Personality is one of the major things missing from most marketing. And it’s one of the major hidden strengths I rely on whenever I’m entering a new market heavy with competition and want to dominate quickly (which is always.)
Most businesses make the mistake of thinking using any kind of real personality in their marketing is “unprofessional” or some other such nonsense.
That kind of thinking will get you burned at the stake if you ever go up against someone making good use of it.
In the long term, after all your best customers have purchased most of what you have to offer, the ONE THING that’ll keep them coming back to you – even if you have higher prices than average and your offerings have become more commoditized over the years – is your personality.
They like it. They need it. They want more and more of it. Your relationship with your market will be like an on-going fascinating novel, delivered to them in bit pieces, each one making them eagerly look forward to the next installment… but ONLY if you do it right.
Think of your ideal prospect or best customer as a single person representative of your whole market as much as possible. (The better you know who your customer is, the better you’ll be able to develop a business personality they’ll want to cling to.)
Now think of your business as a person, with thoughts, feelings, loves, hates, fears, super-powers, and yes, even weaknesses. If you’re the owner of the business and lead even somewhat of an interesting life, make your business “avatar” an exaggerated version of your own personality for the purpose of having a “voice” to use whenever you write marketing copy for your customers and prospects.
Your business avatar needs to be just like a real person. You need to be strongly FOR certain things and strongly AGAINST others. You need to love some things with a passion and despise others with a vengeance. You need to be a champion for your customer, someone out there fighting for your customer daily, reporting back occasionally with the next interesting bit of news.
If you’ve ever read a J. Peterman catalog, they do an excellent job of giving the reader something to look forward to with each catalog issue as well as injecting passion and romance into such seemingly ordinary products as wallets, shirts, and travel bags.
Part of this structured personality-based communication is similar to the ability to write good prolonged fiction. The Travis McGee series of books is a perfect example of long, compelling fiction spanning around 18 books and 20 years of “loyal customers” (readers) for life. These fans never stopped reading because the books were “too long” or the message “too boring.” The closer you can get to your own style of romance and intrigue, the more people you will hook, and therefore the more you will sell.
Yes, you may very well offend some people. And in fact, its usually good if you do. It means you’re on the right track of creating a business personality that STANDS for something instead of existing as just another faceless entity in the crowd of competitors. Ironically, by turning away certain types of customers, you will more fiercely attract others you never would’ve been able to hold for very long otherwise.
Much like a good body of series fiction, your business story needs to contain the elements of plot, characters, ideas, and adventures. These will be delivered out to your customers and prospects in small doses via your newsletters, continuity products, word-of-mouth, events/seminars/speeches, and via other industry leaders, thus building your “legend” over time.
Key Elements of Your Business Story
1. The Guru, Hero, or Leader – Your avatar needs a story of origin, a reason why you came into being in your particular market. In the health market I mentioned earlier, my story is centered around the fact I got a particular disease and since I had very little money at the time and no health insurance, I decided to go out and find a cure on my own. The story goes on about how hard I studied, researched, and tested until I finally found the elusive solution. Now I’ve packaged it into a special report I’m offering to the customer to save them all the time and expense I had to go through to find it. Bingo, instant dramatized sales story.
2. The “Parables” – Stories you tell your customers about yourself that teach lessons and build your credibility and competence in their minds.
3. The “Miracles” – Incredible things you’re known for making happen that hardly anyone else (or perhaps NO ONE else) can do.
4. Insider language or ritual – Think Starbucks’ “Venti Mocha Whatever” kind of products that actually require the customer to, in a sense, learn a new language. You need to have terms and phrases that are only understood by you and your market so that there’s a clear “inside” and “outside” to your company. Outsiders always want to be on the inside and insiders never want to be left in the cold.
5. The Dogma – Your personality’s fundamental core beliefs and value system. Your personal “rules” and code of ethics. What you will and will never do.
6. The Enemies – Like I said before, you must stand FOR something, and AGAINST something. Take stances and make certain decisions. Honestly admit mistakes and “fight the good fight.” This is especially easy to illustrate in the health market where oftentimes the common enemy shared between you and your prospects are either doctors or Big Pharma.
7. The Testimony – Social proof that your “miracles” really do happen and that your “dogma” is really the way to go.
Consider this: who do you think about if I were to mention…
Obviously, I’m referring to James Bond. But why did you know that? Was it a coincidence? Or did the creators of James Bond MAKE SURE you knew it?
Ahh, now we’re getting somewhere.
Ideally, you need to develop a business personality so compelling and recognizable that you can say just a few key words and people instantly “get it.”
