How tackling the little things can make a big difference

Feb 8, 2016

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I suppose I should just come right out and say it: I don’t exactly know how to use the rear windshield wiper on my car.

I mean I sort of know how to use it…

I know which button turns it on and off; I know that there are three different settings.

But I don’t really know which setting does what or even what the range of possible behaviors is (fast, slow, intermittent, coordinated with the front wipers, etc.)

And so each time it rains I just start clicking in all directions until something appropriate happens.

Now, in my defense, let me just say that I’ve only owned the car for 17,739 miles (that’s 19 months, for those of you on the metric system). So I figure there’s still time to figure out all the ins and outs.

But why, I wondered as I fumbled with the controls this morning on the way to my office, have I not yet cracked the windshield wiper code?

Is it because the wiper button is tiny and has no writing associated with it?

Is it because the only time I think about it is when I’m driving in the rain, and at that point I can’t investigate further?

Or, am I just kind of dumb?

Maybe, maybe and hey, watch it mister.

But no, the real reason, I think, is simply this: It’s not a big enough or annoying enough problem to fix.

And so while I could get the answer right now, once and for all, by just getting up, walking out to the parking lot and opening the manual in the glove compartment, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to bother.

The fact is, small annoyances – whether regarding your car, your house, your brother-in-law, or any number of other things in your life – often go unfixed for years and years.

Which brings me to the way you run your solo business and, in particular, your marketing. Here as well, we take care of the big stuff right away – but often ignore the little things.

If your web site is down you contact your hosting company immediately. If your printer dies you run right out and buy a new one. If a check bounces you call the bank and take care of it.

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Big things = Fast action.

The little things, though, often go unfixed. One of the most common of these if you’re a solo professional is a lack of consistency in the way you describe your work.

Your web site says one thing. The footer of your newsletter says something else. Your bio focuses on yet another area. Your social media profiles are all over the map.

Add to this the fact that when another human asks, “What do you do for a living?,” you launch into an off-the-cuff gobbledygook-fest of unprepared blah blah that makes a Roger Goodell press conference sound transparent and to the point, and you’ve got a recipe for not being remembered.

And that’s a problem. Not a big, something-critical-is-on-fire-right-now problem, but a problem all the same.

Because while all the things you put out into the world regarding your business kind of relate to one another, it’s not precise or consistent enough for any casual passerby (and we are all casual passerbys relative to everyone else) to notice, much less remember.

So here’s what I recommend: Figure out your key phrase(s) and use them over and over again. Don’t be creative every time – boil it down, decide on the words and become a broken record.

If you’re a mortgage broker named Debbie Siegel who specializes in working with newly divorced women, say so on your web site, in your LinkedIn headline, in your bio and whenever you’re given the opportunity to explain what you do.

If your name is Richard Cohen and you help companies resolve conflict in the workplace, make sure this too is on your web site, profile page, business card, bio and everywhere else.

Here’s the bottom line. The lack of a consistent message is a subtle but highly damaging aspect of any marketing strategy that depends – as yours and mine do – on word of mouth.

And while it’s never going to be big enough or noisy enough to grab your attention today, not dealing with it will keep you hidden from the people and companies who might otherwise find and hire you.

Michael Katz is Founder and Chief Penguin of Blue Penguin Development. He specializes in developing email newsletters for professional service firms. Sign up for his free newsletter, The Likeable Expert Gazette, here.

Michael Katz

Michael Katz is Chief Penguin of Blue Penguin Development. He specializes in developing email newsletters for professional service firms. Sign up for his free newsletter, The Likeable Expert Gazette.