How often have you been asked, either in a business environment or a personal event, what is it that you do? I get asked this one all the time as about 95% of the people in my life have absolutely no idea. Being of a certain age, most aren’t of the internet generation so as soon as I say digital…… I’ve lost them. Tell them I’m a content creator, nope, they’ve absolutely no idea. If I was to rhyme off everything that I do, then they’d glaze over and not have a clue. I tend to just say “Consultant” to those I know really won’t have a clue and to those who might have a vague idea but not get it I’ll say something like “Marketing, PR, online stuff”.
I don’t even bother explaining that I can get paid for posting a photo on the Gram. That would freak them out!
But when we get asked this question or indeed when we ask it of someone, how interested are we really? Are we going to instantly fall asleep if they say they are an accountant or fall madly in love with them when they tell us in a bar that they do SEO? Will you hire them on the spot because they said they did something in PR? Chances are the answer is no to all of those questions. Why? Because we are more interested in who the person is than what they actually do.
Who Are You?
You can learn so much more about a person from their hobbies and interests than what they do for work. We say so often in marketing that it’s about the know, like and trust element over the product or service. When it comes to small business and solo businesses this is far truer than we often realise. It’s also very different to big businesses. Large companies trade more off their actual products, their services, their standards than the person or people behind it all. For example, you may have loved Topshop clothes and was always happy with the service but thought Philip Green was a prize prat. The same goes for the likes of Apple, Amazon, Facebook even.
But when it comes to doing business with sole traders or small businesses, we often are engaging with the top dog. And if we don’t like them, there’s a very good chance we won’t do business with them. Or hire them.
A few years ago I wrote a blog post about Preston North End and their lack of marketing. I was quite critical and many agreed with me. Naturally, some didn’t but that didn’t matter. I actually got quite a lot of business off the back of that blog post and still do to this day. Because I identified a passion of mine (football) and others could identify with that they became interested in me and then what I do. I tied this passion into my core beliefs and my work and people could relate to it. So then when they needed some marketing doing, they thought of me. I also attracted a variety of other work from tv, radio and writing work. But none of that work came to me because I attracted it with my skills. It came because I connected with those hiring on a personal level. Know, like and trust.
Making It Personal
I was watching an episode of First Dates a few weeks back and there was an older couple on there. Throughout the dinner, they seemed to get on quite well. I’m not overly sure if there was a spark but there probably was the potential for a second date or perhaps remaining friends. However, towards the end of the meal, the bloke dropped an absolute bombshell. He was massively into politics, which isn’t always a bad thing. But then he said that he’d been a lifelong Tory, a founder member of UKIP and really admired Nigel Farage. Each to their own I suppose.
The woman’s face dropped. Her entire tone and attitude changed immediately, and she couldn’t get out of there quick enough. When asked if she’d like to see him again, it was a very firm no. That one political statement had completely changed her opinion of him and I doubt he was even going to get her number let alone go on for more drinks.
As much as the bloke probably repulsed her by the end of the date, at least he’d been honest and owned his true self. He didn’t try to hide that side of himself and wasn’t ashamed of it or try to cover it up. He may not have been her cup of tea, but he’ll have been someones. Granted he wasn’t to Twitters liking. But I doubt he’d find his audience there anyway.
Many business owners try to hide their true self for fear of not fitting in or not being liked. They just become a bland, carbon copy of every other business owner that’s desperate for business and trying to please everyone. You should know by now that you can’t please everyone and not everyone will like you. It’s ok to be marmite.
Being Your True Self
Does your personality shine through in your business? Do you feel ok with posting whatever you want on your Twitter or Insta or are you guarded with your expressions just in case? Are you showing your true self and your true passions? Or are you just showing the corporate version of you with your cheap polyester suit and boring business jargon lingo?
I once had a client that had the most amazing product but they were an absolute pain in the arse. I genuinely loved the product and could see its potential. Within a few weeks of working with them, I could clearly see that the owner was holding back the product. Every single person they encountered they rubbed up the wrong way. They had the ability to look down on everyone and everything and had no problem telling you about their terrible ethics; their love of real fur, hunting, racism and sweatshop labour. It made my teeth itch. And every meeting they went in to ended on the same note. Thanks but no thanks. Everyone loved the product. But nobody wanted to stock it. The product wasn’t the problem.
This client could get a foot in the door anywhere. That’s how good the product was. But as soon as those stockists got to know the person behind the brand, the relationship ended. This lead to them getting a reputation as a time-waster.
Time Is All You’ve Got
In both examples, the bloke on First Dates and the person with the amazing product, they left both behind them a bitter taste of wasting someone’s time. When it comes to assets and what we’ve all got, time is not something we have an infinite amount of. We are often advised to not look at assets or resources with scarcity and more with an abundance mindset. But with time we need to view it differently. There is nothing worse than having your time wasted. Be it in business or a relationship.
We all know a guy we’ve invested time, energy and dates on for them only to turn round 3 months later and say they don’t want a relationship. Annoying as hell. Same with business. Going through being captivated by their content, loving their product, wanting it, only to then discover that they are the last person on earth you want to do business with or give a penny to.
By hiding our true selves or our true passion to appear “professional” or even more interesting, we actually give off a false representation and probably unintentionally waste peoples time.
So, What Do You Do?
The next time someone asks you what is it that you do, rephrase the question in your mind and lead with what your passions or hobbies are. What else do you do?
Hi, I’m Samantha. I like Preston North End, crime dramas and documentaries. I love Line of Duty and First Dates and spend far too much money on clothes and makeup. And in between that I do marketing stuff on the internet and some business consulting.
See how much more interesting that sounds and gives several points of conversation starters. The personal notes will make the business conversation easier and show I’m not just a one-dimensional business person. Life experiences actually count a lot towards business experience.
But pick your conversation starters with care. Politics or religion might not be a good starter or they could be a deal breaker. Like the poor woman on First Dates. And he didn’t even pay!