Has this happened to you?

A client of ours was late paying an invoice.

When I finally chased him down, he said he would make sure that accounting got the message. And I said, “Well, accounting is your wife and she’s sitting in the kitchen right next to you, judging from her latest Facebook post.”

Little guys puff themselves up to appear bigger. Maybe the one man show who is insecure about his or her status. Or they were taught to write about themselves in a distant, corporate, third person voice.

I remember a service you could sign up for that would let you set up a voicemail maze for your phone.
Hey, now you can look like a big company, though you’re at home in your pajamas!
Press 1 if you’re like to piss off customers, and press 2 if you don’t realize you’re pissing them off.

Clients hire you because of YOU, not because of your fancy office, the condescending voicemail greeting, or your clever name.

They buy because of your WHY. 

And the storytelling is what causes them to open their wallet, rationally justified later.

Tron Jordheim, who runs advertising for StorageMart, gave the following advice on being authentic to your clients:

Clients want vendors and partners with a good story. If you are a small shop, then that is a part of your story. If you are a large shop, that is a part of your story. The important components of a great story are:

  • TronBlackHow you got started?
  • How did you end up here?
  • How did this field ignite your excitement or allow you to mash-up all your prior experiences into a ball of value and activity?
  • How have you brought others great results?
  • What was going on with your clients before they hired you or your firm?
  • How did you help them boost projects, turn things around or innovate?
  • The trends you see?

Clients want you to be a thought leader, so tell them what you see in your crystal ball.

Authenticity. Clients pick you for being you, so be you.

A closing statement. Now that you have told your story, ask for the next sale, the next order or the next assignment. Remember the first rule of selling is this: you can’t sell anybody anything, but you can help people talk themselves into buying just about anything. Your story helps clients tell themselves that they want to be a part of your story. They want to tell your story to others so they can feel good about being associated with you. So start telling your story.

So when you beat your chest or attempt to put on big boy pants, you eliminate any chance at authenticity.
The key to success is to be genuine, Mark Twain tells us. Fake that and you’ve got it made.

Look at the mountains of consulting and B2B software companies peddling their services. They’re using the same stock art photos (one of each ethnicity around the conference room table). They all say they’ve got amazing people, are committed to success, and other vague, unprovable claims.

It”s called shilling, not marketing or storytelling

Your company’s success in marketing (especially of the inbound variety) bubbles up from the personal branding effort of each of your people.

In other words, the sum of the personal brand power of each of your people is your company’s reputation.

At the same time, the power that each of your people has is from the word-of-mouth of each of their relationships. The raving clients they serve are the most precious resource your company has– not just because that HR poster says so.

So eliminate the fakery of bogus departments, voicemail mazes, and generic landing pages.
Tell the story of what you do in your clients’ own words, without trying to sell them. And when you do, you’ll never need to cold call again– clients come to you.

If you’re not sure what you stand for or don’t believe you have enough expertise to pick something, then all the more reason to get going. If you’re an agency, don’t just be a digital agency in your city or trying to rank for “Dallas SEO consultant”. Choose a vertical based on where you’ve already had the most success and amplify upon it.

The sure-fire way to make sure you win is when you have no competition.

So what are you going to do about it?