Character Types That Have Proven Longevity In Business
1. The stern, but loving parent – curmudgeon
2. The patient teacher – philosopher
3. The dysfunctional eccentric genius – adventurer
4. The “everyman” – inspirational leader
5. The mystical seer – secret processes, language, and code
People want to read about the exceptional. And while you or I may not be exactly super-hero material, we can still craft exaggerated versions of our everyday selves that will be seen as exceptional to our customers and prospects. We will be more exceptional then our “real life” selves, but not entirely fictional either.
You need to identify and magnify your own special abilities. What are you good at that mystifies most people?
Even if you’re an auto mechanic or someone who sells handbags at an online store, you can still apply all of this to your business. You don’t have to be fighting government goons and dodging bullets for this to really be put to work for you.
As a copywriter, this is part of what I help people put together, along with all the other stuff we’ve been talking about.
You need to look at yourself and…
- accentuate your positives
- exaggerate your personality
- …and embellish your heroics
You need to be a likable character. Obviously, a likable character is one who does likable things. (Why do you think every president has a dog or cat? Not a big thing, but it helps.) You need to do favors for people. You need to be witty in conversation. Don’t be selfish. Have an expansive view of life. Don’t take yourself too seriously. And be self-deprecating, but still confident.
You need to be the exceptional character… but with flaws. Be someone who overcomes obstacles and tells others how to not make the same mistakes.
Your character needs to be emotionally complex. An interesting character is not wholly agreeable to the audience. The audience will not agree with everything you represent or champion. At times, they will even struggle to reach agreement. You need to keep your customers and prospects guessing “What will he/she do next?”
For your customers and prospects to get and maintain interest for you, you must become a real person to them. Real people have flaws and are works in progress. None of us are perfect. From time to time we do make mistakes. This should be no different with our business avatars. No one wants to read about a perfect character.
Sherlock Holmes has endured for well over 100 years because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle understood he could not be perfect. While Sherlock has perfect intellect, he’s an emotional black hole incapable of a sustained relationship with anyone other than Dr. Watson, and on top of that, he abuses drugs.
You sustain an audiences interest over time to the extent you are willing to let them look into your personal life.
If people get to know you well enough and begin to look you up on the internet, do searches on your past history, etc… they’re going to find out something sooner or later anyway… so why not just come clean and admit certain key things in your marketing? The benefits will be two-fold:
1. You’ll get the chance to tell YOUR side of the story and spin it the way you want it to sound. And…
2. You’ll gain even more credibility in the long run for admitting to past mistakes.
For example, if you were selling books on how to get rich in real estate, it would probably be a good idea if YOU went ahead and exposed any past bankruptcies, divorces, or personal insecurities to your market rather than keeping them hidden.
Because they’re true things that really happened to you that you can use to enhance your “realism” to the market and more tightly bond with your customers and prospects, many of whom have likely been through the same hardships themselves.
Also, if anyone ever tries to “expose” you for being some kind of phony (any time you become successful, there are always people who want to see you crash and burn), it’ll be impossible for them to dig up any dirt that you haven’t already “exposed” yourself. You win no matter what and become immune to their jealousy.
As I’ve said before, you need to have a backstory. How did you come into being in this business? How did you get to be who you are today? What do you do what you do, and believe what you believe? This is your mythology, your legend, your life story summarized. It must be told again and again, endlessly and in different ways. It must be woven into even your newest presentations in new ways, always used as a foundation.
Next, what is your character’s context? What enemies do you battle (and conquer?) Under what circumstances do you operate? What kind of people do you interact with? Where do you travel, where do you live? What kind of adventures do you engage in?
In one of the websites I run, my business avatar does battle against the IRS and other “unfair bully” government agencies. He constantly deals with going against the grain on “normal thinking” when it comes to making money with investments and protecting your existing wealth. He hob-nobs with some of the most brutal and influential business men in the world (who wish to protect their anonymity), travels to exotic islands and distant countries in search of opportunity for his customers, and while doing so has little side-adventures with various women, corrupt government officials and sleazy merchants.
And you know what? It’s all TRUE… just exaggerated for the benefit of the reader. To keep them engaged in my sales messages so that they look FORWARD to the next one (oh boy, what in the world is he up to this time?) instead of dreading them (oh geez, not another message from this guy…delete)
Do you see how this can impact your sales? Do you see how this can keep customers for life, buying from you over and over?
You also need to have parables – an ever-growing inventory of stories about your character you tell over and over to illustrate your key ideas, teachings, beliefs, etc.
Your stories must always have a point to them and arrive at that point clearly and concisely. Get used to telling your stories because you’ll need them again every time you send out a new marketing piece to attract new customers.
Always keep selling yourself, your ideas, the value you deliver, your viewpoints, your philosophy, and all the other things that bond you to your market.
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