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.

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.

 

 

 

My TEDx Talk Transcription

Delusional Self Promotion: The Bridge from Ego to Empathy

If you’re a business communicator in the digital age, you know more than anybody how important it is today to connect with, and deliver real value to, the people who matter to the success of your business.

 

Unfortunately, this guy didn’t get the memo. You may have run into this guy during your business travels, and you soon realized that he wasn’t there to connect with you, no. The only thing he wanted to do is sell you something.

Now if you haven’t met somebody like this guy, I’m going to paint you a little picture. This is a true story, starring me.

So, I’m at this networking event. I have to admit, I’m not that comfortable networking. I’m an introvert, but I can do it when I need to, and I know how important it is. But it needs to be a comfortable thing, and this guy looked really friendly. So I summoned up all my courage and I went over to him, and I extended my hand.

His name tag said “Sam.”

“Hi Sam. How do you do? My name is Dana.” My handshake was firm and confident, like it’s supposed to be. But his handshake was like sticking your hand in a rock crusher, and he broke every bone in my hand. But he didn’t notice I was wincing because he wasn’t looking at me — he was looking through me, scanning the room for his next victim.

Well, this made me really uncomfortable, and I just wanted to get out of there. I wanted to go to the emergency room, actually. But instead, I stuck it out, and I decided to talk to him some more because I was fascinated by this point.

“So Sam, what do you do?” I remember him giving me some kind of 30 minute spiel. He didn’t talk about a product or service. He rather he talked about himself a lot. I smiled, and I nodded, and I seemed to be very interested, and I reflected back, “Oh yeah? How many? Yeah? Wow.” We exchanged business cards. Then I drew in some breath so I could tell him about me, and what I do. But before I could get the first word out, he turned and walked away. He walked away from me. From me! I was flabbergasted.

Don’t you know, like a few days later, I got an email from this guy addressed to, “Dear friend,” trying to sell me something. I hit the delete button so hard my neighbor’s computer broke.

You know, if people like Sam treat people face-to-face the way he treated me during that awkward face-to-face encounter, imagine how he behaves online where people like this have access to more than 200 free social media channels, and they push themselves out everyday to potentially 10,000 people or more. When he’s really hyped up, he blasts email into your inbox, which forces you to hit delete, delete, delete, which could lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and not a little bit of loss of faith in the future of humanity.

You see Sam, which rhymes with spam, is a taker. He doesn’t give back. He talks, blah, blah, blah. He doesn’t listen. The only thing Sam is interested is in advancing his own agenda. When you’re with him, you wonder if he even sees you as a human being or just a means to an end maybe.

I’ve pondered this kind of behavior over the years, he’s not the only one. There are other people like him. I wonder, do people like that stay in business? Did he even have any customers who weren’t friends or relatives? I see it all the time. There are so many people who go into business, and all they talk about is themselves. Blah, blah, blah.

But I’m going to give him some slack. This is what people are taught. They’re taught that aggressive self-promotion is the way you’re supposed to grow a business. But you see, that’s old school thinking. Times have changed. Of course with every change, there is a little bit of chaos, some confusion, and a whole new set of challenges.

For example, there is more noise circling the globe than there has ever been in history. Yet we as business people still have to find a way to cut through that clutter and convey to people that we’re the best people to do business with. But we have to tread lightly because we don’t want to seem inauthentic.

Another challenge is it takes time, real time, to get people to know they can trust you. But the waiting makes us anxious. I mean, we have bills to pay, right? So we slip into default mode, which is shouting our promotional stuff from the rooftops again, 24/7, 365, “Me. Me. Me. Me.” It’s as if we’re thinking, “Hey. If I can just shout loudly and often enough, customers are going to just jump right into my lap.” But the harsh reality is today’s consumer is immune to that, and the sound of their silence is deafening.

If you really want to attract attention to yourself in this digital age, you’ve got to think and communicate in a whole new way. It might seem counter-intuitive, but believe me, it is so much more effective for achieving your business goals.

Now I don’t … I hate to be the one to say this. Don’t shoot the messenger. I don’t want to sound like the school yard bully, but you need to know — Nobody cares about you! But you know who they do care about? Themselves, right? It’s human, it’s natural. We’re built that way. We can’t help it, and we all think that we’re the center of our own universe.

Everyone wants to be noticed. Everyone wants to be cared about, right? So now we’re thinking, “Well, how do I promote myself and have people care about me and show them that I care about them in return?” Well, here’s a little hint, something to think about; the more we rely on technology to communicate, the more people crave real, heart-felt human connection. We seek out people to do business with, not some faceless corporation. We decide if a business is trustworthy by how sharing its experts are, and how much we feel they care about us, and the community, and the world. That’s where the E-word comes in –empathy.

