In what has become an increasingly rare alignment of my adult and near-adult children’s respective calendars, we had a 10-day period earlier this month when everybody was home at the same time.
My son Evan lives in Memphis. My daughter Emily lives in Tacoma. And my son Jonathan, while technically still a high school-age resident of our house, is verifiably spotted with Yeti-like frequency.
And so we planned a three-day, family getaway to nearby Brattleboro, Vermont. As always, we booked an Airbnb.
There are many benefits to Airbnb relative to a hotel. One of these is surprise – you never quite know what you’re going to find.
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Here, and because you’re staying in somebody’s actual home, there are an unlimited number of potential variations awaiting.
Sometimes there’s a dog to play with. Sometimes there’s a luxurious tub. Sometimes there’s beer in the fridge (ok, was).
This time, the fun surprise was a working turntable, a pair of 1970s-era speakers and a healthy record collection. All of which came with an explicit invitation from the host to “enjoy.”
And so we did.
My favorite part was finding albums that I used to have. Joni Mitchell, Court and Spark. Bob Dylan, Blood On The Tracks. The Best of Bread (don’t pretend like you didn’t have this one too – we know you did).
They sounded great, despite (maybe because of) the numerous skips and scratches. And I mean numerous. Every five minutes or so somebody had to jump up and advance the needle.
That’s when I realized that my kids, while certainly familiar with the phrase, “like a broken record,” had never actually experienced one firsthand.
It was like bringing an actual horse to a lake and saying to someone, “See, you can lead him here, but you can’t make him drink.”
When it comes to professional services marketing, the broken record metaphor is one you want to keep close at hand. In short, repetition is your friend.
Why? Two reasons.
First, because there’s a lot of noise out there. In the space of 20 years the world has flipped from “How do I find the answer to…?” to “What should I pay attention to…?”
Second (and this is partly the result of the noise problem), because people have a lot going on in their brains and their lives. We have all become extremely selective filters of information.
Taken together, this means that if the way you describe yourself and your work keeps changing – you say one thing on your web site, something else on LinkedIn, whatever moves you in the moment when I ask you in person, etc. – I’ll never come to associate you with anything in particular.
That’s a problem. Being associated with something in particular – hopefully a pain for which people desperately need a fix – is why humans remember you and refer others your way.
If, however, you put yourself out there as an ever-changing mishmash of whatever businessy-sounding blah blah spills out in the moment, you’ll evaporate from my memory without a trace.
So try this.
- Settle on a sentence or two that describes what you do. (I know it’s an oversimplification; that’s your only option.)
- Use it consistently. There’s a reason Nike doesn’t say “Just Do It,” in one situation, “Just Go For It,” in another and “What The Hell, Give It A Shot” in a third.
- Use it broadly. Web site, business card, LinkedIn, Facebook, personal introduction, etc. In an ideal world, no matter how and where I encounter you, I hear the same message.
Here’s the bottom line. On any given day, 95% of the words and phrases you use to describe your work should be words and phrases you’ve used before.
That’s how you’ll get better at saying and writing it. And that’s how the outside world, who at best only encounters you here and there, in bits and pieces, will come to remember who you are and what you do.
In short, if you don’t feel like you’re a broken record, you’re not doing it right.
- Growing up, what was your favorite record?
- Does your horse drink a lot of water? Explain.
- What else do you do to be remembered by prospects and others?
Share your comments below!
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1. Eagles — Hotel California. Know the entire album by heart.
2. Come on, I have a hard enough time remembering to water the tomato plants.
3. Talk and write about my commitment to purchase goods manufactured here in the USA.
But do the tomato plants necessarily drink the water??
Michael – I’m shocked, truly shocked, that the subject line of your email – Rinse and Repeat – did NOT correspond to the broken record story in the body. Is this because of your low shampoo need?
More seriously, one risk of being that broken record is that one becomes a parody of oneself if you are a repeat attendee at various “networking” opportunities. You know you are in trouble when half the room can repeat your oversimplified sentence or two for you. Thoughts?
Bruce — I agree with Michael. There’s a reason all the great brands have tag lines.
“You’re in good hands with Allstate.”
“We try harder.” –Avis
“Friends fly free.” Southwest
“Have a Coke and a smile.”
It’s because you remember them. If a room full of people can repeat what I do, yay for me! And I’m no highly paid ad person dreamed to come up with this stuff, either.
Bruce, I agree with Dianna. The day that half a room of people can regurgitate what I do is a day for celebration. In fact, if that day comes, it’s likely I would not be in the room because I would have too much work to attend the event.
Hugh – I guess you’re an avid ‘networker’. I am too, specifically with BNI. If people are so familiar with my tagline or ‘one-sense’, then I’m hugely gratified. I think, ‘Well, that’s OK. I’m getting my message across.’
I was hoping the repeat part would tie it in!
For me, the group repeating an oversimplified sentence is the entire point. Because now when those people are out there in the world and somebody asks, “Can you recommend a person who does….?” they are very likely to mention you. I’ve always thought that when your mailman knows what you do, you’re clearly positioned!
