The Long Lost Art of Being Discovered

One of the most of

fascinating Hollywood legends is the discovery of film actress Lana Turner at the soda fountain in Schwab’s drug store in Hollywood, by director Mervyn Le Roy in 1936.

Wikipedia tells a different story, saying that Turner was discovered by The Hollywood Reporter publisher, William Wilkerson, not at Schwab’s, but at the Top Hat Café.

Nevertheless, this legendary story gave rise to the American myth that “anybody can be discovered, anyone can be successful because of a stroke of luck and the right connections.”

However, Turner’s online biography states: “She wasn’t found at a drugstore counter like some would have you believe, but that legend persists. She pounded the pavement as other would-be actresses have done, are doing, and will continue to do in search of movie roles.”

She wasn’t even born with the name Lana Turner; her given name was Julia Jean Mildred Francis Turner (try putting that on a movie poster).

Turner, one of the greatest Hollywood beauties, had a film career that spanned 48 years.

Why all this interest in Lana, Turner?

I think it’s the confluence of the Academy Awards show on Sunday night and a meeting I had with a client last week.

At the Oscars, I was inspired by the hard work and dedication of the many nominees who had worked, sometimes for decades, before being recognized for their excellence.

My client, who is a brilliant consultant with many professional credentials and accolades, also inspires me. She is smart, committed, and hard working.

But I think she might be working a little too hard on hoping to be discovered by the right person.

For her, this means making connections with influential people who ­- she hopes – will refer her to new clients.

It’s wonderful to be referred by others who are more established, successful, and visible. And this approach to marketing can sometimes work when played as a long game.

But if you put most of your attention on these hoped-for referrals, you may not spend enough time connecting directly with prospective clients right now.

Pounding the pavement is certainly not romantic, but it’s infinitely more practical.

Advice to my client:

Keep an eye out for long-term referral partners, but put most of your effort into connecting with, speaking to, and meeting with those who can buy your professional services today.

The No Joke System for Attracting Clients

A few months ago I re-tooled my system for teaching people to attract new clients. It’s a new take on an old approach.

I called it ABDO – Attention-Based Direct Outreach.

And it’s all about proactively reaching out to prospective clients and ultimately turning them into paying clients.

There are a number of things that makes this approach different than what most self-employed professionals do to attract new clients.

Let me count the ways. There are six. Yeah, I know, this is a three-minute-to-read-article. Who has three minutes to read these days?

Maybe you, if your client attracting system isn’t working.

1. Proactive. This means not waiting around for someone to contact you. That’s passive marketing, which is getting your name, face, and message out there, but hoping someone will ultimately contact you.

From your website and newsletter, to networking and speaking, these all become passive when you don’t take any initiative to follow-up or make direct contact with prospective clients.

But proactive marketing is scary. You put yourself out there and see if you can get a conversation or an appointment. For many, this is terrifying because of the possibility of rejection. Such is life.

2. Humor. Using humor in your outreach (especially in your emails) is a great way to break the ice and get attention. Despite its amazing effectiveness, it’s relatively rare. How may emails do you get that incorporate humor of any kind? No, most emails are deadly boring. So they get very low response. Even this one is kinda boring. So I’m proving my point.

We’re in the early weeks of my new ABDO group program, but participants are already sending out humorous emails and they are surprised at the positive response and the willingness of recipients to set up meetings. But no more humor here!

3. Value Proposition. A funny email may get attention, but it won’t get you far if your value proposition is weak. If you’re contacting a prospect, why should they be interested in listening to you? How can you help them? And what are you doing that’s different?

If you don’t clearly articulate all of that in a concise, (but also entertaining email) it’ll get deleted like all the rest.

4. Follow-up Conversations. It’s rare that someone will respond to your email with, “I’m sold! When can we start?” If only. No, the purpose of an outreach email is to generate enough interest that they’ll be willing to speak with you for a minute or two. That’s all. But it’s a lot.

Years ago, I did a lot of speaking engagements. At the end I collected business cards from the participants and then I followed up by both email and phone. I had one simple goal: get a follow-up conversation to see if they both needed some marketing assistance and were open to getting that assistance.

In that call I asked a number of questions and shared about some of the results I’d produced for my clients. I didn’t do any selling. I was preparing the ground for a selling conversation. If they showed enough interest, I’d set up a complimentary Marketing Strategy Session.

5. Marketing Materials. After I’d set up an appointment for a Strategy Session, I’d say. “I have some information about how I work that I’d like to send to you. Can you please take a look at it before we meet for the Strategy Session? It will save us a lot of time and make the Strategy Session more productive.” I sent it along and most would read it. And it did save time in that I had to spend very little time in the Strategy Session talking about my services. I could focus on their needs and goals instead.

