You’re a hardworking copywriter who would like to get more clients. You meet a prospect — let’s call him Steve — at a networking event.
You get along pretty well, spending twenty minutes chatting about work, succulent plants, and the crazy behavior of three-year-old Cocker Spaniels.
As this happens, the filing clerk in Steve’s memory pulls out a crisp new index card and starts making notes. (This is a metaphorical file clerk, not an actual tiny person living in Steve’s brain.)
The filing clerk writes down your name and a few key details: you’re tallish, brown hair, married, love to water ski, have lots of plants, good sense of humor.
When you leave, Steve’s filing clerk decides where this card should be filed in Steve’s memory. Whether that card ends up in the right place (which means more business for you) or the wrong place (business disaster) is up to you.
Here’s what makes the difference.
Steve has no clear idea of what you do, so you get filed under Everyone I Have Ever Met.
This is a box the size of a cargo container and includes the index cards of everyone from the girl who stole his pencil in kindergarten to the barista who made his coffee this morning. You will never, ever be remembered if you get filed in there.
Steve remembers you’re a copywriter, and so his filing clerk pops your card in the Copywriter box. This box is the size of a shoebox and contains almost a hundred cards.
Almost every time Steve accesses this information, he goes to the same half-dozen names he’s already familiar with. He’s not likely to ever think of you when he needs to hire, refer, or partner with a copywriter.
Steve remembers your copywriting specialty, and his filing clerk puts your card in a much smaller box. (In fact, he might have to create a new box just to file your card in.)
When he thinks about your specialty, your name might be the only one that he thinks of. Interestingly, you also now have a good chance of being remembered when he accesses the Copywriter box, too.
It’s time to get specific about what you do
Many professionals (not just writers, but also graphic designers, web developers, coaches, consultants) are afraid to specialize too much when it comes to their marketing, for fear that they’ll niche themelves into too small a space.
But small spaces are what you need! If you represent yourself in the most general terms (“I’m a copywriter,”) then you get filed with everyone else who has done the same thing. And that is a lot of people.
Remember how I said Steve will generally remember the same half-dozen copywriters over and over when he has need to think of one?
One or two of those may be important to him because they’re friends or family, or because they were the first copywriter he ever met. But most — maybe all — of the copywriters he remembers have specific memory boxes in Steve’s head.
Here are some of the copywriters Steve remembers and recommends:
- the writer about sex and meaning
- the gunslinger copywriter
- the copywriter for equestrian businesses
- the R&B-stylin’ copywriter
Those are small niches, no doubt about it. But Steve recommends those people often, and the general copywriters almost never.
The specialists have lots of hooks in his memory, and information with lots of hooks is the kind that gets recalled.
How do you make sure you’re memorable?
To be memorable, you need to be able to describe what you do in two or three core concepts.
The fancy word for these is schemas — concepts with loads of implicit meaning in them.
(Copywriter is a schema. It incorporates the ideas of being paid to write for a commercial aim, with the goal of using words to promote and persuade. That’s a lot of meaning in ten letters!)
If you’re a copywriter, you need an additional concept that will differentiate you from all the others. That differentiator can be:
Who you serve
- You only work for physiotherapists.
- All your clients are changing the world.
- Your clients are blue-collar businesses.
- You work with creative rebels.
How you work
- You never offer revisions.
- You offer unlimited revisions.
- You collaborate with the business.
- You bring cupcakes to client meetings.
Your unique flavor
- You appeal to video gaming geeks.
- You explain with hand puppets.
- You’re fascinated with Shogunate-era Japan.
- You also teach yoga.
- You’re a Hasidic Jew, and your beliefs inform your work.
- You despise debt and refuse to accept credit cards.
- You never work on weekends.
- You always work with sustainability in mind.
All of these positions can be described in two or three words, from copywriter for physios to eco-friendly copywriter. And all of them are specific enough to be filed in a quite small and memorable filing box.
There are two ways to get this wrong.
Choosing the wrong differentiator.
The differentiator you choose should provide more meaning about you and why your services are valuable.
If you’re the teapot-collecting copywriter, what does that say about you, and why it’s worthwhile for me to hire you? Not a lot. Lion-hunting copywriter, however, tells me a lot about you and whether we’ll work well together.
Your differentiator also needs to be consistent with your values and style of work. If you’re a hugs-and-puppies copywriter, then you shouldn’t offer high-pressure services that are inconsistent with your brand.
Too many ideas.
You can only use two concepts, maybe three. (Anarchist country-and-western copywriter is an entirely different animal than either of those differentiators separately.)
There are no two or three concepts that can describe you in all your wonderful complexity, and it’s tempting to add more nuance and dimension by including more ideas. Resist the urge.
Simple sticks. Complicated gets forgotten.
Choose something that is representative of who you are. People will learn more about the specifics when they get to know you, but in order to get to know you they have to remember you.
It’s your turn.
Right now, can you describe what you do in two (maybe three) simple concepts without being Yet Another Such-and-Such?
I’ll be hanging out in the comments if you want some help clarifying your core concepts.