Running On Empty

You’ll be pleased to learn that here in 2012, I’ve gone ten months without writing a single word about the upcoming presidential election.

Unfortunately, my streak is about to come to a screeching halt.

Because with the big day finally upon us, I feel compelled to point out two important things, both of which have to do with the marketing of your professional service business.

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In my case, having long ago made up my mind regarding whom I’m voting for, I find myself paying more attention to the gamesmanship than to the content of the competing platforms.

Gamesmanshipwise, two things in particular play a big role every four years:

  1. Likeability. A rational person would argue – and many have – that the degree to which one candidate is more likeable than another shouldn’t matter.
    After all, a great president is one who deals effectively with the economy, foreign policy, social issues, natural disasters, oval-shaped furniture, and a whole bunch of other things. I don’t need to like you; I just want you to get the job done.

    Of course I don’t need to like my doctor, or my accountant, or my auto mechanic either. I just want them to get the job done too.

    And yet in my case (maybe yours?) I like all three of the professionals I’ve chosen in these categories – and many others.

    Partly because I can’t easily discern medical, accounting or mechanical capabilities – so likeability becomes an important differentiator. And partly because it’s just nicer to work with people you like.

    What’s that mean for you? It means that if seemingly rational humans are willing to choose a president based on a heavy dose of “How I feel about the guy,” they’re going to apply the same likeability test to choosing other professionals (like you).

    Spend less time trying to prove how capable you are and more time making an authentic, human connection.

  1. Storytelling. I’m always struck by how often the candidates trot out a story to make a point. It usually begins something like this:

    “I was in a pizza parlor in Columbus the other day when a woman came over, grabbed my arm and told me that her husband blah, blah, blah.”

    First of all, I always wonder how these people manage to grab one of these guys without the Secret Service tackling them. But alright, let’s assume it really happened that way.

    But here as well, one person’s story out of 300 million shouldn’t really matter. But it does. More than the facts we can’t remember or the data we don’t understand.

    So the candidates tell stories as a way of delivering their message and making their case.

    What’s that mean for you? It means tell your own. See if you can come up with one (true) story for each of the services you offer that highlights how you help people.

    Then, next time someone asks about your work, tell them a story. (I recommend beginning with, “I was in a pizza parlor in Columbus the other day when a client came over, grabbed my arm and …”)

Here’s the bottom line. As divided as our country has seemingly become, one thing most of us can agree on is that the race for president is too much about style and not enough about substance.

I don’t know how to fix it, but in the meantime, I sure am learning a lot about marketing.

(I’m Michael Katz and I approved this message.)


8 thoughts on “Running On Empty

  1. Ken Pierce

    Michael, I’ve been listening to every one of your messages for a quite some time, and very much look forward to receiving them. We are in the customer service business and happen to sell golf fitness products. We are not in the Professional Service Business…but I still get great information which I can use from these newsletters. I even attended one of your “Newsletter” seminars. This time, I read the text as I listened to the audio (first time) and it was much more impactful for me. The content was excellent! Thank you for such great stories and for sending them to me every month. Most Sincerely, Ken Pierce

  2. Diane Spadola (aka soldier boy)

    Ah, so hail from (what’s left of) New Jersey. As I sit here in the middle of the nearest Mall plugged into a power strip, borrowed from my new friend Marisa (whose town is still without power, internet, water or heat), I am grateful that one of the first emails I read was from you, did not mention the Hurricane or shore damage, and was funny. I really needed that little chuckle…and today I am going to focus my thoughts on a positive move forward. Don’t know yet how they will handle election day in New Jersey…..we may have to do it the old-fashioned way by writing names on a piece of paper. But one things for sure…..if you ever decide to run for an office, you got my vote! Thanks for the pick me up!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Sorry to hear you are caught in the middle of things. We’re thinking about you and hope things get back to semi-normal soon.

  3. Alan Allard


    Loved your article and you are so right. Sometimes (maybe often) we cannot know the “technical” aspects of what a product or service is capable of…but we do know if we “like” a person, website, etc and that likability impacts decisions.

    As for the place of stories, they draw us in and, in part, bypass the conscious mind to influence the subconscious thinking of those listening.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hello Alan. I agree, amazing how big a role these “soft,” subtle things play in our decision-making and therefore in effective marketing (I knew that psych degree of mine would eventually come in handy!).

  4. jr

    Michael makes a positive difference, with his blue penguin style, every time he shares his personal insights/imagery, humor/wit, all nicely frosted with the utmost professionalism. He now has the uncanny ability of putting a smile on my face, with his newsletter arrival. Now, thats ” branding “!


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