I’m going to tell you a secret (do me a favor and keep it to yourself).
When I meet someone for the first time, if they ask me what I do for a living, I say: “I do one thing and one thing only… e-mail newsletters.”
That’s what it says on my business card; that’s what it says in my e-mail signature; that’s what I speak on my home page after strolling jauntily onto the screen.
But that’s not the secret. The secret is that it’s not really true.
Because while I do indeed specialize in e-mail newsletters, I do other things for clients as well. I write. I coach. I stroll jauntily (no extra charge).
And yet, when asked by a stranger, I deliberately stick to my hyper-narrow, oversimplified description.
Why? Because I’ve discovered that most humans (possibly you among them) are unwilling to allocate more than a couple of precious brain cells towards remembering other people.
We make eye contact, we smile, we shake hands. Meanwhile, our teeny-tiny, self-centered attention spans are already off wondering what’s for dessert.
Which means that if you want to be remembered, you need to keep your explanation short, clear and at least arguably intriguing – “I’m a chronic illness career coach” … “I’m a career change financial planner” … “I’m captain of the kangaroos.”
Something with a sharp and narrow enough point that it can stick in the brain of the other person.
Most professionals, unfortunately, when faced with a “meet a stranger” situation, ignore my advice (fools). Instead, they do one (or both) of two things:
- They attempt to impress. “I help my clients improve snaggle-flutter throughput via a 25% Dachshund-based krebble-switch.
The problem here is that I can’t remember it. And if I can’t remember it, I can’t pass the word to someone else. Even if I understand what you said and am indeed impressed by it in the moment, by tomorrow morning it will be long gone.
- They cover too much ground. “I’m a marketing consultant. I specialize in web sites, social media, branding, blogs and Google ad words. Oh, and driveway paving. I do that too.”
The downside of this approach is that while it does alert me to the fact that you’re some sort of marketing type, it’s not specific enough. There’s thousands of marketing consultants – why should I remember you?
Here’s a funny thing I’ve noticed. Of the prospective clients who come my way based on the recommendations of others, few of these others have any firsthand knowledge of my capabilities. All they know is that a friend or colleague mentioned a need for “E-Newsletter help,” and I popped into their head.
Isn’t that sort of odd? They’re not referring people to me because of my qualifications; they’re referring people to me because I appeared on the tip of their tongue at the moment someone asked for help.
And yet that’s how word of mouth and referrals work. When someone tells us of a need for a particular kind of service, we search our memory banks for a solution. If someone pops up, we make the connection. Your job, as marketer of yourself, is to make sure you pop up.
Here’s the bottom line. I understand that it feels limiting to boil down you and what you do into a single, necessarily oversimplified, phrase. But remember, this is marketing, not reality – you don’t have to limit the scope of what you do just because you limit the scope of what you say you do (still with me?).
In the beginning, with people you don’t know and/or when you’re just getting your business off the ground, you’ll get more traction, more rememberability and more word of mouth referrals by building a small, simple box… and climbing in.