I live in a fairly new neighborhood.
Four years ago, when we moved in, there were just 10 houses. Today, all the construction is over and there are 60.
If you’ve never “built” a house before (this was our first time), it definitely has its ups and downs.
The good news? You get to choose everything: the countertops, the light fixtures, the tiles, the faucets, the flooring, etc.
The bad news? You have to choose everything: the countertops, the light fixtures, the tiles, the faucets, the flooring, etc.
Whoever said choice is a good thing never spent a Sunday afternoon at the paint store trying to discern the difference between “Water’s Edge Blue” and “Laguna Beach Blue.” (Short answer: $5 a gallon.)
Interestingly, and despite the fact that all the homes were built by the same builder at roughly the same time, there is a tremendous amount of variation in size, layout, orientation, and degree of customization.
Walking through a neighbor’s home feels familiar, certainly, but only at the edges. These houses are far from identical.
But then, a house in the neighborhood went on the market – one that I had never been inside of before.
When I took the “virtual reality” tour that the real estate agent sent around (see image), I couldn’t believe it. It was our house, exactly.
Only it wasn’t.
The skeleton was identical – the positioning of the kitchen island, the bedrooms, the fireplace, the closets, the doors … all the same.
But the rest – all the customizable stuff – was totally different. So much so, in fact, that while I love my house, I hated this one.
Functionally, the two houses are the same. But in terms of the way they feel, it’s night and day.
Your Personality Is the Differentiator
For most professionals, the “skeleton” (i.e., what you offer) is also nearly identical to that of the competition.
Financial planner, attorney, recruiter, coach, management consultant … you’re selling the same stuff as everyone else.
Not to say that it’s not important – a house without a functioning kitchen is of no use to anyone.
It’s just that none of that is going to set you apart from all the equally experienced, equally qualified professionals with whom you compete.
Which is why, when you think about your marketing (AKA, standing out from the competition), you want to pay less attention to what makes your skeleton so wonderful, and more attention to the flesh (eww) that wraps around it.
People Hire People
I belong to a large professional networking group. It has one purpose: to get to know each other so that we can refer business back and forth.
What’s amazing to me is how many times I’ve sent potential clients to other professionals in the group, despite the fact that I know next to nothing about whether or not they are any good at what they do.
All I know is that I like them.
I hope you don’t find any of this surprising (other than the fact, maybe, that a professional networking group would allow me to become a member).
It’s likeability, wrapped around presumed expertise, that causes people to share you with others.
Now look at your marketing – your web site, LinkedIn profile, newsletter, blog, presentations, free giveaways.
I know it’s filled with your qualifications and expertise … but can I see and feel an actual human behind it all?
Are you telling stories? Are you sharing personal information? Are you expressing a point of view.? Are you writing and speaking like an actual Earthling (or do you claim to be, “a leading provider of jargon-enhanced cross-functional hamster promulgations,” or whatever)?
All of these things are the flesh on your professional skeleton (I’m really starting to hate this metaphor). It’s what makes me like your house compared to all the functionally identical others.
Here’s the Bottom Line
Who you are is your secret weapon.
It’s literally the only unique thing in your marketing bag – the one thing that nobody else can imitate or steal.
Is there a chance that by sharing all that, some people will hate your “house” and run in the other direction?
Only if you’re doing it right.
- Have you ever built a house?
- How fleshy is your skeleton? Send photos.
- Do you belong to a networking organization? Why or why not?
Share your answers below…