You might not think of yourself as being in the publishing/media business, but these days, if you're not, your business prospects are a bit fewer and further between because of it. Millions of people are rushing to the web to search, to seek out product reviews, to learn what they need to improve their lives or their businesses. One way to sell to these people is to captivate them with entertainment, and to build a bridge between the kind of people that make up your company, and the kind of people who would want to buy from you. Here, friends, are some thoughts about you as an entertainer.
Everything In Service of Your Database
My friend and former boss, Jeff Pulver told me, "you live or die by your database." He was in the events business at the time (still is, actually), and he was saying that the database of potential attendees, as well as the database of exhibitors, were what every show organizer had to nurture, protect, and grow. The idea rings true for many other types of business, and so let's start by thinking this way.
If you're not keeping some kind of client relations database, start. And when I say "database," I don't mean something fancy. Companies like BatchBlue make BatchBook, which is at once deceptively simple and yet very powerful. Another similar product is Highrise by 37Signals. If even those are too fancy, you can make a simple spreadsheet using Google Docs. The goal is to have a place to store name, address, email, phone number, and then whatever else is useful to your business.
As this pertains to you as an entertainer, your goal is to invite more and more people into your database (and I do mean "invite" and not "blindly add.")
We All Love a Good Show
Discovery Channel was kind of flat. They had several years of great programming, but from all external measures, viewership was way down, and people weren't really all that interested. This, naturally, meant that advertisers weren't exactly beating the door down to advertise. This changed with the show Dirty Jobs.
Mike Rowe went from being a 3rd shift nobody on QVC to being the salvation of the Discovery Channel's line-up by delivering an interesting (sometimes cringe-worthy) show about what it meant to be an employee at some of the dirtiest jobs in the world. With his blend of humor, everyman nature, and the mixture of crazy jobs he was thrown, the show was at once entertaining and yet also glancingly educational. The formula stuck. There are dozens of TV shows in this format.
Think like this when you think about marketing and promoting your business. Ask yourself this: would you watch your marketing if it were a TV show? Would you read your marketing like you want to read Oprah Magazine or Wired? That's what I'm talking about.
We're Not All Entertainers - But We ALL Can Be Entertaining
Not everyone can be Lady Gaga. A good bunch of you thought just now, "Nor would I WANT to be." But we can all accept that making something just a bit more shiny, a bit "different," a bit more engaging is a lot better than making something "comprehensive" or "effective sales copy."
Instead, think about story. Think about the act of telling someone something such that they want to hear how it ends. Think about how to humanize the workings of your company. Connecting with people can be easy. Talk about something that happened to you that you know they can relate to, and then build off that. Example: what was it like buying your first car? Can you remember? What happened? I know that story in detail, and could turn it into a story about why my company will never treat you like a moron. You with me?
Tools of The Trade
Want to up your game? How about giving a webinar (free or otherwise) that tells people about Traveling First Class on an Economy Budget when you're in the travel accessories business, or a hotelier, etc. (Hint: don't make any of them about your company or product. Make it about the world surrounding your company or product.) One of my clients is the people who make GoToWebinar, and they say that lead generation stats from webinars are very high. And remember, the end result of all those sign-ups are food for your database. Invite everyone who signed up to get your weekly newsletter.
So, I'm presuming you have a weekly newsletter. If so, is it a big rolling weekly ad for stuff you want to sell your customers? Here's a hint: don't always make that the case. No matter what your business, your customers and prospects maybe don't want to buy from you every week (unless you're really darned lucky), but they might appreciate the space you represent, and they might like updates and ideas around that space. Give them that more than you give them stuff to buy, but leave some calls to action in there, too. Everything in service of your database, right?
Blogs are a great way to create content to entertain. That's what I do, for instance. chrisbrogan.com is where I talk about how human business works. I do this because I want to educate and equip others for success. But that's also where I get between 40-60% of my clients. They see something they need in a blog post of mine, and they contact me for further conversations. It's delightful. I try not to sell blatantly. Instead, I'm helpful. It's like magic.
Entertainers Make Great Friends
If you get into the entertainment habit, you'll find more friends. Friends beget networks. Networks yield value for your database. It's a fairly simple equation. Be human. Be human and entertaining, and you'll find a lot of value while delivering useful entertainment to others. If you're still shrugging a bit, still unsure, look around at some of the most successful people out there in your space. I can bet they're entertaining to one degree or another. Why not try it? I'd love to hear how it turns out.