I answered the phone, “Good morning, this is Orvel Ray.”
There was a short silence. Then a woman’s voice, “I’m surprised you answered! It took me back for a moment.”
“Well, if you ever call here, and another man answers, please let me know.”
She chuckled, and then offered, “This is Linda from Washington Speakers Bureau. I’m trying to reach the office of The Guerrilla Marketing Group.”
“You got it. And it’s just me and Denise. Several years ago we built an addition on our house, closed our downtown office, and fired everyone. Now we both work from home, here in the mountains of Colorado.”
“Oh, that must be beautiful!”
“It is. You can come and stay. Now that the boys are grown we have a spare room, and at this altitude, we don’t get much company.”
“I was just shocked that you answered your own phone?”
“Well, who else’s phone would you have me answer?”
Your Identity as a Guerrilla Marketing Weapon
Many experts, consultants, and professionals worry WAY too much about their “professional” image. They think they need an expensive office and a perky receptionist or they won’t be taken seriously. It took years for me to realize that being able to run my business while avoiding the commute, the expense and the hassle of managing a staff, is also a huge credibility builder. It’s a lifestyle most envy.
Image vs. Identity
Guerrilla marketing professionals know that it’s more important for clients know you by your identity, who you really are, rather than to trying to project an image. An image, by definition, is a reflection, a facsimile, a fake. When YOU are the product, your clients want to know who you REALLY are; your quirks, your family, your faults, your hobbies and interests. And they want to know where you live, so if they’re ever dissatisfied they can come punch you in the nose.
Certainly you should dress up on client visits or conferences. But clients prefer a personal relationship, especially with their Trusted Advisers. The more they get to know the “real you” the more they trust your expertise and rely on your advice.
Put your picture on everything
Many years ago, we recommended to a small real estate brokerage that they should require all their agents to include their photo on their business cards. For some of you, this might not be such a good idea, but stick with me here. Today, they’re one of the largest real estate companies in the country. I can’t mention their name, but I believe they sell Moore real estate than any other Company I know.
That’s because your brain has a dedicated area for remembering faces (the Fusiform Face Area, part of the occipitotemporal gyrus). But the part that remembers names (the left hemispheric lingual gyrus) is built for processing language, so it has trouble recalling names.
That’s why, when you go to a networking event, everyone is wearing a NAME TAG. Scientists say it’s because we evolved from troops of social primates. Before the evolution of language, our ancestors relied on faces to discriminate between tribe (good) and outsiders (bad!). So put your picture on your business cards, your stationary, on all of your marketing materials, and most important, on your social media profiles. The more often they see your face, the more familiar (as in family) you become.
And while I’m on this particular soapbox, use a professional headshot. Done in a studio. There’s a reason they call it FACEbook. A picture’s worth 1,000 words, so let’s be very careful what your picture says about you. Business attire, neutral background, cropped close; not some selfie you shot slamming shots with your sister (yes, I have seen it).
Especially on LinkedIn. I will connect with anyone on LinkedIn, UNLESS they put up a picture of their cat; or worse, that scary grey silhouette.
Meet for coffee over SKYPE
If you work with clients remotely, SKYPE is a great way to create a powerful personal connection. And it’s free (Guerrilla Marketing’s favorite word). They see your face, your desk, the junk on your bookshelf. You can share documents, presentations, or your three-year-old daughter singing “Old McDonald Had a Farm.” (Yes, I actually have seen it). It really is the next best thing to being there. And for gawd’s sake look at that thumbnail. How are you framed? How is the light? Makes me crazy when a client SKYPEs me while sitting in front of the windows, curtains drawn wide, and all I see is a skyline and a scary silhouette.
While you’re at it, invest in a high-quality webcam. I use the Logitech BCC950 ConferenceCam (about $250 bucks. Google it). Not because I’m a tech geek, but because a client in Saudi Arabia gave it to me as a gift. You see, when they put our conversation up on the 40-inch plasma in the boardroom, the camera in my MacBook Pro made my face look like a pizza.
Another tip learned the hard way: remember to look directly into the camera. I made the mistake of looking down at my PowerPoint and the client felt like I was staring at her, uhmmm, let’s just say, “jewelry.”
Tell the truth
This big white envelope arrived in the mail. Big red letters on the outside said, “THIS IS NOT A BILL.” Inside, the letter explained, “That was the envelope. THIS is the bill.” So I paid it.
People appreciate when you tell the truth, especially about the little things. I’ve had clients call from Australia at 3:00 AM and ask, “Did I wake you?”
“Well, no. Not yet.”
And yes, I’m writing this in my underwear.
Separate the personal from the professional
Social media is the exception that proves the rule. A teacher who worked at a small Christian college in Texas was traveling in London, standing as a bridesmaid for a friend. The bride posted an iCam shot of the girls sitting around a booth (at the bachelorette party, I presume) with a glass of wine in the foreground. When she returned to Texas, the teacher was fired for “Inappropriate Public Conduct,” a violation of her contract. No she wasn’t DRINKING the wine, or even HOLDING the wine. It wasn’t even her wine. Fortunately Facebook now gives you the option to delete content posted by others that you might not want others to see.
The things you DO post should pass the test of professional relevance. If you’re leading an executive seminar in Dubai, then by all means, comment and Facebook and Tweet about it, including gratuitous pictures of the Burj Al Arab Hotel. Knowing you’re a globetrotter gives you credibility along with frequent-flyer miles.
Better still, put your client in front of a video camera telling us how great the seminar was, and upload it to YouTube. Save the vacation slides for torturing your neighbors when you get home.
You may not know this, but in addition to my speaking and consulting practice, I lead a Batman-like double life, as a drummer in a professional 20-piece swing-era big band. Being a jazz musician doesn’t exactly enhance my credibility as a marketing guru. That’s why I keep them separate. They have their own social media pages and their own YouTube channel, and all my musician friends have to call me “Sticks”… but that’s another story.