It’s Marketing, Not Reality

It’s been a tough month for Rock ‘N’ Roll.

First, two weeks ago, David Bowie died.

Then, earlier this week, Eagles guitarist, Glenn Frey died.

It’s been said that bad things come in threes – natural disasters, car accidents, Adam Sandler movies, etc.

And so when I heard two 40-year-old Credence Clearwater Revival songs in a row on two different radio stations while driving home yesterday, I feared the worst.

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“Oh no,” I said to the steering wheel. “Did John Fogerty die?”

Don’t be alarmed. The good news for you, me and presumably, Mrs. Fogerty, is that by all accounts, CCR’s former front man is alive and well.

But it did get me thinking … thinking about how little information it takes for reasonable people to make assumptions and jump to conclusions.

I suppose that’s baked into human survival.

If you wait for a ferocious, flesh-eating woolly mammoth (or whatever) to pounce before you react, it’s probably too late. Better to run for your life at the first sign of vicious growling and frightening hair (insert your own presidential candidate joke here).

You know who else makes assumptions and jumps to conclusions? Your prospective clients.

They too, use little bits of information – often unrelated, often biased – to make split-second and largely unconscious decisions about who to pay attention to, who to refer and who to hire.

Is it fair? No.

Is it logical? No.

It is, in a word, marketing: the art of helping people to see you and your work in a particular way.

Because like it or not, they’re not going to try very hard or dig very deep to uncover whatever truth lies beneath those superficial clues.

And so with that in mind, I offer three simple suggestions to help ensure you’re not counted out from the start:

  1. Redo your web site. It doesn’t have to the fanciest or most beautiful ever. But if it looks like it was created by your high school-age nephew mid-way through the OJ trial, it’s time for a change.
    While you’re at it, make sure it looks and works equally well on a phone.
  1. Update your LinkedIn account. Whether you hate and/or don’t use social media is beside the point. In 2016, my first move to check you out is going to be a visit to your LinkedIn page.
    Here as well, you don’t need anything spectacular; you’re simply trying to avoid being dismissed out of hand as somebody who’s been asleep at the wheel for the past decade.

    So make sure your photo is flattering; your explanation of who you are, what you do and how you got there is coherent; and your connections number in the triple digits. I also recommend posting regularly (at least weekly) so that if I check out your “recent activity,” I see some signs of life.

    How about Twitter, Facebook and all the rest? I don’t think it’s necessary. While a lack of involvement may represent a missed opportunity, it doesn’t raise any red flags (yet).

  1. Invest in professional design. This one took me a long time to appreciate; I’m a word guy, not someone who pays a lot of attention to how things look (as my picture will attest).
    But, thanks to the encouragement (harassment) of several friends in recent years (you know who you are), I’ve come to learn that here, too, if the package looks amateurish, many people won’t bother unwrapping it.

    Web site, newsletter, ebooks, slide shows, logo, business card, etc. Find somebody whose work you like and make them a regular part of your marketing team.

Here’s the bottom line. I know it can be frustrating; it would be nice if people selected and hired others based on capability. Unfortunately, and with the possible exception of being a professional athlete, that type of meritocracy ended the day you left college.

And while dealing with the superficial alone is never going to get you hired, not dealing with it is sure to get you overlooked.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Can you say “Bowie” three times fast?
  1. Me neither.
  1. What other “fixes” do you consider essential for a solo or small business owner?

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22 thoughts on “It’s Marketing, Not Reality

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I have a very discerning audience. I’d be in big trouble if I advised something without doing it! And thanks; I’m glad for the new look.

  1. Betsy Harper

    My view is that even though I work from my home occasionally, there’s nothing like having an office to show that you’re a professional. My office is a convenient five miles from my home. I think an office lends credibility to your business with customers, clients, and certainly prospective clients.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Interestingly, while I’ve always kept an outside office, most people – clients included – assume I work from home.

      What do other people think? Does it still matter to a prospective client where your office is located?

      1. Dianna Huff

        I had a commercial office for five years. During that time, I had all of three clients visit. I finally gave it up and moved back to what I was referring to as “the ironing board room” in my house. It’s been a great move — I’m much happier, as are my dogs. (The ironing board not so much. It got relegated back to the garage.)

