5 Ways to Lose an Audience

Has your appeal to large audiences been trailing off lately? Are you getting fewer and fewer “likes” or “shares” on your content — none, maybe? Ugh. We all struggle with it.

We can blame changing algorithms, insufficient SEO, and the ever increasing shrieking noise of the online marketplace. But if your sales have been flat since Q1 2016, then consider something else — you, yourself may be to blame.

There are lots of ways to attract an audience, but there are even more ways to drive them off. I call them “audience repellents.” Here are five that I see most often:

(1) Bragging and Humble Bragging

Whereas, “bragging” is a self-inflicted wound, and “humble bragging” is pouring lemon juice on it.

We don’t like braggarts at a cocktail party, so it stands to reason we don’t like it from businesses, either. Humble bragging is bragging online about your business accomplishments, but pretending to be modest while you’re doing it.

A business humble brag usually starts with the words, “We’re just thrilled to announce that…,” Or, “We’re so humble and honored to have…”  

We all like attention for our business achievements, but when bragging is the main substance of almost all of your public interaction, and you feel you have to brag to get people to notice you, you become repellent in the minds of your audience.

I don’t think perpetual braggers are deliberately trying to turn people off.  You might think that your audiences will be impressed and even love you MORE. But actually, the OPPOSITE is true!

There is a Harvard business study that proves that people dislike and lose respect for companies and individuals who brag, and especially who humble brag. 

So, lighten up on bragging and opt for achieving “3rd Party Credibility.” People believe what other people say about you, not what you say about yourself. Send out a press release so that the media can make your announcement. If you’ve won an award from an entity, let the entity make the announcement on your behalf. Hide it on your website somewhere.

Just resist the urge to run out into the town square and shout, “Look at me! Look at me!”

(2) Failure to Connect and Engage

You can visit many social media business pages, websites and posts and see nothing but brags and self-serving sales messages, as if social media itself was created just so marketers could advertise for free. You will also observe that there’s not much of an audience there, either.

To attract an audience, you need to make the bulk of your communications strategy about delivering the information they want, not what you want. If someone’s not interested in you as an organization or as a solo professional, they certainly won’t care about your sales agenda.

(3) Failure to Understand Your Audience

I learned this the hard way, back when we were trying to make our rock band famous. More often than not, in order to pay the rent, we had to play gigs to please audiences who were more into hearing Top 40 music than any of my original tunes.

Once we were booked as an opening act for David Brenner, and his audience comprised the blue hair casino crowd who lived for Frank Sinatra and yelled “turn it down!” when their grandkids had the radio on.

Anxious to show off on a big stage, my band played mostly our original rock tunes. After each one, all we got were golf claps. But when we played “The Rose” at the end, back then a top-of-the-charts ballad, we got a standing ovation.

There’s something to be said for “givin’ ’em what they want.”

(3) Giving Up too Soon

It takes time, and lots of repetition, to get people to notice you. Unless, of course, you’ve just landed a jet in the Hudson River without killing anyone.

And by time, I mean months, even years. There was a saying long ago: “Just when you’re getting sick of your own messaging is when people start paying attention.”

Keep your communications frequent, relevant to your audience and consistently value-driven.

(4) Your Website Isn’t Media Friendly

Never forget that the “media” is one of your most important audiences. The people most likely to tell others about you and give you mass exposure are journalists, editors, TV producers, radio talk show hosts, podcast hosts, and thousands of bloggers. They’re always looking for experts to interview.

To research your company and judge whether you’re credible, they’ll look at your website. If you don’t have an online press room providing the kind of information a journalist needs to do his/her job, they’ll probably blow you off. Either that, or they’ll search LinkedIn for your leadership’s LinkedIn profiles. No LinkedIn profiles?

They will move on to another company or expert who has their act together. It wasn’t you.

(5) Failure to be Passionate about Your Brand

An audience-attracting brand regularly expresses genuine  passion for something greater than itself. 

Apple has a passion for beautiful design. Nike is passionate about athletes. Harley Davidson is passionate about freedom and adventure. Ben & Jerry’s is passionate about the earth and the environment.

