It’s Not Me, It’s You

(Listen to this post, here.)

My son Evan can juggle five balls (simultaneously).

My daughter Emily finished a half marathon with an average speed of 8:04 per mile.

My son Jonathan is lead singer in a band that won “Battle of the Bands” two years in a row at his college.

Do you care? I didn’t think so.

You’ve got your own life. And while reading about the skills and accomplishments of other people’s children might occasionally be interesting, it’s not something you’re likely to go in search of.

Post-Race Emily

As it turns out, the same goes for your business triumphs.

You’ve done a lot. You know a lot. You wrote a book that is available for purchase.

You are, as my grandmother might say, quite the catch.

The thing is, most people don’t really care (I mean no offense).

They’re just busy. And self-centered. And immersed in their own problems.

Which means that when it comes to creating content for these people – a necessary step on the road to positioning yourself as a Likeable Expert – the most important question is not, “What do I want to tell them?”

Rather, it’s, “What do they want to know?”

In the “paid” world, of course, this kind of thing is pretty obvious.

After all, nobody launches a new product or service without giving at least a passing thought to whether or not another human would ever be willing to buy it (Watermelon Oreos may be the exception that proves the rule here).

But when it comes to free things – particularly professional service content like newsletters, blogs, podcasts, white papers, and even company web sites – we seem to forget all that.

We’re focused on what we want to say and what we want other people to know.

It’s as if the underlying assumption is, “Hey, it’s free, so we get to do whatever we want.”

And while it’s true you can, your potential audience has just as much freedom to not pay attention.

So try this instead.

When you create free content, and before you ever write a single word, figure out who you are talking to and what you know that they would consider valuable or (even better) essential.

What will make their lives better?

What will make their jobs easier?

What will help them worry less?

What will they find entertaining?

It’s not complicated. But if you miss this step, you miss everything that follows.

Here’s the bottom line. The great thing about digital content is that anybody can create it and the variable cost is nearly zero.

Unfortunately, that’s also the terrible thing about it.

In our eagerness for attention, recognition, leads and sales, we forget that the person with all the power in the relationship isn’t us, it’s our would-be audience.

If you don’t believe me, I’ll be happy to tell you a story about my cats.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Did you know that my name – Mike Katz – sounds like somebody saying, “My cats?”
  2. What does your name sound like somebody saying? (Extra credit if it’s “Watermelon Oreo.”)
  3. What topic is most important to your audience?

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14 thoughts on “It’s Not Me, It’s You

  1. Graeme Roberts

    You never cease to delight me with the simplicity, clarity, and great good sense of what you write Michael. I know that you are about as comfortable with praise as a cat is with having a bath, so I just wanted to torment you. I hope that, by now, you are shrugging like your shirt’s too small and you’ve gone outside to spit in the dirt and curse Australians. Bwahahahaa!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Always great to hear from you, Graeme! Can you recommend any appropriate words for cursing Australians specifically?

  2. Nikki

    1. I’m a dog person. Remember the scattered tennis balls, treats, and poop bags in my van?
    2. Vicky, Micky, or they start singing that annoying 80’s song.
    3. How will your service save me time and get me back to my patients?

    Brandi Carlile is great live. Live at the Hollywood Bowl? Amazing!

  3. Chris Hilbert

    Another poignant article! Love the topic questions based on what I know that they would consider valuable or essential. Eye-opening!

    My name often sounds like I’m saying ‘Crystal Bert’ instead of Chris Hilbert…. so I have to slow down a bit!

  4. Kady Hommel

    Michael et al –
    All I can say is “but of course” – except we have to keep on saying it!

    And speaking of Australians, today’s theme brings to mind a film from the wayback machine… the feisty, 19-century heroine wearied from the nonstop “my brilliant career” sagas from her suitors. Enough about you, let’s talk about me!

    (BTW, we love one-line updates about your brilliant children. :))

  5. Kate

    I enjoyed today’s newsletter! Great reminder to keep the audience as the primary focus.

    My name sounds like “kibosh” especially in my email address for the robotics organization of which I’m on the board: My fellow board members love to tease me when assigning projects to me by saying they’ll “put the k-bosch” on it. 🙂

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      K-bosch! Love that. It reminds me of my friend Rick A. Shea, who somehow has managed to not be nicknamed “ricochet.”

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Agreed, Frank! I love in that song how she manages to scream while singing at the same time.

  6. Gordon Graham

    Hey Mike, Here I am working late the Friday night before Labor Day weekend for a client in the UK where they don’t have Labor Day, and during a quick break I came across your Song of the Month idea. Fantabulouso! I am going to similarly “adapt” the song of the month for my newsletters. Thanks for the great tip–and the musical inspiration!!


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