Loving Mr. Fix-It

When it comes to fixing things around the house, my skill level falls somewhere between “expert” and “bungling.”

Hang a picture to the exacting standards of my 13-year-old daughter, Emily? No problem. Install a ceiling fan in a bedroom? Please… you may as well ask me to remove one of your kidneys.

And so earlier this week, when my wife Linda informed me that, “The clothes dryer is turning, but it’s not giving off any heat,” I had to first decide whether or not this was something I could tackle.

The truth is, fixing a dryer is the kind of thing I’d normally stay away from: It’s fairly complicated (What if I can’t put it back together?); it involves electricity (What if I kill myself or, even worse, short out the TV during the Olympics?); and, as a man who’s already down to wearing the underwear that lives way in the back of the dresser, time is of the essence.

But before I turned down the assignment, I figured it was worth at least a cursory Google search, to see if there might be some helpful information online.

Was there ever. It took me just a few minutes to find this free, 17-segment, step-by-step video series on how to repair my dryer. Not just any dryer either… my exact model.

James, the man on the video, showed me how to take it apart, how to troubleshoot the problem (broken heating element) and how to put it all back together. I ordered the part online, got it in the mail yesterday, and as of 9:43 a.m. this morning, I am back to wearing toasty warm, dry clothing.

I don’t mind telling you that at this particular moment, there is no one I am more in love with than James the dryer fix-it guy. Not only did he save me a bunch of money, his simple, clear instructions made the entire process pain free (even fun).

So let me ask you a couple of questions. Do you think that if I had an appliance problem in the future that was too complicated for me that I might be inclined to hire James? Do you think that if you had an appliance problem that I might be inclined to tell you about him?

I’m really hoping you said yes to both questions. Because that’s the point of all this. Giving away free, no-strings-attached information remains, in my view, the single most effective marketing tool for those of us in the “expert” business.

Whether you’re a coach, attorney, financial planner or dryer fix-it guy, the best way to sell to me is to first, help me.

Why? Three reasons

  1. It’s an opportunity to share your point of view.

    I’m guessing there aren’t too many possible variations in how one might troubleshoot and fix a dryer heating element. In terms of the work you and I do, on the other hand, the possibilities are endless.

    And so while it might be helpful, for example, to know that you run a healthcare executive placement firm, it doesn’t tell me much about your perspective or approach. Reading your thought piece on how to deal with “High Maintenance Executives,” however, does. It’s a “free sample” of the service you sell.

  1. It’s an opportunity to share your personality.

    It only took me one or two video segments to know that I liked James. Partly because of his British accent, of course. We Americans can’t help but equate this sound with intelligence and all around good guy-ness. But it was mostly about his manner.

    For example, he offered suggestions on where to buy parts (“Don’t go to Sears, it will cost you an arm and a leg.”), apologized whenever his hand had to momentarily block the camera, and even pointed out places on the dryer where the edges might be particularly sharp.

    He wasn’t just knowledgeable, he was likeable. I could read about his technical qualifications and experience all day, but it was his personality that made me eager to hire him in the future.

  1. It’s an opportunity to spread the word.

    When you distribute free information – whether in the form of an E-Newsletter, thought piece, podcast, audio CD or whatever – and you invite people to “pass it along,” you’re giving them a vehicle for telling others about you.

    But they don’t do it because they have any particular interest in helping you. They do it because they want to help whomever they’re passing it along to. Business information in particular, has got to be useful if it’s going to have legs.

Here’s the bottom line. As someone who trades in “expert-i-ness” I understand your hesitancy to share too much of it for free… it can feel like you’re giving away your value and reducing the need for your services.

In my experience, however, the exact opposite is true. The more good, shareable information you can give away to more people, the faster some of them will come back, eager to hire you.

P.S. To view an 18-second video of my torn apart dryer (I have no idea why you’d want to), click here.

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