Get your positioning team back together and commit yourself heart and soul to ONE ideal you can stand behind. Your passion is a magnet for people who share your values, because it inspires trust and a sense of loyalty.

A business without authentic passion resorts to humble bragging.

I am thrilled and honored that you have read this post.

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know-Itis

This might be another dumb human story. It’s certainly something we all have in common. Maybe it’s even hard-wired into our DNA. The problem is, it can cut us off at the knees without our ever knowing it.

It’s called, “We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know-itis.”

It hurts us because it blocks us from greater possibilities. It keeps us blind to solutions of problems we didn’t know existed. It certifies our ignorance. Some people are aggressively assertive that they know something, when they don’t.

It affects our business in negative ways. It insults the experts. It limits our options.

And there’s no cure — as far as I know. Because we don’t know we’re missing anything. It’s insidious. Cruel. And, it’s not our fault.

Case in point: Figuring I could record my songs by myself at home if only I had the right audio equipment, I purchased Pro Tools, a high quality audio recording software often used in professional music studios. I loaded it into my Mac.

I thought this would be a cost-effective solution. I wanted to be able to get ideas down immediately, especially the choirs of voices or tsunami of strings that often ran through my mind. Thus, like any consumer, I wanted fast and easy. I knew there would be some learning curve, but had confidence I could master it in a short amount of time.

Keep in mind, I’d had NO previous audio recording training. I had produced tracks in sound studios for years, but never touched the audio mixing board. The board (to me) looks like the cockpit of an alien space vessel.

Ha! The Pro Tools screen on my Mac also looked like an alien ship’s dashboard. I was in big trouble.

Enter my friend, Jim Salamone, of Cambridge Sound Studios in South Philly. He’s produced some of the greats: Grover Washington, Jr., Bon Jovi, Teddy Pendergrass, and many more. Jim and his producer/engineer, Todd Mecaughey, have forgotten more about music production than I’ll ever know.

So, I asked Jim and Todd if they would tutor me in the art of Pro Tools sound recording. Bless their hearts, they were so patient with me, but I learned through them that you can’t fly a jet without hundreds of hours of training.

Jim told me this happens a lot in his line of business. People underestimate the huge amount of expertise required to work magic in a recording studio.

People also underestimate how many hours of preparation it takes to do a truly wonderful and inspiring TEDx talk. They underestimate the difficulty of writing a book — a GOOD one. They underestimate the hours of preparation a consultant does before they walk in your door. There are many examples.

I want to live in a world where people concede they don’t know everything, and where they show automatic respect to the professionals and experts who have mastered their crafts.

I welcome you to weigh in and share any experiences you’ve had with people who underestimated the width and breadth of your experience and training.

How to Get Them Eating Out of Your Hand

Growing a service-based business is harder today than it ever was.

Before our friend, I. M. Internet, came along, our big business development goal was to fill the pipeline with leads so that we could initiate the sales process. It was purely a numbers game. It still is, to a great extent, but the game has changed. Those “numbers” have gotten smarter, and they expect to be wined and dined first.

Seemingly overnight, there’s been a major shift in the biz dev model, and most businesses are struggling to adapt. The old schoolers continue to resist and push for fast wins.

Today, the recommended process for service-based businesses is to attract audience, develop relationships to build trust and credibility, collect warm leads, and THEN initiate the sales process.

Failing to understand and/or respect this new model is detrimental. Let’s unpack it.

Think “Attract Audience,” not “Fill Pipeline”

There’s a new buzz phrase out there: “Audience is the new currency.” Audience precedes leads. An audience is a group of people who have decided you might be worthy of trust and have wandered over to your platform to check it out. They’re not leads yet, not by a long shot. If you do anything sudden and disturbing, like selling prematurely, they scurry off until they’re attracted by something/someone else that interests them.

It’s tantamount to running into a flock of sparrows (metaphor for your ideal prospects) with a loaf of bread and expecting them to eat out of your hand then and there.

Getting them to eat out of your hand takes time and patience. You’ve got to sit on the grass, put breadcrumbs about 10 feet in front of you, and wait patiently. They don’t trust you (like, not at all), so they wait in the trees until you leave. At this stage, they’re “lurkers” — they watch, but don’t engage.

