I shaved my head the other day.
I know, it’s not the kind of thing you tend to announce to the world. But as you’ll see in a few more paragraphs, it relates to the way you market your business.
Here’s what happened…
There’s a guy on the west coast named Todd Greene, founder of a company called HeadBlade. HeadBlade is an over the top, cool razor, intended for shaving one’s head.
I talked to Todd once about five years ago. We had a great conversation and he ended up subscribing to this E-Newsletter.
Last month he sent me an email that said: “I’ve been enjoying your newsletters for years…and just noticed you’re a head shaver. Do you know and use HeadBlade? I’d love to send you a free kit and get you on-board.”
Now the truth is, I’m not actually a head shaver. I’m more of a “hair minimalist” – I cut my hair as low as it will go, using an electric razor. When I’m done, my head feels like a brand new tennis ball (minus the wavy lines).
But you know me, free is free. So when the kit arrived – complete with official HeadBlade key chain, HeadBlade pen, several bottles of HeadBlade lotion, and the award-winning HeadBlade itself – I had to give it a whirl. Ten minutes later, I was head-hairless.
If you’ve never had a shaved head, let me just tell you that it is, indeed, a peculiar experience.
First of all, it feels like nothing else you’ve ever touched: It’s warm, it’s smooth, it’s round. It’s human-ish, but oddly so. Kind of like you just discovered a skull washed up on the beach.
Second, the smoothness changes your head’s interaction with the rest of the physical world. Hats glide on and off with ease. Raindrops flow pleasantly down your face without even a moment’s hesitation.
Even sleeping is different, as I discovered that first night. My head, absent the gripping power of hair, slid around on my pillow as if someone had tossed a greased bowling ball into bed with us.
Here’s the point (you knew I’d get to this eventually). I’ve had long hair (down to my shoulders in junior high), nearly no hair (most recently), and everything in-between. Different experiences, but still, all varieties of hair.
Shaving my head completely on the other hand – removing that last, teeny-tiny bit – represented a fundamentally different experience. It was, if you will, “the last mile” of hair that made all the difference.
I think professional services marketing – and in particular, standing out from the crowd – works the same way.
99% of the things you say, the things you do, the certifications and experience you have, even the way you look … is the same as your competition. The difference, as with hair, is in that remaining 1%.
It’s that little bit – the things you say and do that others don’t – that pushes you over the edge, helping people notice you, like you, believe you and remember you.
It’s doing things like:
- Taking a position on issues and expressing an actual point of view when writing or speaking.
- Jumping into a niche, all the way and with both feet, rather than timidly hedging your bets and trying to appeal to everyone.
- Having a web site, blog, business card, presentation, proposal, LinkedIn profile, voicemail message, company name … SOMETHING that’s not the same as everyone else in your field.
But I understand, it’s scary.
It’s scary to be a “whatever it is you do for a living” who doesn’t stay in perfect step with the other people who do whatever it is you do for a living. You’re afraid someone’s going to call you out for being different – or at least not hire you for it.
In practice, however, standing out is exactly what you want – prospective clients are looking for someone who seems to have something going on that everyone else doesn’t. That someone could be you, if only you’d show it.
Remember, the 99% that looks the same may be what gives you credibility. But it’s the 1% that gets you hired.
Live bald and prosper.
You’re absolutely right about finding a niche. As a graphic designer, I found I was trying too hard to stretch my abilities in order to appeal to everybody. “Yeah, I can design a Web site for you.” “I can create a great catalog for your company.” “You need a new logo? I’m your gal.”
After doing this for a couple of years, I realized that I’m never going to be a great Web designer because I hate doing it, print is going the way of the dinosaur, and anybody with a minimum of ability is willing to vie with a hundred other people on crowdsourcing sites for a $50 logo gig. I needed to focus.
I decided to concentrate on PowerPoint because I had always enjoyed bringing a design sensibility to this software. My clients love it because it differentiates their presentations in the marketplace and I love it because the latest version allows me to create incredible animations and multimedia experiences.
Now when people ask me “What do you do?” I tell them “I help people to Cheat Death by PowerPoint.” It’s a concise description of what I do and really gets the conversation started.
Wow, that’s a great story Laura. And a great niche too. Just hearing your short description puts you into my brain as “the power point design expert.” I think that’s the source of all the word of mouth referrals. Memorable, easy, clear.
Love your explanation too! “I help people to Cheat Death by PowerPoint.”
Great stuff as always Michael. You make me think!
