This afternoon at 6pm Eastern time, and barring any unforeseen mishaps between now and then involving the Hopkinton Massachusetts police department, my son Evan will graduate from high school.
It’s a big day for him and a big day for us. Evan’s our oldest, which means that with each “life milestone” he reaches, it’s usually our first time through as well. As a result, I typically find myself giving these events a little extra thought.
And, since I have an unhealthy tendency to measure the passage of time via two-week newsletter publishing intervals, I got to thinking about how many of these newsletters Evan has been featured in. There was the one about him taking karate lessons; the one about him becoming world famous; the one about him learning how to drive.
And many more. 39 in total, if the search engine on my web site is to be believed.
But it’s not just Evan. Throw in my daughter Emily, my son Jonathan, my wife Linda and my dog Abbie, and over half – 137 – of the newsletters I’ve written over the past 11 years have included stories about my immediate family.
And here’s what I’ve come to realize. While it wasn’t my conscious intention to use my personal life as a marketing tactic – I was just trying to share useful information and the stories came naturally – the more I do it, the more interaction I get from readers and the more readers who turn into clients.
I admit, that’s somewhat counterintuitive, particularly from the standpoint of selling “serious business services.” After all, your prospects and mine are busy, focused professionals with no time to spare. They want information and facts, not idle chit chat about people they don’t even know.
Absolutely. That’s why reality shows have no viewers, news networks spend most of their time covering noteworthy topics and social media has failed to catch on. Serious people doing seriously serious things, 24/7.
Look, here’s the thing. We businesspeople like to jump up and down all day about how busy and hard working we are. But you know what? I don’t buy it. Being social is part of our DNA and when you boil out the personal stories in the name of efficiency, or because of your fear of being labeled “unprofessional,” or some combination of both, two (bad) things happen:
- Your stuff becomes deadly dull. I gave a two hour workshop last week and at the end, I handed out a single sheet of paper containing all the “information” I had shared. Two hours, and all I had to show for it was a piece of paper that could be read from top to bottom in about five minutes. So what did I do with the other 115 minutes? I told stories. Without the stories, few people would pay attention, even fewer would internalize the key points, and nobody would remember anything at all by the time they got back to their office the next day.Personal information keeps it interesting, engaging and memorable.
- You miss out on a HUGE marketing opportunity. I can use facts and persuasion to convince you of my credentials, my expertise and my experience. I can write case studies highlighting the impact I’ve had on clients. I can show you examples of the work I’ve done. The one thing I can’t do (successfully) is argue for why you should trust me. You, as my prospective client, have to get there on your own.Well guess what?Revealing your backstory – whether that’s talking about your kids, telling a funny anecdote about your recent company outing, confessing your odd attraction to middle aged bald men, whatever – allows people to see enough of you that they begin to trust you. And until they trust you, Mr. or Ms. Professional Service Provider, they’ll never hire you (at least not for anything important).
Here’s the bottom line. Most professional service firms are obsessed with proving their credentials, showing off their clients and making the case for their expertise and experience. Not me. I’m obsessed with just one thing: strengthening relationships and building trust (okay, two things).
And while I readily admit that the use of my own personal story in the way I market was a happy accident, I now consider it to be the secret ingredient (shhhh) in whatever success I’ve had attracting clients. If you’re not doing the same, you’re working a lot harder than you need to in growing your business.
Gotta run. You-know-who is about to graduate and there’s no way I’m not getting a good seat!