I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy who likes to think about stuff.
Have you ever read something that speaks directly to you? I read such a thing a few days ago. The title of the blog post was, “The Simple Secret to Getting more Word-of-Mouth Referrals,” written by Michael Katz. The secret? Say what you do…plainly! It seems so obvious, but I know from personal experience it’s not.
I was at a networking event, sitting at a table. A couple asked to join me. I said yes. A gentleman asked to join the table shortly afterwards. We said yes. When the woman in the couple asked the gentleman what he did for a living, the gentleman replied, “I work with athletes, specializing in <insert technical mumbo-jumbo none of us at the table understood>.” He prattled on for at least five minutes (it seemed that long, at least). The couple and I were just smiling and nodding as he spoke. The whole time, I’m thinking to myself, “Why couldn’t he just have said that he’s a personal trainer and leave it at that?
In his blog post, Michael Katz explains that people typically only care about finding a match. If you need a mason, you’re going to ask your friends and family if they know a mason. They’re going to wrack their brains to come up with someone. Perhaps your brother plays on a recreational basketball team with a mason. Does your brother know if the mason is good? Probably not. Your brother just knows that he’s a mason, and he’s going to give you the mason’s name. After that, it’s up to you to vet the mason. But the match is all your brother cares about.
This line in Katz’s article really stood out to me: “Here’s the bottom line. Being seen as an experienced, capable, impressive professional who can get the job done is important, no doubt about it. But none of that matters until someone throws your name into the ring as a possible contender. And that won’t happen (much) until what people think you do matches what people think they need. Keep it simple.”
It’s so true! If the gentleman at the table had just said he’s a personal trainer, it would’ve made a stronger impression in my mind. If I came across someone else at the networking event looking for a personal trainer, I could say I was sitting with one at my table. I would have recognized the match.
Explain what you do in a way that anyone can understand. When people ask me what I do, I say I’m a patent agent. If they don’t know what that means, I say I help people with inventions apply for patents. That’s easy enough for people to keep in their minds. If they meet someone who’s interested in applying for a patent, they’ll have a much easier time remembering me because my explanation of what I did was simple enough to understand.
Michael Katz says, “Keep it simple.” I agree. Do you?