(Listen to this post, here.)
I had a birthday this past Sunday (not that you bothered to call).
And I have to tell you, it was one of the best I can ever remember.
It began Saturday night when friends came over for dinner (punctuated by my wife Linda bringing out a delicious chocolate cake).
Sunday, we drove into Boston to catch a Red Sox game, happened to run into our friends Tom and Marie while walking through Fenway Park, and agreed to meet up afterwards.
At dinner, somebody mentioned to the waiter that it was my birthday and a few minutes later, he showed up with a free dessert.
Not that that mattered, since when the check arrived, Tom grabbed it. Again, because it was my birthday.
But the fun and freebies didn’t stop there.
The next night, I went out for a drink and something to eat with my friend Rick, who also insisted on picking up the check. And then, when the bartender overheard it had been my birthday the day before, she said, “You want a free shot of tequila?”
(It was at that point where I started thinking that maybe I should just tell everyone, every day, that it’s my birthday.)
Birthdays are funny things. You mention it’s your birthday and everyone has the exact same reaction: “Really? Today? That’s great, happy birthday!”
For some reason, it’s always said with a great deal of excitement and surprise, as if you, personally, had just invented this interesting concept and were kind enough to share it with a lucky bystander.
But why does it work this way? Why do friends, family, and even total strangers predictably react to something so ordinary with a combination of amazement and joy?
Well, you’ll be happy to know that I’ve given this question a lot of thought over the past few days (a free shot of tequila gets a person thinking). And I believe I know the answer.
It’s not because birthdays are so unusual. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. It’s because birthdays are something that all of us, by definition, have.
They cut across age, race, national origin, tolerance for lactose, whatever. Everyone you meet has exactly one birthday.
The truth is, birthdays may represent the one and only thing that all humans share in common (other than, possibly, a love of George Clooney).
And so when I tell you it’s my birthday, it creates a connection. It’s no different than if we discovered we went to the same high school, or enjoyed the same movie, or were married to the same woman (maybe not that last one).
Even small similarities between you and somebody else make that person feel closer and (very important) more likeable.
Which brings me (finally) to how you communicate when marketing your professional service business.
I’m talking here about newsletters, blogs, presentations, podcasts, LinkedIn profiles, web sites, bios, etc. … everything you create and put out into the world in the interest of getting hired.
If you’re like most professionals, you naturally and logically assume that it’s the facts that matter. You need to prove that you are smart, experienced, capable.
And besides, nobody has time to read, or watch, or listen to anything anymore. So you had better talk fast and keep it short if you want to get somebody’s attention.
It makes perfect sense.
Too bad it’s totally wrong.
Word of mouth (your main source of clients) is not highly correlated with your level of expertise.
Top-of-mindedness is unrelated to how long you’ve been in business.
My willingness to trust you has nothing to do with how smart you are.
And yet, all three of those things – word of mouth, top-of-mindedness, and trust – are essential to your getting hired as a professional.
But it doesn’t stop there. All three of them are very much related to the strength of your connections with other people. So doesn’t it make sense to focus a little bit more over here?
Here’s the bottom line. We all know that you need to be reasonably smart and capable if you hope to get hired, let alone leave your clients satisfied when the work is done.
But long before those sales-focused, show-me-what-you-can-do-for-me, tell-us-what-it-will-cost, discussions occur, you’ve got dozens (hundreds?) of opportunities every day to connect with other people on an authentic, personal level.
So mention your dog in your newsletter. Tell a story at the beginning of your presentation about the vacation you just got back from. Reference that old James Taylor album you found in the basement as a way to emphasize an important idea.
The point is, the more specifics of your life you share, the closer other people – particularly the perfect strangers – will feel to you.
When that happens, the new clients – and free shots of tequila – are never far behind.
- What’s the best thing ever given to you by a stranger on your birthday (keep it clean, this is a family newsletter)?
- What works best for you when adding a personal touch to your marketing?
- Did you check out the Nicolas Cage Bedsheets I mentioned in my last newsletter? (Don’t lie to me, I can see which links you clicked on.)
Share your comments below!
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