So you go out again, the next day, and the next, casting out breadcrumbs and waiting patiently, not making a move. The goal? Being a kind, brilliant presence.

Days later, one brave little birdie lands on the grass, snatches a breadcrumb, then flies off again. The birdie thinks, “Wow! This is good bread! And I’m still alive!” The next day, she tries it again, enjoys the breadcrumb, and thinks, “This is sweet! I’ll go back tomorrow,” i.e., she subscribes to your blog, likes your Facebook page, watches your previous YouTube videos, etc.

Other birds have been watching the first birdie, who is saying good things about your delicious breadcrumbs. So, they take a risk and swoop down on your breadcrumbs in ever increasing numbers.

After about a month, you decide to put the breadcrumbs on the ground immediately in front of you, very close. Though the birds are still cautious, they land and snatch the breadcrumbs. They’ve gotten used to you sitting nearby, used to your face, but they’ve learned you’re not going to make any sudden moves. They believe you’re only trying to feed them.

Much later, you put a sizeable bread crumb on the flat of your hand, and extend it outwards. (This breadcrumb is a free download, free webinar or other such treasure.) The birds know your breadcrumbs are delicious and have learned you can be trusted, so they’re willing to take the breadcrumb from your hand.

With continued patience and dedication to providing the most delicious breadcrumbs, you eventually attract the entire flock.

Ninety percent of service-based businesses have a hard time with long-term nurturing, so keep this in mind before you quit your day job. Build your flock first. The rest is gravy.

 

PR, Not Marketing, Is Best for Entrepreneurs

 

A couple of people have made concerning remarks to me recently that were so uninformed that I want to set the record straight immediately.

In fact, these remarks have prodded me to be more aggressive in my mission to convince new business owners that a focus on PR, not marketing, is the correct way to put a new business on the map. Why?

  1. PR is more cost-effective for a new business
  2. PR builds brand awareness — exactly what you need right now
  3. PR finds, and capitalizes, on FREE ways to get exposure and establish trust

I don’t hate marketing — my MBA is in marketing. I’ve drawn more positioning maps and written more marketing plans than most. Marketing is wonderful and fun. What I generally object to is how today’s generation of marketers are either doing a turf grab on the PR function or neglecting to incorporate it into the strategy altogether because they don’t know what they don’t know.

I won’t argue that, in today’s environment, PR and marketing are engaged to be married. I resisted this for a long time. If PR needs to change her name, so be it. But her roles will be the same. The following table explains the differences:

“Content” falls under the PR umbrella, as does non-promotional social media. Anything you do to educate people (workshops, seminars and speaking gigs) is also PR. “Branding” is a partnership between marketing and PR… logo and graphic identity (which belongs to marketing, because it involves “package design”) plus getting the word out via non paid channels, which is PR.

You can’t lump everything under marketing, because marketing is SALES ONLY.

Entrepreneurs will do themselves a great service by learning about public relations BEFORE they jump into using budget-sapping marketing strategies. Building your brand comes first. Later, when you have some money, go ahead and buy advertising to sell your stuff.

Let’s debate. Bring it on!

This post is dedicated to my fellow brothers and sisters in the public relations profession. Please add to this any important distinctions I may have missed.

Why Imperfect Actions Make the Best Stories

Harry S. Truman said that, “imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.”

Most likely, he said this because he noticed that most people won’t try to do anything they think they can’t do perfectly on the first try. It’s also called “perfection paralysis.” It happens to writers a lot. It’s the leading cause of writer’s block.

It happens to everyone who begins to drift out of the “comfort zone.”

Then, a teacher or mentor comes along and says, “Gosh darn it, just write whatever comes to your head. All first drafts are sh*tty, no matter who you are. Get your thoughts down. Be messy!”

I’m in a program with 30 other high achievers who are intent on taking their speaking careers to the next level. These are amazingly accomplished people from all walks of life. An astronaut, several best selling authors, successful serial entrepreneurs, healthcare gurus, world travelers, big stage keynoters — and me.

