties-related pastime was playing “name that tune.” A song would come on the radio and the object was to name the song and the artist as quickly as possible – and, of course, before the other guy could.
There was one thing though, that I always found odd about this game: My brain only worked in one direction.
So, for example, if you said, “Kind of a Drag,” I could tell you without hesitation that it was sung by The Buckinghams.
“Carrie Anne?” Obviously, The Hollies.
And on and on.
But, if you instead asked me to name a few hits by Tommy James and the Shondells, I wouldn’t get much past “Crimson and Clover” before I’d be tapped out. I knew plenty of their songs, I just had trouble accessing them in that direction.
I mention all this because when it comes to word of mouth marketing and the resulting stream of prospective clients that can result, “memory direction” matters as well.
Here’s what I mean…
Most solo professionals understand the practical necessity of being able to clearly explain whatever it is they do. You meet someone, they ask what you do for a living, you provide a (hopefully) coherent answer.
And while plenty of solos don’t ever come close to doing this well, most of us realize that it’s something to strive for.
The thing is, that’s not usually how word of mouth works – it goes in the other direction.
Think about it. Word of mouth happens when two people are talking – at Starbucks, in the office break room, while waiting in line at Sam the Record Man – and one of them blurts out a problem:
“I need a math tutor for my son.”
“I need a recruiter to fill an open sales slot in my software company.”
“I need a doctor who specializes in erectile dysfunction (it’s for a friend).”
At that point, the question is simply this: Can the other person help by matching the stated problem to a particular person or product or company?
Not, “Here’s the name of a professional, can you tell me what he or she does for a living?”
It goes in the other direction: “Here’s a problem, can you suggest some professionals who might be able to fix it?”
It’s not the same thing, is it?
If you’ve come to be associated, therefore, with a particular problem (chronic illness in the workplace) or target audience (high school students with a learning difference) or methodology (dancing traffic cop), there’s a good chance your name comes to mind, and you get a referral.
If, on the other hand, the way you describe your work is bland and generic – attorney, financial planner, coach, management consultant, etc. – well, you’ll get your fair share of once in a blue moon referrals, I guess.
And so I have two recommendations for you:
- Try to become associated with a particular problem or situation. In other words, what’s the thing someone is going to say to that friend in Starbucks that will make the other person think of you, snap their fingers, jump out of their chair, slap themselves in the forehead and say, “I’ve got just the person!”
The closer you can come to being the only answer, the more word of mouth referrals that will come your way.
- When you describe yourself to other people, focus on being remembered, not being impressive. There’s nothing wrong with being impressive, however, at the point that word of mouth occurs (i.e., way early in the sales process), it’s not yet about how good you are, your process or what kind of credentials you possess.
Rather, these conversations are simply the solo professional version of name that tune: Someone sings a few notes of their problem and the other person tries to come up with an answer. It’s about matching, not vetting (that comes later).
Here’s the bottom line. Our brains are not Google-searchable databases. If they were, I could list all those Tommy James songs that I know but can’t think of right now.
If you want to win at the word of mouth game, you need to make it as easy and obvious as possible for other people to bring you to mind when a problem you can fix arises.
Now about that doctor…
P.S. We covered this topic in great depth earlier this week in my Word of Mouth Marketing webinar. If you missed it (shame on you) you can still register and we will send you the complete recording and slides. More here.
P.P.S. Now that I’ve opened the box, I know you are eager to share your favorite Sixties tune! Post it below (Extra Credit: link us to a YouTube recording of it!).