Now that it’s late February, two things are all but guaranteed:
Thing #1: My fellow New Englanders have begun lying to one another about how spring is, “Just around the corner.”
Thing #2: My accountant is mad at me.
I’m not sure what causes Thing #1, but I’m quite certain about what’s behind Thing #2.
She’s mad because she’s just completed my taxes and, as is the case every year, I am due a refund. That means I overpaid last year and have been, in her words, “lending the government money, interest-free.”
I know she’s right … but I don’t care.
Last year is a distant memory. At this point, when it comes to my taxes, there are two possibilities: Either I write a check, or I get a check.
The first option is fiscally smarter. But the second option feels better.
And so, over the course of each year, and even though it costs me money, I deliberately withhold more taxes than required – just so I can get a little bonus in the spring.
I’m not alone.
On this topic and countless others, humans place a lot more emphasis on how something feels than on what’s in their objective best interest. (Insert your own joke about your first husband, here.)
Small Business Marketing is a Feelings-Based Game
It took me a long time to unlearn what I absorbed about marketing from my time working in a big company. Back then, we lived by a simple, if unwritten, rule: If you can’t put it in a spreadsheet, it doesn’t exist.
Objective reality ruled the day.
But when I went off to work on my own, I realized that for a tiny professional service firm or solo, it’s the “soft stuff” – the way people feel about you – that really moves the sales needle.
… I love email newsletters.
They give you enough running room to share information and perspective in a conversational, natural way. Just as you would if you met someone for coffee.
And, since they are published over and over again, subscribers have a chance to get to know you – slowly, over time.
… I encourage storytelling.
Facts and information are important. The problem is that everyone you compete with within your industry knows just as much as you do. Your facts and information are indistinguishable from those of the others.
Your stories, though … those are 100% unique to you.
So when you talk about a recent experience, or your family, or yes, your accountant, you are sharing something that nobody on Earth has ever heard before and that reveals a bit about who you are as a person.
That helps people begin to trust you.
Is it real? Not in any measurable way. It’s just a feeling – but an important one, if you hope to get hired.
… I want you to develop a point of view.
If you want to get hired (and paid) as an expert, you need to do more than just write the words (if you’re a copywriter), or refinance the house (if you’re a mortgage broker), or find the candidate (if you’re a recruiter).
It’s not enough to just do the work you are asked to do (that’s called being an employee).
You need to develop and share opinions – lots of them – about the best way to get things done within your area of expertise.
For the copywriter, that may mean giving a presentation that argues for why a series of blog posts are more effective than a white paper.
For the mortgage broker, that may mean explaining to a client that even though interest rates have dropped, in their situation, it’s a bad idea to refinance now.
For the recruiter, that may mean telling a prospect that instead of hiring an in-house person to develop a newsletter, they would be better off outsourcing it to a bald, but oddly likeable, newsletter expert (that’s just an example).
In short, when you share a point of view, you help others to feel (there’s that word again) that you know what you’re doing and that they can trust you to guide them along the way.
Here’s the bottom line.
Objective reality is fine. I visit that part of the universe quite often.
But when I think about how best to market a professional service business, reality comes in a distant second behind paying attention to how the things you say, write, do and are, influence how others feel about you.
Is it soft and hard to measure? Absolutely.
But until the day comes that the robots are doing the hiring, that’s where the money is.
Gotta run. The mailman just came and I’m waiting on a big refund check.
- Do you prefer writing a check or receiving a check at the end of the year (Note to Bezos: Stop smirking; we know you don’t pay any taxes.)
- Are you still married to your first husband? Explain.
- How do you take advantage of feelings in the way you market your business?