What You Can Learn From A Difficult Mommy

I was at the playground the other day with my daughter, Lorelei, and a few other mother/child pairs were there as well. They seemed to be part of some sort of introductory playgroup; the moms were wearing sticky nametags and sharing a delectable-looking pizza from the Flatbread Pizza Company (honestly, I probably wouldn’t have noticed them at all were it not for the pizza, which I homed in on like a famished seagull).

Despite the group’s being on the far side of the swings, one of the moms had a voice that could cut glass, so I could clearly hear everything she was saying. And she had a lot to say.

Mom #1: Do you want some more pizza?
Glass-Cutter-Voiced Mom [with conviction]: I’m much more of a plain cheese pizza sort of person. Though I suppose it wouldn’t kill me to just pick stuff off.

Mom #2: So tell me about your new car!
Glass-Cutter-Voiced Mom [with conviction]: I’m so glad I went back to the light interior for this one. The dark interior last time around was a huge mistake.

Glass-Cutter-Voiced Mom [with conviction]: Hey, hand me my iced coffee, would you? I think iced coffee is just so much better than hot.

It would be easy to write off Glass-Cutter-Voiced Mom as an opinionated pain in the ass (which, I’d wager, she probably is).

But look at it this way: She knows what she wants. And, just as importantly, she knows what she doesn’t want. She may not always get it – I refer you to the pizza full of undesirable yet pick-offable toppings – but it’s not for lack of preference.

Do you know – really, truly know – who your ideal client is, and what you bring to the table for that ideal client? (Hint: If it takes you more than a sentence to boil it down and explain it clearly, you probably don’t.) It’s also important to get just as specific about what and who you don’t want.

Once you force yourself to get very, very clear on who you’re looking to work with, you’re in a much better position to attract those ideal clients.

You may even find yourselves splitting a pizza someday. Plain, of course.

Q. What Do Your Business and Pork Bellies Have In Common?

A. They’re both commodities – if you’re not careful to set yourself apart from the rest of the pack, that is.

Think about it: How many law firm websites have you seen that look basically the same? Smiling people in business attire, all claiming to “proactively and professionally resolve” whatever dispute ails you.

Or coaching websites that declare their intention to help you “become the best you can be.”

Or consulting websites that talk about “leveraging your strengths.”

The bottom line is that most of us truly don’t know just how good (or bad) our professional service providers are, relative to others. Unless your doctor consistently lands you in the ER, or your accountant is doing 15 to 20 for for tax fraud, we don’t really know much about their actual skill level – and we really don’t care.

What we care about is doing business with people we like and can relate to – people who are clear and confident about what they do, and who can solve our problems.

Your blog is one of your very best opportunities to distinguish yourself from the competition precisely by being yourself. Don’t squander the opportunity by wrapping yourself in a lot of corporate double-speak. Clear, conversational writing – about topics of genuine interest to the clients you want to attract – will give you the most bang for your buck every single time.

6 Tips for Proofreading Your Blog Posts

Even if you’re generally a very good proofreader, it’s notoriously difficult to edit your own stuff. The problem is that you read it knowing what should be there, which can make it difficult to see what’s actually there. (Which is how you end up telling 6,000 of your closest blog buddies about the lovely afternoon you spent in the Boston Pubic Garden.)

While people expect a certain amount of informality in blog writing, posts riddled with typos or misspellings can brand you as sloppy – the last thing you want when you’re trying to solidify your reptuation as an expert in your field.

Here are a few quick ways to be sure your posts are ready for prime time:

1. Run spellcheck. Nearly all blog programs have some type of spellchecker. If not, copy and paste your draft into a Word doc and run spellcheck from there. You may be 100% sure you don’t have any typos or misspelled words. Do it anyway.

2. Set it aside. If you have some extra time, put the post aside for a while before you hit “publish”– an hour is good; 24 hours is even better – and review it with fresh eyes later on.

3. Print it out. Errors you gloss right over on the screen can sometimes jump out at you on the printed page.

4. Read it aloud. If you have the patience, reading your posts aloud word for word can help you catch both mistakes and awkward phrasings.

5. Double-check names. Misspelling “Allison” as “Alison” is a minor mistake – but not if Allison is the guest expert you’re interviewing. Oops.

6. Make smart use of the “find” function. Hit Control+F to get a search box in whatever browser you’re using. This is a great help if, for example, you tend to misspell the same word multiple times (particularly if your preferred misspelling is a “real” word that spellcheck doesn’t catch).

Are You Sending Mixed Messages?

Ed’s Bait & Tackle Shop – Now Offering Piano Lessons!

The Taffy & Sushi Emporium

We Fix Shoes…and Corvettes

What’s the problem with all of the above? Mixed messages.

I don’t want piano lessons from the guy who sells me worms. And I definitely don’t want sushi from the taffy experts (there’s a tenuous salt-water commonality happening there, but it’s not nearly enough to tempt me to belly up to the sushi-and-taffy-bar for an ebi maki with a candy chaser).

You probably aren’t doing this sort of thing to such an extreme degree with your blog and other marketing, but you may well be suffering from a mild case of it. In our eagerness to attract as many potential clients as possible, there’s always the temptation to spread ourselves a little too thin.

Which is how you end up with life coaches who also do a little personal organizing on the side, or lawyers who specialize in labor & employment work – except when they’re helping their clients with their estate planning.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with moving into new areas for existing clients – it’s a great way to expand your business and keep things interesting – but it gets dicey when you start presenting yourself to new clients as a jack-of-all-trades. You run the risk of coming across as a dilettante rather than a specialist.

You also scare away the people who really want your core skills. If I want a cake for a birthday party, I want someone who makes cakes. Period. Not someone who makes cakes and strings tennis rackets.

Keep your marketing tight and focused, and make sure you’re damn good at what you do, and you’ll most likely have all the business you can handle.