One of the projects for the keynoters has been to draft a 45- to 60-minute keynote speech, which is about 6,000 words. And many of us were initially stuck, because we have a lot invested financially and emotionally in creating spellbinding presentations.

Even a room full of unquestionably talented industry experts were defaulting into the fear of taking imperfect action.

Because the reality is, when you have a big footprint and take imperfect action, the critics and haters come out, not to praise you for your courage and stick-with-it-ness, but to point out your imperfections and question your worthiness.

The corporate world is eons away from being supportive of imperfect action. So the creatives often get boxed into “safe zones” with well-defined parameters that discourage innovation and risk.

Because most of us speakers are in business for ourselves, we can try out all kinds of crazy ideas, and whether we win or lose isn’t important. It’s the bold act that counts in our culture. For instance, trying a new joke at a speaking gig. Sometimes, the audience will bust their sides laughing. Other times, they’ll look at you like you’ve just eaten a bug. Later, you can laugh about it, because of the support of your comrades in arms.

But our freedom to “just be me” was hard-earned, because most of us started our careers in soul-killing corporate cultures that punished, not rewarded, imperfect action, until a kindly mentor reminded us of our worth.

I’m in the infant stages of launching a series of humorous, 2-minute videos on YouTube. And so far, they’re awful. I can tell, because no one has said anything. Not even friends and family. That’s bad. But I don’t care. I’m going to keep taking imperfect action until they’re good — good enough that people tell me they’re good, and good enough to make the haters come out.

These videos are deliberate, imperfect action, because I am going to keep the project going until they’re good and have a huge following, and then I’ll write it up as a case study to give hope to other creatives everywhere.

Why not take imperfect action today, and then share your experiences via your blog or some other story telling vehicle? It’ll have struggle, conflict and an inspiring resolution — the stuff good stories are made of.

 

 

 

From My Heart in 2017

Anyone who knows me is aware of the specific and numerous challenges I’ve survived to be where I am today.

But really, who hasn’t?  Everyone reading this email has endured challenges, torment, heartbreak and disillusionment. When I was younger, I thought the universe had singled me out for special punishment. It’s a silly and self-centered illusion.

Truth is, every human lives through heart-wrenching experiences. Deciding whether to live or die is what matters. And when you choose life, you realize you’re “allowed” to pursue your heart’s desire — if you’re willing and able to do the work.

I’ve thrown away the need to judge or compare myself with others. Instead, in this chapter of my life, I’ve decided to do what my inner nature compels me to do, as wild as I want. And in 2017, I feel as if I’ve removed a few more restraints. In 2018, I’m going to let the horses out.

Today is the last day of 2017. If you’re consciously “aware” and if personal development is your lifelong quest — and if you see your business or career experience as a part of that quest, realizing that the two are inextricably intertwined (i.e., you can’t leave your soul at the door when you walk to your desk), then 2018 is going to be an amazing year.

Why do I say this?

  • Major cultural shifts are changing the way we do business. It’s forcing us to re-evaluate what’s keeping us stuck and re-invent our business models and personal brands.
  • We have more freedom than ever to try new things when we communicate with the world. Can’t write? Make a video. Can’t video? Take pictures. Not a photographer? Do a podcast. Can’t podcast? Spend more time engaging in social media. Then there’s the “thing” that hasn’t been invented yet.
  • Entrepreneurs are realizing that in order to survive, one ought to have multiple streams of income. This enables one to dig deeper into the trunk of their inherent skills and abilities and find ways to monetize them.

Whoo hoo, right? Will there still be let-downs, fears and failures? Sure. It’s part of the package.

Here’s a good plan for 2018: Hold tight to your vision. Put one foot in front of the other, knowing persistence is the key. Hang around people who are smarter than you. Embrace/explore new technologies to remain relevant. Understand that success is a marathon, not a sprint. Make healthy living a priority. Read a lot. Don’t compare your progress to others, and don’t care what other people say about you. Be your true self, quirks and all.

I’m so happy that you are in my life. Thank you for your goodness and support. It’s a privilege to witness your success. Here’s to another year!