There was a time when I unhesitantly told people I was six feet, one inch tall.
I’m not certain it was ever precisely true, but close enough that the state of Massachusetts had no qualms about listing it on my driver’s license.
Today, though, and thanks to the ravages of time, if I were to make the same claim I would be flat out lying. I am, at last count, just under six feet.
My 18-year-old son, Jonathan, on the other hand, is continually creeping up from the other direction. We’ve been standing back to back in measurement for several months now as he strains to surpass me in height.
So, who’s taller? Well, at first glance he seems to be.
When we stand face to face his eyes are definitely higher than mine. Plus, as a less evolved primate, he still has hair on top of his head, to protect him from the cold or something.
But when we actually measure, time and again, I win by just a little bit (for now).
Why? Well, it seems that my head comes to a bit of a point, a mysterious artifact that has thus far kept me in the Katz Family winner’s circle.
Jon, however, argues that “the point should not count.” To him, this isn’t about how tall I am so much as it is the result of an unfortunate deformity.
I look at it differently. As I often say, “Hey, it’s still my head.”
In marketing, as in heads, the question of “What’s real and what isn’t?” often comes into play.
In my Word of Mouth Marketing webinar earlier this week, for example (if you missed it I am penalizing you 500 points), we talked about how best to describe the work that we each do.
This is a critical question, of course, since if you live in a referral-based, word of mouth world (and if you don’t, you’re reading the wrong newsletter), people need to both understand and remember what you do.
That’s the only way they will think to share you with another human who has a problem that you might be able to solve.
Unfortunately, if you insist on “describing what is” when you talk about your work (i.e., covering all the different projects and clients you’ve helped and potentially could help), you’ll be remembered for nothing in particular (if at all).
If, on the other hand, you choose a slice of reality and unabashedly plant both feet firmly within it (why am I suddenly talking like Benjamin Franklin?), you’re much more likely to stand out and be remembered.
As Robert Cialdini says in his (terrific) book, Pre-Suasion, “The main purpose of speech is to direct a listener’s attention to a selected sector of reality.”
The key phrase there is “selected sector.” And while he wasn’t talking about marketing per se, he may as well have been.
Your job, therefore, in answering the question, “What do you do?” is not to describe what you actually do – it’s to tell the listener what you want them to remember.
And that requires being both specific and narrow.
Don’t be just a business coach. Be a business coach who helps middle managers climb the corporate ladder.
Don’t be just a picture framer. Be a picture framer who specializes in framing the unusual.
Don’t be just an attorney. Get a real job. Ha, ha! I am kidding. Be an attorney who focuses on contracts for small businesses.
Here’s the bottom line. Marketing and Reality are drinking buddies; they hang out together and certainly have a lot in common. But they are not the same thing.
The former, when done right, is a cherry-picked version of the latter.
Is it true? One hundred percent. Is it a comprehensive summation of your history on planet Earth? Not if you want the phone to ring.
This article originally appeared here on Blue Penguin Development and has been republished with permission.