1. Simon & Garfunkle – any/all
Joan Baez – Bangladesh
Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1
Meatloaf – Bat Out of Hell
2. Whenever I read/hear the ‘horse to water’ saying, I think of Dorothy Parker, when challenged in the parlour game, Can-You-Give-Me-A-Sentence, to use the word horticulture, came up with, ‘You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think.’
3. See my soon-to-be-launched marketing campaign.
1. Bat out of hell for sure.
2. Hat tip to you.
1. So many, but will go with The Doobie Brothers ‘The Captain and Me’
2. No horse, but I drink enough.
3. I do send out postcards at your suggestion. I found that the short bullets that I included on my postcards that indicate my services are close to the ‘message’ I want to deliver. Still a work in progress. ..
Glad to hear about #3 Harold. Always a work in progress!
I love the analogy! You are talking about my generation. As far as what else do I do to help keep what I do in front of people, I wear a Brighton necklace that has the letters “W O W” in it. My business name is “We Offer Wellness” so it works as a reminder. I also get compliments on my necklace and then I say “it’s for my business, “We Offer Wellness” and, of course, they ask what it is!! Double bonus as a reminder to those who remember me and to those I want to get to know.
Thank you for all your great Blue Penguins!
Love the WOW. And, I assume that you are a Who fan if we are “talking about my generation!”
My family re-discovered vinyl records 3 years ago when we stumbled across a “record store.” My teenage daughter was entranced by the place. We soon had a turntable and since then have bought 100+ albums. It is a really fun hobby for all of us, and my daughter is now shopping for a turntable for her college dorm room this fall. I end up buying albums I know I owned when I was a teenager, but who knows what happened to them! Here in Atlanta, the vinyl craze is huge — there are probably a dozen record stores around town now. If I had to choose one favorite album: Led Zeppelin (any of them).
I consider the giveaway of my record collection in 2001 (I’ve got CDs, why do I need these anymore?) one of the great missteps of my life! (That and the three-piece, corduroy suit I used to wear.)
Ha, I hear ya! A good friend was going to sell me his collection of 1,000+ classic rock albums for $200 but soon discovered he could get over $1,000 for them from a record shop, which he did. Oh well, he gave me a dozen or so before he sold them.
Houses of the Holy.
1) I was a big fan of Kansas (Point of no return) and Elton John (Yellow Brick Road).
2) My horse doesn’t drink, okay I don’t have a horse, but my dog does…water, I mean.
3) I send regular emails to clients and prospects with ideas and thought pieces trying to keep them engaged and informed.
Your Kansas reference reminded me of that ELO album of the same era, Bob! 1977??
2) if by horse, you mean wife and if by water, you mean pino noir, then yes. Yes he does.
3) I create and send monthly animated videos through email marketing, so hopefully they recall that “I create videos for busy professionals”!
2. Did you just compare your wife to a horse? (Good luck walking that back.)
3. I would bet they do!
1) Well, after reading everyone else’s choices, I remembered so many others! One of my first favorite records (45) was Nancy Wilson, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ “; but then it was the Jim Morrison and the Doors, “Riders on the Storm,” then later Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” which yes, got overplayed, and yes, Meatloaf’s “Bat out of hell” was a great one. Might have to get myself a turntable again…see what you started, Michael? OK, I’ve used up my mental energy on the records. I’m done.
I’m seriously considering the turntable idea too!
I cannot believe you also love Court and Spark and are a Joni fan. You da man!!
But ok, that wasn’t my #1 favorite record growing up. I had two:
1a. Age 12-15+ – anything by the Beatles but my favorite was Rubber Soul. Or maybe Revolver.
1b. Joni Mitchell’s Heijira. And For the Roses. And Court and Spark.
2. Can you repeat the question?
3. I send out bi-weekly newsletters, post blogs, post on social media, am a frequent guest on my peers’ talk radio/blog, etc shows, present at local and national conferences, write and lots of other things. But here’s the glitch- I still have a hard time explaining in one sentence what I do. “I help women with ADHD become more productive and lead happier lives” (or something to that effect). But the thing is, I do that in a lot of different ways, although almost all of my work is online.
How do I explain BRIEFLY all the ways I do what I do? Until I can figure that out, I won’t be able to easily share the same message everywhere.
Hi Terry! Glad we have the Joni connection.
I like to think of it this way: When you’re simply asked, “What do you do for a living?,” nobody cares how you do it or, frankly, how good you are. That’s important as you begin having a conversation with someone who’s thinking of hiring you. When it’s in the course of casual conversation with a (most likely) non-prospect, your objective is to be tagged as the woman who does X. Given that, your simple sentence is fine. With any luck, I’ll remember something like, “She does something to help women with ADHD.”
That’s all your looking for – and frankly, the best you can hope for – in starting the word of mouth machine moving. From there, people out in the world at large share you with others when they hear of a specific need.
That is incredibly helpful. And it’s true- if I simply say that, they either get misty eyed (out of disinterest or boredom!) and move on or ask more specific questions.
So now I know that it’s ok to start off with this simple response and hope the word gets out that I’m the go-to person for ADHD stuff as it relates to women.
Thanks, as always, for your sage advice.