I am not just a prospect: Keeping it personal with our small businesses

A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for a free phone chat with a well-known coach. I had cleared that slot on my calendar, prepared my questions, and, because I hadn’t been given any details on how to reach him, I clarified via several emails that I was to phone him, and was given the number to call. At T-minus five minutes, I’d even treated myself by pressing a fresh, hot cup of coffee and pulling out a new yellow legal pad.

At the appointed time I phoned, and listened to it ring. And ring. And ring. I sent an inquiring email. I drank my coffee and doodled clouds all over my yellow pad in blue Sharpie.

30 minutes past our time, he phoned me from another number, with coffee shop noise in the background, to tell my voicemail that he was running late, and suggested I try again in a few minutes.

That little phone event would have been incredibly annoying to me if I didn’t have a frame of reference. In the automated followup email sequence, for several days I received a series of pitches for products and ‘opportunities that wouldn’t be offered again.’ I knew exactly the part I was playing in his story. I was in his “sales funnel,” and I was a prospect, not a person.

Yesterday morning, I was watching a social media webinar. Over the course of its 45 minutes I counted the term “user” spoken dozens and dozens of times by the discussion panel members. The word “person”? Not once.

Several years ago, when I’d had to undergo surgery, I awoke in that awful post-anesthesia brain-soup. Nurses and aides of were murmuring to each other. I realized that I was in motion, being wheeled into Recovery on a gurney.

From above my head, I heard the gurney-pushing aide call across the room, “Where do you want this?”

I craned my neck back to look up at her, and rasped as clearly as I could manage, “I’m not a this, thanks.”

It makes me smile to note that the people reading this newsletter are more likely to shy away from the impersonal and the indifferent. Marketing gurus use language like “cold prospect” and “conversion” and “tripwire,” and advocate for an “ethical bribe” (freebie) in exchange for subscribing to a newsletter. Did you know you, as a consumer, have a Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), i.e. a dollar amount you’re “worth” to a business? (Oh, do have fun with this marketing jargon generator. I know I did.)

Yes, you might say I’m touchy about the subject. But there actually IS a bigger point to all my crankiness: We can be better than that.

I am not just a prospect.
I am not just a “user.”
I am not just a “this.”

Neither are you. And neither are the members of your audience.

In our smaller, more soulful businesses, we have the power to be genuine and compassionate with “our people.”

We can give them all the details they need about working with us, without forcing them to chase us down.

We can treat their time as honorably as we treat our own—or better, if you aren’t good at that.

We can speak to them in our marketing materials the way we’d speak to them if they were standing in front of us.

We can show respect and regard to individuals AS individuals. We can listen to their unique needs and stories, rather than trying to make them fit some universal formula.

We can be trustworthy in a world that’s craving someone to trust.

We can be authentic in our work.




Thanks for stopping by!

If you have a heart-based business and this message resonated with you, I’d love to have you keep in touch (in times like these, having a community of people who ‘get’ us can make all the difference between a great day and “I’m just going back to bed”). Here are some ways:

  • I send out a monthly email missive with stuff of interest to people like us – from non-geeky tech tips, to new resources for small businesses and freelancers, to feelgood stories of what’s working out there. Give it a try and see if it’s of interest to you.
  • I’m on Facebook at https://facebook.com/websitesforgood and we have some great conversations there. It’s also a great place to see new writings of all kinds.
  • Think about a free 30-minute consultation with me to tell me what you’re up to, talk through new ideas or directions for your work, or talk about how to better tell your story online.
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