It’s two days before the new year, and I’m doing exactly what you are: Dicking around on the internet and calling it “downtime.” It’s absolutely PHENOMENAL.
But, as we all prepare to become supermodel trazillionaire cigar-smoking business moguls in 2015, there is one thing I want to encourage you to do, right here, right now, before you slug the last of the egg nog and run around with streamers on your head.
And that is to listen up.
Maybe you’ve been preparing for a big launch in January. Maybe you’ve been re-structuring your pricing model. Maybe you’ve been plotting new service offerings. Maybe you’re entirely re-doing your website.
Whatever it is, you’ve probably been making every decision from inside your own head, am I right?
Your own perception of what people might want.
Your own perception of how much people will pay.
Your own perception of what will sell (and what won’t).
Your own perception of what people need to hear.
But – and allow me to insert a brief awkward moment here – how many times have you actually asked somebody in a position to actually buy from you…what they wanted? How many times have you, instead, spoken for them, over them, and on behalf of them? And how many times have you based critical business decisions on your own past experiences, your own buying power, your own preferences and your own fears…instead of theirs?
Do not forget: You are not your buyer.
And that means something.
First of all, it means you’ve gotta get out of your own head once and a while…or the only person who your stuff is going to appeal to is you. Second, it means you can’t assume anything without doing your due diligence. Are you sure they won’t pay that?
When you first subscribe to this blog, I’ll send you an email asking you to tell me who the fuck you are. I don’t do this to be cute; I do it because if you want to build a community, you gotta talk to people. It’s not a one-sided conversation, and you can’t be a grouchy little hermit crab.
However, another benefit of having this in place is the opportunity to take a stroll through people’s minds; to understand why they were attracted to The Middle Finger Project in the first place, and what they need from me. I get to hear their worries, their bitching, their funny jokes, their humble admissions. And time and time again, reading through these responses is the #1 thing I do for my creative businesses. (Besides blogging and drinking, of course.)
Their words humanize this whole god damn internet stuff, making sure I remember that no one, not now, not ever, is a number, but rather, a real person, with real thoughts, and real feelings, and real struggles.
And teasing out that HUMANITY and applying it to your business is what separates the average from the brilliant.
It’s the difference between the coach who says, “I’ll help you self actualize,” and the coach who says, “I’ll help you stop crying yourself to sleep over your divorce.” It’s the difference between the website designer who says, “I’ll optimize your site for mobile” and “I’ll make sure every single person who sees your website, whether they’re on a computer, an iPhone, a tablet or their 8 year old’s PS4 – sees the best of you, clear as day.” It’s the difference between the interior designer who says, “I’ll give you a free quote” and “How about I swing by and take a peek?”
This particular set of examples is a head nod to my signature “wake up sweaty” test that I traditionally teach in my copywriting workshops; if it isn’t going through their mind at 3am, it shouldn’t show up as copy on your website.
But teasing out the humanity can apply in so many other ways.
Going out of your way to send actual Christmas cards in the mail, for example (we sent a bunch to our most engaged community members this year). Understanding what the real hesitation is between them and the buy button. Remembering, on days when you’re frazzled and frustrated and overwhelmed and pissy, that the person on the other side of the inbox is REAL. (And you’re sometimes nicer to the stranger in line behind you at Dunkin’ Donuts, which is saying something.) Finding creative ways to solve their problems in a way that’ll delight the hell out of them. Introducing a new service that you hadn’t even thought of before. Realizing that nobody wants another freaking email; they want what’s in the email, and what’s in the email…is you. (Which is one reason I censor myself less than most.)
If it’s not about being human together, and finding creative ways to help one another, then what is it about?
I don’t know. But one thing I do know is that nobody wants to be helped by the cold, fish-like, clammy “professional” with the stick up their butt.
You don’t have to distance yourself from people in order to be taken seriously; you just need to do a better job of demonstrating your brilliance.
In the meantime, listen to what the people who do love you are saying.
Take the next couple of days to spy on their websites. Go into that fancy Infusionsoft database you’re bleeding out the eyeballs to pay for, and call somebody. Actually have a conversation or two on – god forbid – Twitter. And have some FUN.
Turns out, listening isn’t just polite; it’s profitable. And maybe the one thing your business has been missing – in all this trying to cut through the noise and the yelling and the webinars and the hubalub – isn’t more shouting.
But more silence.