Folks care more about how you made than what you made. Well, not really. If what you made isn’t good, they won’t be interested in you at all; however, if you have a modicum of success, then folks will want to know as much about your culture, gear, tools, vision, operating principals, habits, and process as possible. So, if you’re in business, you need to learn to make you and your business as attractive as possible. How, you ask? Well, the best way is to let them in on your process, your magic, and what makes your products and services special. And by special, I don’t mean the best price, the best quality, or the best service — though those are always top-winners — but also your personality, your unique narrative, the story of your existence, why you matter, what you’ve gone through, who you are in the community, who you used to be, or even your winning smile.
I don’t mean to be a jerk, but what are you hiding? Do you really think you’re such a genius and your offerings and process are so mission-critical and unique that you’re unwilling to offer your prospects a little bit of a look into what you do and how you do it without demanding a non-disclosure agreement (NDA)? Are you kidding me? Aren’t you afraid that folks’ll just consider you cagey or having something to hide — in the best scenario; and, in the worst-case, maybe they’ll think you’re bullshitting them (admit it, you kind of are, aren’t you, you dog).
I routinely tell people that they need to give ’til it hurts when it comes to blogger outreach and online engagement — you need to offer the gift people want and not the gift you’re ready to give. You need to do the same thing when it comes to developing a cult of personality online.
People will buy your stuff — all things being equal — if they buy into you. While word-of-mouth, referrals, and ratings are valuable, what to people see when they arrive at your site? Are you too corporate? Is your company a black box? How generous are you when it comes to the value-for-value?
Back in the day, the very first company I knew about that did — does — an amazing job of sharing the kitchen sink online — everything, to a painful level — was a Savile Row tailor by the name of Thomas Mahon who has had an amazing blog about the ins and out of making bespoke, handmade suits since January 6th, 2005, called English Cut.
It’s incredible how much of the shop he gave away: chalking, cutting, sewing, measuring, fabric-selection, cut, fit, and finish. Honestly, he taught you everything about bespoke suite-making except actually teaching you how to make a suit.
We’re all so afraid of giving people a portal into what we’re doing with the mislaid assumption that everyone can — or even wants — to do the stuff you’ve already achieved mastery in. So, why keep the process so close to your vest?
Over the last two years I have become an aficionado of firearms and have gone online to look for holsters for some pistols. After doing some research on message boards, did I end up buying the most popular holster? No, I bought the holsters that were as good as possible but were made by folks who both answered my questions, shared their process, and also gave me a little insight into their life.
In a post-recession America, more and more people are interested in investing their hard-earned dollars into people, into personal production, into innovation, and into a generous attitude. Here’s some free holster advice: Theis Holsters for hybrid IWB holsters, PJ Holsters for simple IWB Kydex holsters, and UBG Holsters, who make some very gorgeous hand-tooled leather rigs. And I can vouch for all these guys: Tommy Theis at Theis, Paul Giannaula at PJ, and Nate Gable at UBG. And these guys aren’t only personable and generous, they’re also engaged with top influencers on YouTube, message boards, and on blogs.
I know how this works from my days as both a shooter and as a writing teacher. Folks are always consumed with trying to ape the people they want to be — and in many cases that’s you — even if they really don’t have the talent or desire to do it themselves, they want to have the utmost certainty that their money is going to the right folks: honorable men and women who have both the mad skills, the generosity of spirit, the responsiveness of service, and the transparency required to do long-term business with — to build a trusted relationship.
I used to be a professional photographer. I started off as a commercial shooter but ended up shooting for Corbis and Pacific Stock. Since real, professional, photographers are so rare, I was always being asked to speak. Nobody wants to be a photographer more than a doctor, a lawyer, a dentist, or an accountant.
While I was always being invited to share my images in a slideshow (with real slides in a carousel through a Kodak Ektagraphic III slide projector), you know what? People suffered through my photography in order to ask me the questions they were more interested in: what equipment, film, f-stop, aperture and, and ASA I used.
“What lens do you use?” folks would ask, or “Are you Nikon or Canon?” others would ask, or “Do you run Fuji 100 or Kodachrome?” Inspiration, the Muses, or innate talent don’t matter. What really matters is the quality of the glass in a lens, the depth of field or the point of focus, or the hours and quality of light during which one makes images.
It doesn’t really matter whether I felt severely insulted that all these amateur photogs fancied all of my “shooting for the best stock shop on the planet” success to be reducible to the camera bodies I chose (Nikon F4s and N90s), the lenses I picked (Nikkors: 20-35mm 2.8; 35-70mm 2.8; and 80-200mm 2.8), the bag I used (back Domke F-2), the film I favored (Fuji 100, Kodachrome 64, and Velvia 50 slide film — this was a long time ago), or the time I shot (the first and last hour of sunlight during the day).
People are hungry, curious, and looking for a leader. Becoming a guru to folks online requires becoming a subject-matter expert. And if “everyone online” recognizes you as an expert, if folks incessantly share your good advice to their friends and followers, and if you’re willing to “give away the shop” in order to build trust and respect online, you’ll be able to not only sate the curiosity of the skeptical but you’ll also make sales, especially in an environment that lacks innate trust and respect (like SEO, social media marketing and digital PR — yeah, what we do).
So, why don’t you take some time to realize and recognize a couple truths: folks want to know more about you, folks really want to like you, folks would love it if you engaged with them, folks really want to know how and why you’re successful, and folks really want to know that if they give you money you’ll be able to give them something back of equal or greater value.
What will you do right now, after reading this article, to better connect and engage with your natural allies and future customers? How will you earn their respect and build their trust? How will you woo them and impress them with your amazing abilities to cut wool, form Kydex, and tool leather in such a way that they’ll want to be your customer for life?
OK, now do it. I dare you.
About Chris Abraham
A pioneer in online social networks and publishing, with a natural facility for anticipating the next big thing, Chris is an Internet analyst, web strategy consultant and advisor to the industries' leading firms. He specializes in Web 2.0 technologies, including content syndication; organize search engine optimization (SEO), online reputation management (ORM), content marketing, online collaboration, blogging, and consumer generated media.