Whether in the game of attracting clients and staff or managing teams, we will be either a great magnet or big can of insect repellent. Whether people come on board or jump ship will be based on their own unique personalities, needs and preferences and how they resonate and converge with ours.
At 23yo I learnt that lesson the hard way when promoted into my first ever management role. I assumed that all my sales representatives would share the same motivations and purpose and be encouraged by the leadership style that I was. Whoa, how wrong, naïve and in hindsight, even arrogant I was. But I was young! As resignations were offered I had to work out quick smart what each sales person needed from their manager (me) and what motivated them as individuals. And my team was diverse across ages, skills and lifestyles.
During that time I coined the Curry Theory. This idiom is an ethos which has stayed with me for decades since. The Curry Theory refers to the unique experiences of the exact same dish. It sounds bizarre to the uninitiated, but bear with me.
Imagine you and a bunch of friends are dining at an Indian restaurant with the same dish being shared around with bronze vessels of rice. Observe the different reactions. Some friends will label the dish akin to a volcano exploding in their mouth, and others find it as smooth and mild as silk on the lips. There is no right or wrong, just the experience of each persons tastebuds and preferences.
And so it is with our personal brand styles and how others perceive and respond to them. The Curry Theory applies to every part of marketing and branding as we just cannot be everything to everyone and doing so will send us crazy. And we cannot be the polar opposite of what we are. How we impact others has so many influences. But that does not give licence to ignore self-development or improvement. But our core essence is our foundation and as business owners there is strength in holding our value in that space when done with care.
And when you run your own business you have a different set of needs and focus than working for another organisation. The marketing and attraction of clients and staff buck stops with and around you. Whereas as a manager of another organisation you must navigate differently – as I had to with my sales team back all those years ago.
So back to the business at hand. Most of us operate in noisy and competitive market sectors where prospects are spoilt for choice. Oh for the utopia of being in a business without competition and the hustle. Oh sorry I must have fallen asleep daydreaming as I typed that sentence. Ok back on track now.
With a glut of choices there will be a wide degree of expertise and knowledge to review. Yet sometimes the expertise and knowledge may be relatively on par. But what is never on par is the ‘experience of you’ and how you deliver and communicate expertise and knowledge.
No one does exactly what you do in the same way you do it
This is a favourite mantra of how clients can delineate business offerings and embrace their personal brand power and differences. And those differences feed into the ‘experience of you’. And it’s that experience that cuts the mustard and enables prospects to make the best choices that suit their style.
Small businesses can drive the types of clients that will best align to their core essence. It’s both exciting and a little scary. And why is that important? Because frankly, it’s a pain in the ass to deal with people who just drive you up the wall of frustration. And it’s a pain for businesses to have a supplier that just irks and irritates despite the skills. Hey I get it, I’ve been on both sides of the curry divide.
Whilst the utopian vision of a perfect world, clients and business just won’t have a 100% metric, 100% of the time, by gee we can minimise the risk and pain. Oh the pain as Dr Zachary Smith used to lament in Lost in Space. I digress again. Ok so how can you as a small business or solo operator help minimise situations of mismatch, teeth clenching and hair pulling?
Self Selection Experience Branding
When you communicate your working style, expectations and the clients you best work with it instantly attracts and repels. Remember the magnet and can of insect repellent. Taking a clear and elegant stand on who and what you want to attract reduces time and stress along with discouraging the wrong type of enquiries and time wasters. And don’t we also have experience of those. grrr. How do I know this? Because over the last 12 months I have implemented the strategy in my own business and those of my clients. Mind you it takes courage to be clear but it’s worth it. So let’s look at how you can start to position and drive self selection.
Where to communicate
Make sure it’s across your website, LinkedIn profile and other social media channels.
Share your personality style
If you’re a quiet type, then you need to communicate that in a way that feels right as so many people will be drawn to that. I know of a few freelancers who admit they are introverts and love working with similar types. Nothing wrong with that. Your vibe attracts your tribe and you want your ideal tribe.