Demonstrating empathy is one of the most important ways to show people that you care. It’s about sharing, exchanging ideas, it’s about listening to them, it’s about understanding their pain, it’s about solving their problems, it’s about treating others better than you treat yourself. Don’t focus solely on yourself, you don’t have to do that. Just stop drinking your own cool aid, spit it out.

Publicly recognize the achievements of others. Make them laugh, tug at their heartstrings. Model for them how to lead safe, happy, healthy lives. Every time you can, tell a great story. Empathy and value are the oxygen of commerce in the digital age, and I have a vision that if we can all change our mindset away from “me, me, me” to “you, you, you”, fewer businesses will fail, and greater goodness will expand into the universe.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Every man must decide whether to walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” Every business has to decide that, too. So let’s choose the light.

Hey Sam, are you listening?

Thank you.

To view this TEDx talk on YouTube, click here.

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!

PR & Communications Trends in 2018

Next year, business communicators are going to work harder than ever to adapt to a radical shift in the consumer mindset, part of which is, “What’s in it for me?” The most crucial objectives are to stay relevant, understand new technologies, and give the market what it wants. But don’t fret – givers get.

Accordingly, expect to see the following practices emerge in 2018.

1. Battling the “me” epidemic in social media. We will be forced to move away from ego-centric, sales-focused marketing communication (humble brags, ninja advertising) and create content that the audience wants. The new objective becomes earning audience trust before moving in for the sale. This is where PR shines.

2. Hiring seasoned strategists to manage the social media function.Stronger writers and business strategists will take the reins of social media and apply more savvy approaches to winning the hearts of key publics with robust, multi-channel content.

3. Businesses as media outlets. While it will still be important to work with traditional and digital media outlets to relay messages to big audiences, resource-rich companies will leverage social media channels (YouTube, Facebook, blogs, mobile phone video, etc.) to create, host and distribute their own content.

4. The blurring of lines between public relations and marketing.  A larger portion of the marketing budget will be spent on audience attraction through brand journalism. Advertising budgets will shrink. Marketing professionals will acquire and apply public relations skills to fill the gaps.

5. Return to human connection. The more we rely on technology to communicate, the more we crave real, heart-felt human connection. Businesses will find creative ways to engage with audiences and devote more resources to building attractive personal brands for leadership and customer-facing personnel.

 

Blog Creation Tip: OPW (Other People’s Words)

This is a quick tip for anyone who doesn’t have a blog because they:

a) can’t write

b) hate to write

c) don’t have time to write

d) don’t have anything interesting to write about

So here’s a good one — interview people! Have a Q&A session with someone who’s interesting, has particular expertise, owns a popular local restaurant, is someone you admire — any one of a million people and subjects your audience might find interesting.

If the interview is face-to-face, record it with your phone or a digital recorder. You can also record remotely using a free conference call service, Skype, and others.

Transcribe the interview. I use an online transcription service that charges $1.00 a minute. Clean up the text so that it reads smoothly and eliminates any parts where the conversation strayed off topic.

Ask your interviewee for a headshot and short bio. Add it to the beginning of the interview, after you’ve written a brief introduction.

Aim for one interview a week, then tell your contacts in social media that the blog is now available on your website.

Voila! It’s an interesting piece of content that took minimal time, strengthened your relationship with the interviewee, is something your interviewee is likely to share — there are so many great strategic benefits.

I do this all the time, and am happy to answer questions.

 

 

 

 

Research: Ready to See Daylight?

Have you ever been shocked to realize that something you once thought of as the truth, something you’d been led to believe your entire life, was a complete falsehood?

Most of us can cite hundreds of examples. Santa isn’t real. The earth is round. Some fat is actually good for you. Boomers rock. All shockers — all true.

Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” describes the painful passage to realization beautifully. It’s about people with entrenched beliefs who stumble out of the darkness of a cave (their current beliefs) into the light, and see the true nature of things.

This is what research does for our business. Not doing research (and acting on assumptions) is a sure-fire way to ensure failure. It takes a lot of courage to leave that darkness voluntarily. I’ve worked with too many businesses who prefer to keep the blinders on, costing them millions.

According to research conducted by Attest, a market research firm, 26 percent of businesses surveyed said they do not conduct any research prior to launching a new product or service. Thirty-five percent said that research was irrelevant and 21 percent said they couldn’t afford it. And 91 percent of respondents said they didn’t understand the buying behaviors of millennials, and don’t know how to go about it.

Today, there is a multitude of new technologies and resources that make it possible to conduct research affordably and with a depth of insight. But that doesn’t mean that one time-honored technique is out of date. It’s called, “talking to people.”

