Did you have a good time at Halloween? I did, although I have to confess, it’s not quite as big an event for us now as it was when our kids were little.
Back then, as soon as it got dark, I would dress up as a scarecrow – jeans, flannel shirt, hat, gloves and a mask – and sit perfectly still in a lawn chair in the shadows next to our front walk.
You had to pass right by me to get to the front door, and as soon as somebody did, I would move my arm or make some kind of creepy Halloween-ish noise.
Did I scare the trick or treaters? Only a little bit.
Kids were very suspicious of the “scarecrow” (I could hear them talking) and approached me with the assumption that there was probably a real person sitting there. So even though they jumped back a bit when I came alive, they were kind of expecting it.
About a week before Halloween, I created an actual scarecrow (that is to say, a real fake man), stuffing that same shirt, pants, mask, etc., with newspaper. Then I sat him in the lawn chair and left him there.
All week long – as they walked past, rode their bikes, stood at the bus stop directly in front of our house – kids in the neighborhood saw the scarecrow sitting there. He looked like any other unremarkable Halloween decoration.
Which he was . . . until Halloween night. (Cue evil laugh.)
That’s when I tossed the newspaper into the recycle bin, put on the scarecrow clothes, and took my place in the chair.
This time, and since the scarecrow had been out there all week for anyone to see, the kids coming up the walk on Halloween pretty much ignored me.
No stopping to take a closer look; no wondering aloud about the scarecrow’s authenticity. One kid even casually kicked my leg as he walked by. They were uniformly uninterested.
That is, until I started moving.
This time, the reaction was decidedly different: lots of screams, lots of running, one very spilled sack of candy (maybe you shouldn’t have kicked the scarecrow, my little friend).
Why the big difference? As much as I’d like to think it was the result of my improved scarecrowing from one year to the next, the answer, of course, had to do with familiarity (or, as we psychology majors call it, “familiarity”).
When we see things over and over again, we stop noticing them. The kids still saw me, they just didn’t see me.
Unfortunately, it’s not just middle-aged scarecrows who fade into the background over time. Many elements of your business work the same way.
You’ve set things up and, precisely because you see and interact with them all the time, you’ve stopped noticing. Things like. . .
- Your web site. Maybe it made sense in 2001 for your financial planning web site to include helpful tools like mortgage calculators and links to the IRS. But do you really think anybody today is having difficulty finding these things (and using your “resources” page as a jumping off point)?
Whatever your profession, start with a blank slate and evaluate your site. Decide what you would include if you launched it today and toss the rest overboard. The more fluff you lose, the more likely a visitor will find and read what matters.
- Your blog. I know, creating content regularly takes time and effort. If your most recent post is more than a year old, though, sending people to your blog is the publishing equivalent of seating people at your restaurant and then revealing the fact that you don’t actually have any food.
Either resume publishing your blog (recommended) or get rid of it.
- Your voicemail message. There was a time when people really didn’t understand what an answering machine was and how to use it. So it made sense to explain that you were “either on the phone or away from my desk” and to provide some helpful “wait for the beep” advice.
It’s 2017. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that anyone over the age of six who knows how to dial a phone has also mastered the intricacies of leaving a voicemail message.
- Anything physical that you give out to people. Your business card that still lists a “facsimile number.” The article you were quoted in in 1998 that you still include in prospect materials. Your brochure that has your old mailing address covered up with a sticker reflecting your current location.
In a word (or five): get rid of this junk. It worked once, it doesn’t anymore. It makes you and your business look dated and out of touch.
Here’s the bottom line. I once heard a comedian say that whatever you’re wearing at age forty, you’ll be wearing for the rest of your life. His point was that once we get to a certain age, we stop paying attention and just do today whatever we did yesterday.
But I understand, it’s hard to notice what you don’t notice.
That said, the more you can view yourself and your business through the eyes of a new acquaintance, updating and improving your outward appearance regularly, the more candy you’ll bring home in your sack.
- Is a fake scarecrow more or less real than a real one?
- Have you ever scared a crow? Explain.
- What aspect of your business could use some updating?
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