Well, it happened again yesterday.
I was standing in line at Starbucks awaiting my turn to order (tall, black, dark roast) when I heard a young woman say my name.
Except that’s not what happened.
What she said was, “I need to get back home to feed my cats.”
What I heard was, “I need to get back home to feed Mike Katz.”
Which of course, makes no sense, since I had just eaten lunch and I don’t even know where that woman lives.
This phenomenon, known in the literature as the “cocktail party effect,” is what allows us to “detect words of importance originating from unattended stimuli.”
In plain English, it means that when your name is spoken at a cocktail party by someone you’re not even paying attention to (or a stranger in Starbucks with hungry felines), it rises through the din to the level of consciousness.
Am I telling you this to impress you with the fact that I have a psychology degree? No, although now that you mention it, McGill, 1983, with Honours.
Rather, I’m telling you because this idea of “selective attention” plays an important role in the words we use when creating content.
Maybe you’ve noticed, for example, that in nearly every issue of this newsletter, at some point, I use the phrase, “small professional service firms and independents.” (Oh look, I just did it again.)
Why? Because I work exclusively with small professional service firms and independents.
And because I know that this population – like every population – is inundated with information during every waking hour.
And so when I write something like, “As a small professional service firm or independent, it’s important for you to blah blah blah,” I am cocktail-party-effecting you.
You perk up and listen, because it sounds like I’m talking directly to you and the things you care about. Which I am.
But doesn’t that limit my chances of getting hired, since those who don’t fit within that category will ignore me? No and yes.
No, because chance is not the way small professional service firms and independents (I just did it again) get hired. It’s not a lottery. It’s a winner-take-all, no-credit-for-second-place competition. (Much more on the topic here.)
Yes, but that doesn’t matter. How many clients can you serve a year? Ten, twenty, fifty?
Your capacity as a SPSFI (now I’m kind of getting tired of typing it) is a teeny-tiny slice of the potential market and reducing the size of that market from millions (if you’re willing to serve anyone) to, I don’t know, tens of thousands (if you focus your efforts), will have zero impact on whether or not you are hired.
But it will have many times zero (I am aware that would technically still be zero, but you know what I mean) if you commit to breaking through the clutter and noise by directing your content in particular and your marketing overall to a narrow slice of humanity.
Gotta run. Mike Katz don’t feed themselves.
- Do you have a standard coffee shop drink order? Explain.
- What does your name sound like?
- What phrase describes your ideal target audience? (If your answer is along the lines of, “small to midsize companies in any industry,” I am revoking your honours degree.)
Share your answers below…