I trying my best Phil!! (thanks)
Michael, I absolutely love your newsletter because A. you’re hilarious! and B. your knack for taking real life and making the business applications. What a gift!
But today’s content is so applicable to ALL of life! Those who truly make a difference in the world in any context are always the top 1%.
Thanks for the encouragement–and the belly laugh: a greased bowling ball (!!) ROFL!!!–both of which I badly needed.
Thanks Mary! I’m glad it was on target for you today. And no kidding, it was the weirdest feeling that first night!
Michael, I’ve been following you -and recommending your newsletter- for years. And today I’m taking pen in hand (or keyboard, as the case may be) to agree with your thesis for this week.
Like Laura (above), not long ago, I dramatically refined my niche which led to the creation of the Internat’l Asso. of Spiritual & Energy Practitioners. We offer marketing and prosperity consciousness tools for spiritual healers, coaches and practitioners. Basically, I bring the practical stuff to the whoo-whoo crowd since it doesn’t come naturally to them. And we talk openly and constantly about the connection between Spirit and business, which is something that doesn’t happen in most other marketing circles.
Since boldly declaring this tightly focused niche, I’ve gotten such a positive response, essentially saying, “Thank you for noticing us, for understanding us and for being there to help!” It feels great and it definitely gives me “stand out” quality.
My one complaint about today’s issue is that you didn’t give us a picture of your newly shorn head!
That’s a great story Helen. And, as if I needed any more evidence, so telling about the power of a clear niche.
And thanks for the head request! Somehow I was so focused on the HeadBlade itself (such a cool piece of technology) that it never occurred to me to show a picture of my head! Try this simulation: get a big mixing bowl out of the pantry, flip it upside down and look at it. Same kind of thing!
I always wonder (and enjoy) how you make your story relevant to the business of marketing that we are all in. Today I couldn’t wait to see how you were going to get from shaving your head and now being completely bald to being an effective marketer, but you did it!
Thanks Dick! I admit, I was cutting it close with this one. Arrrrrrrrrrrr!!!
Another great newsletter, but I want the visual! Where’s the photo?
I too, am a long time subscriber and recommend-er of your delightful newsletter.
I stand out from the crowd as I’ve designated myself as the Romance Goddess! 😉
What I specialize in is encouraging and supporting people to create more romance in their relationships and lives. My motto is “Life Can Be a Honeymoon. Let’s Start NOW!
Under all the romance is my consistent theme of promoting self worth, personal strength, creativity and the importance of being our “best selves”. I try to stay 100% positive at all times!
My preferred niche is other 50 somethings but I seem to have attracted a following that spans all ages. My ebooks “How to Adore Him” and “How to Cherish Her” will be released later this year.
Thanks again for your wonderful newsletter!
Like that a lot Sara! I’ll be waiting for your second book later this year….
To make this piece really sing, I need before and after photos!!!
@ Helen, Brenda, Amy,
Ok, I’ll have to post that photo soon. Maybe next edition! Believe me, it won’t be pretty, before or after!
Great advice as always.
I was just trying to decide if my next newsletter should be about trends in photography that I would like to see go by the wayside. But I was a bit nervous about offending a client or photographer with my judgment calls.
But, after reading your newsletter, I’m going to go for it. If I get any, shall we say, differing opinions, at least I’ll know they’re paying attention to what I’m saying!
Thanks for the boost,
Go for it Debby! And I don’t think they’re “judgement calls,” they’re expert advice from someone who knows what she’s talking about. Let me know what happens.
Well, I guess I’m kinda tackling the defining myself in smaller steps than some of the other people here. (by the way – I love “I help people to Cheat Death by PowerPoint.” I’d want to work with Laura just for that statement – it’s bold and funny and interesting. Love her name too!) Anyway, I’m a real estate sales person in a smaller area market. I, along with about 80% of my competitors/colleagues, subscribe to a company that offers specialty websites to realtors for a nominal fee. You can leave it basic or customize it as much as you would like. Most of my colleagues leave theirs basic or business-oriented only. I customized mine with personal information and pictures and I change the greeting and info. on the landing page seasonally. I have had calls just because people were looking for a realtor and liked my website best. I have all the same listings and mortgage calculations tools as everyone else -the only thing that makes mine different is the personal information about me! And Michael, it’s because of your amazing newsletters that I actually got the chutzpa to step away from the business-speak. Thanks!
That’s great to hear Laura. That extra 1% seems to be working just fine for you!