Can Your Business Come Out And Play?

Over the summer, my wife Linda and I moved our family across town. We moved for one, and only one, reason: To get our kids into a neighborhood.

Our previous house was terrific, with lots of land, plenty of privacy and close proximity to two major highways. But it was also isolated. So much so that on the rare occasions where the doorbell rang unexpectedly, we’d all drop everything and come running from every direction. It was like a scene out of Bonanza, with people climbing out of the bath or running in from the fields to see who had made the journey.

Three months later, I’m happy to tell you that it was worth the effort. In the short time since we’ve moved, my kids have had more playtime with other children than in their entire lives put together. After school, before dinner, on the weekend, you name it… I can hardly keep track of who’s going where, and I often see strange children wandering through my house whom I apparently have not fathered.

So here’s the key question. Is my family getting invited to do more things now because we’ve gotten smarter, or better looking, or more interesting?

Doubtful (if anything, I’m pulling our collective average in the opposite direction on all three metrics, as I continue my rapid decline towards boring decrepitness).

No, what’s happening of course, is that our mere presence in the neighborhood has led to our involvement in more things. Sure, you can prearrange a play date with a kid across town, but it’s a lot easier to just step out the back door and see who’s hanging around.

For those of you who enjoy math, it looks like this:

(Kids in neighborhood) + Doorbell = Playtime

The truth is, being top of mind is also what accounts for much of an E-Newsletter’s effectiveness. Adults with a problem – like kids in the neighborhood – don’t reach very far when they need a solution. Whether in need of an attorney, a financial planner, a coach, a recruiter, a consultant or some other type of service professional, we ask around and try and think about who we know.

It’s a short list, typically assembled in a short amount of time, and the only way to get on it is to be top of mind – in the right person’s mind – when the need arises. You’ve still got to close the deal of course, but if the phone never rings, you never get the chance to swing the bat.

As a practical matter, and when it comes to creating top-of-mindedness through your E-Newsletter, I’d suggest paying attention to two things:

  1. Frequency. I can’t remember you if I don’t remember you (try to stay with me), and that means publishing on a regular basis. I prefer monthly because it’s frequent enough to give you a presence in the minds of your readers, but not so much so that the effort will overwhelm you. Twelve times a year is all it takes.
  1. Identifiability. Although apparently not a real word, this sums up an important aspect of being remembered. Because if I’m going to call you or pass your name along to a friend in need, you’ve got to pop into my head the moment someone mentions a desire for “blank” (with blank being whatever it is you do).

    If your blank is clear and narrow (e.g. “Restaurant marketing guru,” or “Financial planner for female small business owners,” or “Bald, but oddly likeable E-Newsletter expert”) you’ve got a good chance of coming to mind.

    If, on the other hand, you’re associated with a more generic label (e.g. “life coach” or “management consultant”), you’ll be competing with many more people, one of whom (rather than you) may pop into my head when I start thinking about who might fit the bill.

    The implication for your E-Newsletter and its focus is that you’ve got to stake out a narrow piece of territory and decide what you want to be famous for. And while I acknowledge that this reduces the size of your potential client list, in my experience, it greatly increases the likelihood that among those remaining, you’ll come to mind. Do that often enough, and some of those calls will turn into actual clients, which, after all, is the whole point.

Bottom Line: If your clients and potential clients make decisions regarding whom to hire based on a rational, objective, comprehensive analysis of available solutions, being top of mind probably doesn’t matter that much. If, however, your target audience consists mainly of human beings, it does.

Publish your E-Newsletter regularly and do what you can to become associated with a clear and narrow area of expertise. Then sit back and watch as other kids in the neighborhood invite you out to play!

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