Rinse And Repeat

My kids live all over the country. I’ve got a son in Memphis, a son in Denver, and a daughter in Portland, Oregon. And we live in Boston.

So on those rare occasions where we are all in the same place at the same time, we take advantage of it. Most recently, that involved a three-day, family getaway to nearby Brattleboro, Vermont. As always, we booked an Airbnb.

There are many benefits to Airbnb relative to a hotel. One of these is the element of surprise – you never quite know what you’re going to find.

Here, and because you’re staying in somebody’s actual home, there are an unlimited number of potential variations awaiting.

Sometimes there’s a dog to play with. Sometimes there’s a luxurious tub. Sometimes there’s beer in the fridge (ok, was).

This time, the fun surprise was a working turntable, a pair of 1970s-era speakers and a healthy record collection. All of which came with an explicit invitation from the host to “enjoy.”

And enjoy we did.

My favorite part was finding albums that I used to have. Joni Mitchell, Court and Spark. Bob Dylan, Blood On The Tracks. The Best of Bread (don’t pretend like you didn’t have this one too – we know you did).

They sounded great, despite (maybe because of) the numerous skips and scratches. And I mean numerous. Every five minutes or so somebody had to jump up and advance the needle.

That’s when I realized that my kids, while certainly familiar with the phrase, “like a broken record,” had never actually experienced one firsthand.

It was like bringing an actual horse to a lake and saying to someone, “See, you can lead him here, but you can’t make him drink.”

When it comes to small business marketing, the broken record metaphor is one you want to keep close at hand. In short, repetition is your friend.

Why? Two reasons.

First, because there’s a lot of noise out there. In the space of 20 years the world has flipped from “How do I find the answer to…?” to “What should I pay attention to…?”

Second (and this is partly the result of the noise problem), because people have a lot going on in their brains and in their lives. We have all become extremely selective filterers of information.

Taken together, this means that if the way you describe yourself and your work keeps changing – you say one thing on your web site, something else on LinkedIn, whatever moves you in the moment when I ask you in person, etc. – I’ll never come to associate you with anything in particular.

That’s a problem. Being associated with something in particular – hopefully a pain for which people desperately need a fix – is why humans remember you and refer others your way.

If, however, you put yourself out there as an ever-changing mishmash of whatever businessy-sounding blah blah spills out in the moment, you’ll evaporate from my memory without a trace.

So try this.

1. Settle on a sentence or two that describes what you do. (I know it’s an oversimplification; that’s your only option.)

2. Use it consistently. There’s a reason Nike doesn’t say “Just Do It,” in one situation, “Just Go For It,” in another and “What The Hell, Give It A Shot” in a third.

3. Use it broadly. Web site, business card, LinkedIn, Facebook, personal introduction, etc. In an ideal world, no matter how and where I encounter you, I hear the same message.

Here’s the bottom line. On any given day, 95% of the words and phrases you use to describe your work should be words and phrases you’ve used before.

That’s how you’ll get better at saying and writing them. And that’s how the outside world, who at best only encounters you here and there, in bits and pieces, will come to remember who you are and what you do.

In short, if you don’t feel like you’re a broken record, you’re not doing it right.

About the author

Michael Katz is Founder and Chief Penguin of Blue Penguin Development. He specializes in helping (tiny) professional service firms talk about their work in a way that is clear and compelling. Sign up for his free newsletter, The Likeable Expert Gazette, here. (LINK: http://bluepenguindevelopment.com/free/)


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