On the snowy, northeastern Christmas of my 11th year, our parents gathered all five kids around the kitchen table to deliver the news.
We were moving to San Antonio, Texas.
I was devastated. Texas? I imagined what our new home would look like.
We’d be miles from any neighbors — who would all look like they walked straight off the “Hee Haw” set — with a dusty, rock-filled front yard punctuated by the occasional tumbleweed rolling by.
If only I had access to online content back in those days, I wouldn’t have been terrified at all by the silly stereotypes I believed to be true.
Here’s the thing — our customers are terrified, too. They’re operating based on stereotypes, fears, and misconceptions.
But every day, the internet makes it easier to inform and educate them so we can bust through stereotypes and really connect.
Their false assumptions don’t stand a chance when you use the three techniques below to create a remarkable message that engages your prospects.
1. Showcase your product
Video is ideal for showing exactly how your product works and why it’s the best on the market.
Your video doesn’t have to be fancy. It’s more important to:
- Take the time to develop a compelling story
- Write a script; don’t wing it
- Edit carefully so your video comes in under three minutes — bonus points if it’s under two
If you sell a service, video can also make your offerings come to life. Interview customers who’ve gotten good results. Show all the benefits of your service by filming before and after videos. And build interest by aiming your camera at the end result, showing prospects what they can expect.
2. Share your reality
People enjoy doing business with actual people, not faceless corporations.
Show prospects you’re just like them by sharing a little about yourself on social media (once you discover where your customers are hanging out), on your blog, and in your email newsletter.
Keep it light, tie it in with a topic you know your audience is interested in, and include them in the conversation the first chance you get.
If your business is large, you can make your company more approachable by allowing employees to share personal details on your website or company blog.
Let them post photos, share their hobbies, or post short videos that show them outside of work.
Any time you share some of your own reality, your two-dimensional internet presence becomes more three dimensional, and that makes your company — and its offerings — more appealing to prospects.
3. Shatter your stereotypes
You may be in a business that people tend to stereotype:
- All graphic designers are flaky, artsy types who can’t meet their deadlines.
- All engineers are nerdy and use pocket protectors.
- All web developers spend long days in windowless rooms and don’t know how to hold up their end of a conversation.
- All writers are broke and have no business sense.
- All accountants think about numbers all day.
Of course, none of these clichés are true.
If your business is typecast a certain way, accept it and set the record straight online.
- If you’re a graphic designer, post an infographic showing how often you meet or exceed your clients’ deadlines.
- If you own an engineering firm, post photos of the cool hobbies your employees spend time on outside of work.
- If you’re a web developer, host a pool party and invite your best clients, then post a video on your website.
- If you’re a writer, write an article about how you make money with your keyboard and smart business sense.
- If you’re an accountant, post your music playlist on your favorite social media profile.
Showing your prospects how those tired clichés don’t work for you and your company is an excellent way to make your business memorable.
Push boundaries and get more customers
It turns out I loved living in Texas — especially after my ears got used to the accent — and I made many friends I’m still in contact with.
The experience made me who I am today, and I’m grateful for it.
When we ask our prospects to go beyond their ingrained stereotypes, we encourage them to grow and stretch as human beings.
That’s good for them, and it turns out it’s good for business, too.
Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on August 15, 2011.