If like me you love bold and brave discussions, share that in an elegant and an interwoven way. Be honest in what client would experience when they deal with you directly. Remember as ever that trust and working well together is about the convergence of how rhetoric meets reality. Think here of an online date whose profile and phone manner indicated a really confident person and over the first date you met with a boring wallflower. It happens all the time as expectations are met with disappointment.
A window into your real self will really sharpen the magnet or intensify the fly spray. I communicate that I am bold, direct, witty, caring and a wine lover. So if prospects are really shy, timid and have a moral stance on booze, they will be turned off. And good for me because we won’t gel in the long term.
One of my client communicates that they love to take time to really analyse and reflect on life and business. Another shares that they hate offices and prefer to work in open air surroundings with mindfulness with clients (and no they as they are not a gardener) you get the drift. Show up and you help clients go ‘’ hmm that resonates with me’ or ‘hell forget that’. Either way it self-selects.
The ‘experience of you’ is about HOW you work with your clients in the style that works best for you. As a small business you choose vs being foisted when working for another organisation. Sure I hear some bleat that they cannot afford to be that choosy. Well trust me, after 16 years in business it’s better economics be choosier, let alone better for your wellbeing.
In the work field I’m in I know there are many different personalities and I want everyone to feel safe with me. But going back to the Curry Theory, one person’s version of what safety looks like is different to another. So the best way to align is describing tastefully (excuse the food pun) your style. I state clearly I will challenge clients and call out the issues that need calling out. That will scare the pants off many and others love it.
Think about your working style that energises your work the most and work and communicate from that.
Ideal Clients & Industry Niche
I recommend highly having a “Clients I work best with” section on your website and even LinkedIn. It’s here were you really cut to the chase of self-selection by communicating your ideal client in an elegant and non-confrontational manner. It by virtue builds trust in those ideal prospects that you are a good match for them too.
I also encourage to share a broad (or at best really defined) vision of your ideal industry niches. . Have a think about the industries that really excite and energise you. These should be top of line in this section. This is an age old conundrum for many of course but really valuable in markets with great potential scope and competition.
For example, I have two business divisions, one of which specialises in working with executive career professionals over 45. I share that clearly not to discriminate at all but to demonstrate who I can truly serve exceptionally well. And who doesn’t want to feel that the supplier they choose would select them in a sort of mutual love and respect if you will. And by doing that well, you will discourage those that DON’T fit. Everyone wins I say.
I know of a few businesses who are pretty brutal and confrontational in their ‘Clients we want to work with’ section and it comes across as horribly supercilious. I’ve seen a few statements that state aggressively things such as “don’t bother contacting us if you don’t meet the criteria of being a 1.5M business”. Or “if you are a price shopper, don’t waste our time” Yet the owners relay that it works well for their sectors and ideal clients are attracted to their narrative style. Horses for courses. I do recommend a bit of eloquence where possible and in the ‘voice and tone’ of the person at the helm.
Price Point Inference
This is an interesting one isn’t it? Many of us have a few options on our website for purchase of services and hence the price is self-selective. I have those but other workshops and services without a price.
I recommend alluding to the sort of price point and quality level you want to attract in a variety of communication strategies and inferences. This is really an individual business decision on execution. But for the B2B sector I believe in giving some concept of price points either in dollars (saves time for products) or in something like “our services are not bargain basement but you don’t need to mortgage your home either’. Or “we offer high end services using the best quality products” That will indicate you are not in the cheap as chips category but at the higher end.
Some things change but humans stay the same
We are a complex and ever changing digital world. It’s not easy to thrive and survive in small business. But what has not changed since I was that naïve 23yo sales manager is that everyone beats to a different drum and that’s ok. So be brave and ramp up your branding with the ‘experience of you and your business’. I guarantee that the quality of enquiries will improve and crappy ones will reduce. But be aware that the quantity initially may reduce, and that is a good thing. As ever it’s quality over quantity.