Showing up in times like these

Many people think about marketing as being about winning. As manipulating people into buying their product.

This has never been more wrong than today. In times like these, we learn how communicating with honesty and in a helpful and human way is what our audiences appreciate the most.

Don’t get me wrong. Sneaky marketing techniques still exist and thrive. They won’t go away. But what’s changed is that people are more sensitive towards the difference between those who have been honest and helpful and those who have been deceptive.

The fascinating part is this: If what you offer is truly helpful then the best strategy to make yourself seen and heard actually is to speak from your heart.

The frightening part is this: that includes showing up in the first place.

Surprisingly many people have quite good antennas for bullshitting. The success of the selfish marketer doesn’t stem from the fact that they have better marketing copy (often, they don’t) but much rather from the fact that they are willing to show up consistently and loud.

If your offer makes a difference, please show up. And then speak up from your heart. We need your voice and we need you.

Do you mean what you say?

They often say things like: “We care for our customers”. Yet, when you interact with them you don’t feel like they actually do.

Others do care but don’t speak about it. Yet, as long as you don’t interact with them you will never know.

So, most customers will just default to choosing the former company simply because they don’t know what they’ll get from the latter. Which is a pity because it encourages the kind of marketing messages we all so dislike: messages that are only façade.

This is why it’s so important that you show up and speak up. Because we need you as an honest and trustworthy voice among the many bullshitting marketing messages. If you do care, find a way to make yourself seen and heard.

Contagious behavior

His employees immediately knew when Martin was onto something. It showed in his eyes, his voice, and his gestures. Not that it was a big difference. I’m not even sure, outsiders would have noticed. But for anyone knowing him for an extended period of time, it was pretty clear that a full steam ride was ahead.

And it was contagious. The enthusiasm spread. Soon after, the whole team was going full steam. Exchanging ideas. Pushing forward. Challenging common sense. Pursuing new lines of thoughts.

What Martin regularly manages to achieve with his team is what happens when you yourself believe in what you do. When you say what you mean and mean what you say. His team totally trusted in his judgement because he wouldn’t bullshit. He didn’t use superficial motivational language. He just communicated his vision in a way that provided people with the confidence that this is going to work – just like it did last time … and the time before that.

How can your people tell whether you actually believe in what you say? How can they tell that this is going to be a full steam ride rather than one more of these fancy ideas? How do they know that you yourself are fully committed to it?

It pays to share these feelings with your team.

Someone’s got to suffer

The journalist and language teacher Wolf Schneider famously said: “Someone’s got to suffer, the writer or the reader.”

The same is true for speakers and audiences.

Either we let our audience do the hard work of understanding. Of getting the point. Of looking for what we mean.

Or we do the hard work to make it easy for our audience to understand. To get the point. To see and feel what we mean.

The good news is that as a communicator you get to choose.

Yet, depending on your choice it means that we need to go the extra mile to think and re-think of ways to come up with better metaphors, visualizations, and stories. With easier words and ways to interact with our audience. It means that we need to invest the time to practice until our story works. But it also means that it’s so much more likely to resonate with our audience.

How do you choose?

Answers and questions

There are at least two kinds of people: Those that have more answers than questions and those that have more questions than answers.

Given that most things are complex, few things have simple answers and each one of us is an expert in even fewer things, it’s hard to believe that any one person would be able to have definitive answers on many things.

People who have many answers tend to confuse answers with opinions and decisions. They tend to believe that their opinions and their decisions need to be right.

They don’t.

It’s perfectly ok to have an opinion even if you don’t know all the answers. It’s perfectly ok to decide what to eat, where to go, or what to say even if you don’t know all the answers. It’s probably even required in most situations because we hardly ever have all the knowledge that it takes to find the right answer.

But that’s ok. We can have an opinion and still acknowledge that there might be a different truth that we don’t fully grasp. Or that we just don’t know enough about, yet. We can always adapt.

It’s when we insist on being right all the time that we have stopped getting it right. Being right is hardly ever the point though. Working hard to be right leads discussions to become fights.

The world would be a much nicer place if we took opinions for what they are, if we admitted that we don’t know much about most things, and that getting it right is often a more helpful posture than being right.

The long valley of hard work and despair

“The Dip” is what Seth Godin calls that long valley of hard work and despair that you have to get through before being able to achieve anything of significance and remark-ability.

When faced with the dip, Godin says that

“The most common response to the Dip is to play it safe. To do ordinary work, blameless work, work that’s beyond reproach. When faced with the Dip, most people suck it up and try to average their way to success.”

When was the last time you aimed high with your speech? When was the last time that you tried to come up with something that’s actually amazing? And with amazing I don’t mean “looks good” but to take your audience to places they haven’t been before.

It requires us to do work that feels scary. To say words that people might not like. To step up even when we feel like others might repel us. To be vulnerable to speak about the things we truly care about. To be courageous to come up with new ways of looking at things.

It might feel scary. It might be hard work. But it’s also worth it.

Being right vs. getting it right

Being right feels good, doesn’t it? Being wrong not so much.

In fact, for many being wrong feels so bad that they will go to great lengths to certify why it wasn’t their fault, why it’s because of this and that, and if only they had known this and that then – of course – they would have been right.

Yet, what if it’s not about being right but about getting it right? What if it wasn’t about knowing all the answers but about being able to ask valuable questions? What if the point is not about knowing but about learning? Improving? Seeing with different eyes? From different perspectives?

What if there is no right? If only because we’re on uncharted ground.

Being right is what school taught us to strive for. Often, though, getting it right is much more useful.

What kind of “yes”?

What kind of “yes” are you seeking with your presentation?

Are you looking to just close that deal? Or are you looking for deep commitment?

Are you looking to make a quick buck? Or do you want to build a long lasting relationship?

Are you satisfied when you made the sale? Or do you want to go all the way until you solved the problem?

If it’s the former, then craft a presentation that doesn’t make me think. Make it an easy choice. Make me say “yes” quick. Give me an offer I cannot resist because it’s “too good to be true”.

However, if you’re looking for commitment, if you want to build a relationship, the opposite might be better suited for you. Make it a hard choice. Make me consciously decide that yours is the right solution for me. Make me struggle with the decision so that once I choose you, then I’m totally convinced and I’m all in.

Easy choices appear tempting. But trust isn’t built on easy choices. It’s built on honesty, empathy, and commitment. It’s built on thinking things through and sweating the details.

What kind of “yes” are you seeking?

3 percent

What if you improved your next speech just a little bit? Let’s say (just to put a number on it) by 3%?

It’s not much. Your audience probably won’t notice the difference. But let’s just assume you did. And then you did it again for the next speech. And then the next.

It’s not that big of an effort, either. Just 3% more effort. You probably won’t even notice the difference. But let’s just assume you committed to it. And then you did it again for the next speech. And then the next.

So, what if, each time, with a tiny bit more of an effort, you delighted your audience just that tiny bit more? What if you consistently did it each and every time?

Eventually, your audience will notice.

If you consistently overdeliver on what your audience expects, even just a tiny bit, it will pay in the long term. How many people do you know who would be willing to do the same? It catapults you in your own ballpark.

Just 3%. Every time.

(Of course, the fascinating part is that – if you really do this consistently, if you really do make improving a habit, the impact on the result will add up, but the effort won’t because as you get used to overdelivering, your baseline will adapt. So, in the long run, you will be able to deliver much better results with similar amounts of effort.)

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Dr. Michael Gerharz

Dr. Michael Gerharz