Add Meat to Your Bones

(Listen to this post, here.)

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.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever built a house?
  2. How fleshy is your skeleton? Send photos.
  3. Do you belong to a networking organization? Why or why not?

Share your answers below…

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9 thoughts on “Add Meat to Your Bones

  1. Terry Matlen

    Michael, do you realize how wonderful you are?? After reading your post, I whipped out a blank Word page and wrote my next article in under 10 minutes. Maybe even 5. Because your words hit home. Lots of people in my field write the same old blah blah. I went for the flesh and talked about my cataract/lens replacement surgery yesterday (what does THAT have to do with ADHD??) and tied it in . Thank you for that. Boy, do your newsletters inspire and teach me. To answer your questions:

    1. Have you ever built a house?
    No. I can’t even decide what paint colors to use when we have to re-do our house. The ones I chose last month WITH THE HELP OF A COLOR SPECIALIST, make this house so blue, you’d think we decorated it for baby boy triplets.

    2. How fleshy is your skeleton? Send photos.
    How do you upload photos? Never mind, I wouldn’t know what to send, so refer back to my comments above.

    3. Do you belong to a networking organization? Why or why not?
    SORT of. KIND of. It’s a FB group I started for ADHD professionals. I wanted to know who to refer people to but also to have a place to share clinical cases, research, etc. Unfortunately, most members only want to self-promote, then dash to MacDonalds. I have to kick them out.

    HOW do you come up with such creative, interesting, and insightful ideas, drawing from every day life experiences? I keep trying but often fall off the wagon into yawn territory.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Terry! I’m glad today’s newsletter got you thinking about your own. Just keep collecting the events of everyday life. I have a big pile of sticky notes that I consult when nothing comes to mind.

      1. Terry Matlen

        Sticky notes- great idea! I may start a Word doc with ideas. I’ve started a bunch of articles that sit on my desktop. But your newsletter really got my brain hopping. Thank you!

  2. Zev Asch

    Michael, I was hooked until I got to the ‘big networking group’ – ouch, a sore spot for sure. While the concept of a network marketing (the ones with 3 initials in them) group works on paper… it’s not for everyone and the years I spent with them were more frustrating than productive. Yes, I did get business out of it but spent 90% chasing unqualified useless referrals that were sent to me because…that’s how you’re measured in those groups. Some professions do very well; CPA, real estate, financial planner, insurance… 20% – the rest stick around because of FOMO.

    I don’t believe ‘likeability’ is a reason to do business – once again, the person who first came out with “people do business with those they like and trust” was a networker and that’s a load of BS. Trust is a big ask and it is earned after a long time. Likeability? Yeh, if you’re a jerk, I won’t talk to you, but just because I talk to you or have a beer with you, doesn’t mean I’m giving you my business.

    We do business with those who ‘get us’ – with those who are able to form a genuine connection that isn’t based on buying or selling. I admire your work not because I like your bold head but because what you write about resonates with me and I love your sense of humor..

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Zev!
      Great comments, you’ve got me thinking.
      I know which three-letter networking group you are referring to (!). I have no interest in that arrangement either. This one, I’m happy to say, isn’t focused on exchanging leads and nobody tracks any of that. It’s basically just a way to meet and interact with other professionals on a regular basis. I actually joined primarily for the social aspect but it’s more than paid for itself with new business as well.

  3. Lindsay Gower

    Of all the newsletters I receive, yours is the only one that I *always* open and read. That tells you — and me — something!

    1. I have never built a house but my folks did when I was a kid. I remember all the things they got to choose (and I helped!) — but it was usually Option A or Option B.

    2. How fleshy is my skeleton? I can’t find my skeleton; it’s somewhere under the pudge.

    3. I used to belong to BNI. I enjoyed the people. I left because I was being referred to $200 jobs when I needed $2,000 jobs. Since then, I haven’t joined any other groups because of chronic pain. Now that some groups meet online, I’m keen to get back to it. Thanks for the info on your group!

  4. Tracey Geary

    I haven’t built a house, but I did buy a townhouse that needed a gut reno. It had been empty for 10 years and featured things like leopard carpeting with dark red paint. I had to do three new bathrooms, new kitchen, all new flooring, etc. (A plug for the paint consultant service at Sherwin Williams – they totally helped me bring my look together! And after the paint credit, it’s free.) It was six stressful months of my life but it came out amazing and completely different from the other 60 units that looked identical on the outside.

    I don’t have a professional services business as I’m a W2 person, but I invest in real estate where networking is huge so I belong to a couple RE networking groups. That’s where I flesh out my skeleton with tales of deals I’ve been involved in.


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