        I work with clients all over the U.S. I do spectacular work. I work on a MacBook. I can do my work anywhere — including my sofa. Having a commercial space to park my MacBook simply didn’t make sense.

  2. Jenny Engle

    I’ve had a home office for several years, and my clients have appreciated the benefits (lower overhead, comfort and snacks, my dogs Venus and Serena, the ability to sit outside when it’s nice, etc. They know I get things done.
    RE your last question – I think it’s very important to demonstrate you are continuously learning new things and have updates. Next, you have to get out there and mix it up – join groups, network, volunteer. Third, I’d say be willing to share your expertise — for free or better paid — via seminars, webinars, etc.

  3. Lowell Klassen

    Hey Michael,

    I’ve learned that making time for networking is also a big part of marketing. The best clients are the previous ones you’ve enjoyed, or people like them when they tell their friends. I’m all up to snuff on the other things you’ve mentioned. Still having a hard time getting people to appreciate your #3 comment. Get professional design. That’s where I come in as a graphic and web designer. Where I live, people only appreciate you if your the cheapest designer they’ve ever met. Any suggestions for fat cats who like to squeeze your value out, only to compensate you with “I’m the one doing you a service.” :S

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Lowell!
      I’ve ramped up the in-person networking a bit as well. Not only is it effective, if you work solo, it’s nice to meet some humans occasionally.

  4. Jim Koscs

    Perfect timing — I just started redesigning my website and biz card last night! I’m trying to simplify everything, make it easier to get what I do with a quick glance at an iPhone or iPad, etc. To my eye, a lot of bigger agencies use new web design tricks to a fault — way too much scrolling needed, cryptic menus, and of course all about how great they are.

    BTW, I do the same thing as you when I hear an older music group on two stations at once. Also, it’s “Fogerty,” not “Fogarty.” Keep on chooglin’.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Uh oh, Jim. I hope it doesn’t mean John Fogerty died, since I only checked on John Fogarty.

      Believe it or not, I initially spelled Glenn Frey’s name wrong and caught it at the last minute!

  5. Charles Alexander

    1. I tried to, but I couldn’t, because I was “Under Pressure.” Huh, get it?
    2. Oh
    3. Keep the blog and social media up to date or delete it.
    Don’t do your own video, if it means you are speaking directly into your camera for 10 minutes with bad audio.
    And lose the 95 Windows Clip Art that serves as graphic design on the site.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Great additions, Charles!

      Clearly there are a lot of c-c-changes afoot in the business world (you started it).

  6. Alexandre L'Eveille

    Great advice. I give one more piece of advice to my branding clients: be clear about who your audience is. Know who is and who is not your client. Realize EVERYONE is not your client. Once you have that clarity, all your marketing materials are designed to appeal to the client you want to attract.

    BTW, I always put myself last on the client list and I DO need to revamp my web site. Sigh.

  7. Barbara

    Hey Michael
    Yes, as a die hard fan of the Eagles from the beginning, it felt like the loss of a family member to hear the news. So glad to read your post though, as I am in the process of updating website, am fairly active on LinkedIn and have used a professional for my graphics and design work.
    I agree with previous comments about consistency in social media, blogging and newsletter, which I’m working on this year. Thanks for the great insights in your newsletters, which are very helpful. Your website update is great!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Sounds like you are on top of things Barbara!
      (BTW, Steve Martin’s book, Born Standing Up, has some great stories about his hanging around with the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt and others in the early days before any of them were well known. And a good book too!)

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      My favorite part is where he’s sitting in a bar with Don Henley, who’s planning to name his new group “Eagles,” and Steve is telling him it should be “The Eagles.”

  8. Dianna Huff

    Ditto on the up-to-date blog and social media profiles. Too often I see small businesses with Twitter / FB / LI / SliideShare etc. profiles that haven’t been updated since 2012 and dead blogs. Either use them or get rid of them.

    Also, hire a professional photographer to take excellent photos of you. Too many people use selfies or a blurry image with stuff in the background. Make sure you get high res ones, too, for when your alumni association wants to put an update about you in their print magazine. 🙂

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Excellent tips, Dianna! (Note to all: Dianna and her biz partner, Rachel Cunliffe, were guests last week on my Blue Penguin Content Club webinar. We talked about their recently published guide, Cash Flow for Freelancers. They shared about the process, pricing, promotion and all that stuff. You can pick up a copy here:


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