“So, what kind of work do you do?”, she asked…
…carefully balancing her coffee in one hand while looking down and fumbling in her pocket with the other.
I felt mildly annoyed that she didn’t even wait for my answer before reaching for her business card, but tried not to let it show. I was at a typical business networking meeting – you know the type – and unfortunately, that’s how they tend to go.
Always held in some sanitized corporate space decorated with neutral tones and carefully chosen abstract art on the wall.
Like being invited to the wrong birthday party, you stand around trying to figure out who the heck these people are and wondering why you’re even here.
If it helps any, everyone there is just as uncomfortable as you are. Maybe even more so. Heck – that’s why they’re so over-focused on passing out business cards. It’s easier than actually connecting with someone.
But you’re not here because of what you do. You’re not here because you’re a Reiki Master or an art therapist or a reading tutor.
You’re here because you, too, are a marketer.
(I heard that groan.)
You’re more than an expert with a special service to offer.
That’s what Michael Gerber, author of the business classic, “The E-Myth Revisited”, calls being a technician. The technician, as he describes, is the one who bakes the great cookies.
The entrepreneur – and business owner – is the one who sells those cookies.
If no one knows about you, or understands your work, they’re not going to benefit from the good that you do. And if no one’s buying, you don’t have a business. You have a nice hobby.
So learning how to market means learning how to talk about what you do. But you don’t have to wait for a stilted, awkward networking meeting to market yourself. You can have THAT conversation everywhere you go.
Getting your hair done. Picking up the dry cleaning. Talking to other parents at your daughter’s basketball practice.
Or hanging out with a friend on the front porch, as I did last summer.
One of my friends was easing out of a high paying job and into the consulting world. So as we listened to the crickets and watched the moon rise, we talked about how to leverage her wealth of experience into a new business.
I offered ideas about how to define her market, and position herself as the best person to meet the needs of that market.
In other words, we clarified what she loved, what she was good at, and how she could make a difference. For her, this was fun. For me, it was marketing.
Even though I wasn’t thinking of it that way at the time.
“Is this what you do when you coach people?”, she asked. “I’ve always been curious about that…”
“Yes. It’s exactly what I do!” I said with a grin.
Because it was true. And in that moment, I was marketing. Over beer and pizza. With crickets in the background.
So how do you talk about what you do?
All you have to do is address these two questions as part of your every day conversations.
What is the single most powerful problem that your clients have?
And how do you help them solve it?
My friend helps large institutions create strength through diversity, but the single most powerful problem she helps them solve is conflict.
And she does so with all kinds of solutions: mediation, institutional changes, cross cultural events and celebrations and more.
I myself have a gift for helping entrepreneurs get out of their own way, so they can make more money and have more joy in their work.
But the single most powerful problem I help them solve, is the sense of overwhelm in their business.
I, too, offer all kinds of solutions: intensive support, help with strategy, business skills training, feedback on how their mindset promotes – or prevents – their progress.
In each of those, I help them move out of overwhelm and into clarity, so they know where they want to go, and how to get there.
See what I did just there? That’s how you talk about what you do.
So how about you? What is the single most powerful problem your customers have?
And how do you help them solve it?