We don’t do it enough, having a chat with the people who matter to the success of our business. Asking a consumer, “Why do you buy,” and “How do you choose?” are questions you should be asking before you start a business and as often as you can after you’ve opened the doors.

As you begin your planning for the coming year, consider talking to the target audiences whose buying behavior baffles you most. This will help you to put aside the assumptions you’ve been making in how they think, what drives their behavior and what pleases them.

 

Is Your Content Cringe Worthy?

In this new digital age, where content is king, it is now more critical than ever to connect with, and deliver value to, the people who matter to the success of your business.

Unfortunately, some people never got the memo.

You’ve probably met a few of them during your business travels. You soon realize they’re not there to connect with you, or build a strong business relationship. The only thing they want to do is sell you something.

The first time I met someone like this was at a chamber mixer. His name was Sam. Let’s just say that all he did was talk about himself, and before I had the chance to tell him about me and my practice, he turned and walked away. I was dumbfounded!

A couple of days later, he sends me an email, addressed to “Dear Friend,” offering me a 20 percent discount on whatever it is he sells. I hit “delete” so hard my neighbor’s computer broke.

If people like Sam treat people the way he did to me in our awkward, face-to-face encounter, imagine how he behaves online in the massive, impersonal world of digital communications. People like Sam have unlimited access to more than 200 free social media channels, and they push their selling messages to millions of people every day, especially the hyped up ones who blow up our email inboxes and force us to constantly hit “DELETE”, which leads to carpal tunnel syndrome and years of supressed rage.

You see…Sam – which rhymes with spam — is a taker. He never gives back. He talks at us, but he doesn’t listen. He brags, but doesn’t praise. All he wants to do is advance his own agenda. When you’re with him, you wonder if he even sees you as a human being, or just a means to an end.

Over the years, I’ve pondered Sam’s brutally selfish and rude, behavior. I mean, “Did this guy actually have any customers who weren’t relatives? Is he even still in business?”

He made me wonder, “Why is it that when business people promote themselves so many of them become ego-centric and blind to the needs of their target audiences? Are these the same people who won’t let you merge in during rush hour traffic?”

In their defense, some people believe that aggressive self promotion is how you’re supposed to grow a business. But this is old school thinking. Times have changed. And with change comes confusion and a new set of challenges.

For example, to succeed in today’s market, we still have to distinctively position ourselves and convey that we’re wonderful, amazing and worthy of their business. But we need to tread lightly and not undermine ourselves.

Another challenge is that nurturing relationships takes longer than we’d like, and makes us anxious because we have bills to pay, so we tend to slip into default mode  and shout our messages from the rooftops. The problem is when ALL we talk about is ourselves and the benefits we provide and the awards we’ve won.  Me. Me. Me.  24/7, 365.

It’s as if we’re thinking, “Hey! If I can just shout loudly enough, customers are going to jump right into my lap!” But the harsh reality is that today’s consumers are fed up by it, and the sound of their silence is deafening.

If we really want to attract attention to our wonderfulness, we need to start communicating in a whole new way. It may seem counter-intuitive but it is so much more effective for achieving your goals.

I don’t want to sound like the schoolyard bully, but no one really cares about YOU.  But who do you suppose they do care about? Themselves. It’s human. We all want to be noticed and cared about.

So how do we get people to care about us, and show we care in return?

Obviously the old styles of self promotion aren’t working any more. Advertising is growing less effective. We’ve grown immune to and most of us hit fast forward or tune it out. Cold calling is a big “no-no” these days. We’re irritated by it. The ‘hard sell’ on the first social media contact is completely inappropriate. Today’s consumers want to be wined and dined first. After they’ve learned to trust you, they’ll come closer.

 The more we rely on technology for communication, the more we crave  real, heart-felt, human connection. We seek out people to do business with, not the faceless corporations of old. We decide if a business is credible and trustworthy by the quality of its experts and how much we think they care about us, the community, and the world.

This is where the “E” word comes in – EMPATHY. Demonstrating empathy is critical to influencing the behavior of your audience. It’s about listening to them, having two-way conversations, understanding and curing their “pain,” and putting their interests above your instinctive need to self-promote.

Positive relationships are the oxygen of commerce in the digital age.

Don’t focus solely on yourself. Publicly recognize the achievements of others. Model for them how to lead a more satisfying life. Make them laugh, shed tears of joy. And share valuable information.

I have a vision. That by shifting thinking away from “me-me-me” to “you-you-you,” fewer business will fail and greater goodness will expand into the world.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

And that goes for every business, too. Let’s choose the light.

Hey, Sam — Are you listening?