6. The Strategy Session. Selling has a bad name. We think of it as manipulative and pushy. But real selling is the exact opposite. It’s mostly asking questions and listening. Where are you now in your business? What are your goals? What are your challenges? How will things change if you overcome those challenges?

I have a colleague who calls this process “Sacred Selling” in that it’s a deeply personal and caring conversation to discover if you can partner with someone to make a difference in their life and business.

Those six steps are the essence of the ABDO system. And despite the Internet, social media, and videos, I’ve found that this system still works the best to attract high-end clients who have big challenges that require a real professional with specialized knowledge and skills.

Yes, it’s wonderful if someone calls you because of positive word-of-mouth. But if you get tired of waiting for the phone to ring, this is the next best thing.

It’s not trendy or even that cool, but it sure does work. And even if you use some humor to get attention on the front end, I promise you it’s no joke.

Why Nobody Is Reading Your Marketing Content

Almost every week I’m telling a client that there’s a big problem with their marketing content.

It’s not the subject matter, their writing style, their grammar, or even typos.

The problem is that their content is simply hard to read because of the way it’s formatted.

Def: Format: “the way in which something is arranged or set out.”

I’ve seen web pages with wonderful content that is simply unreadable because of poor formatting.

You’ve taken all that time to write a blog post or service description and nobody is reading it.

You, the writer, probably don’t even notice, because you’re too close to it; you have no objectivity.

The good news is that fixing readability is easy-peasy.

And once you understand the mistakes you’re making, you’ll never make them again.

Here are seven formatting mistakes that make it hard for readers to read your content.

I’m going to concentrate on the formatting of content on web pages and blogs as these are where we read most online marketing content.

1. Text that is too small.

This is the number one text formatting error. If someone has to squint to read your text, you’re in trouble.

And did you know that more than 50% of people now browse the web on mobile devices? This makes small text even harder to read.

These days, with web pages moving to WordPress, page widths are wider than ever, so small text gets lost in the vast expanse of your screen.

How big should your text be? My recommendation is no smaller than 16px, however 20px is becoming more common. Bigger IS better.

2. Text that is too light.

I blame designers for this. Lighter text looks cool. I don’t know why, but it just does.

And even worse is text that’s both small and light!

But after you’ve made that cool impression on your website, can anyone read your text?

No, they can’t!

Your poor readers! They can’t read what you’ve written.

How dark should your text be? I recommend no lighter than 85% black. This will make your text a tad lighter, and less stark (hence, more cool) than 100% black.

3. Text that is too wide on the page

Now that you have a big, wide page to write on, why not format your text from edge-to-edge!

Please don’t.

Adding wide text blocks to already small, light text and you have a major reading catastrophe.

Instead, you want some white space to narrow the text blocks on the page.

On a site such as Medium.com (which gets millions of readers) the font size is 21px and the margins of each side of the text take up about 50% of the screen real estate.

Another way to narrow your text block is to have a narrower left or right margin and then on the opposite side have a wider margin with graphic content or side-menus.

You’ll see this on my blog pages.

I recommend that your main text block take no more than 60% of your screen’s width.

4. Paragraphs that are too long

Long paragraphs are just as problematic as small, light or wide text. Huge paragraphs are simply hard to read online.

A web page is not read like a book. And the same paragraph rules don’t apply.

It’s OK to have short paragraphs.

Even one-sentence paragraphs.

Get it?

I recommend that paragraphs be no deeper than five lines. If you put just one key idea into each paragraph, readership will soar.

5. Poor font choice

This one is trickier as there are a zillion fonts available these days.

I generally suggest a very readable serif font such a “Georgia” or a sans-serif font such as “Open Sans.”

But be careful about mixing fonts. You don’t want your website to look like a ransom note.

It’s common to use a bold serif or sans-serif font for headings, and then the opposite for body content.

This is where a designer can come in handy and help give a unified, professional look to your web pages.

6. Failure to use bolding

This is my secret weapon to increase readability. You don’t see this enough online.

If your text is all black/gray text with no variation, there is no focal point to draw the eye.

Here’s what happens:

A reader comes to your page and sees nothing but monochromatic text. Nothing attracts the eye.

The subconscious mind says, “Where’s the good stuff? Do I have to wade through all of that text to find it? Shoot, that’s too hard, let me go someplace else!”

But if you bold first sentences (sometimes initial clauses), the eye is attracted and there’s an immediate payoff.

The reader is focused and understands what you’re content is about in an instant and is encouraged to keep reading.

If you have lots of bolding throughout your text, then the reader can quickly scan for meaning. And even if they don’t read your whole page, they’ll get the general gist.

One mistake to avoid with bolding: You should almost never bold words or sentences in the middle of a paragraph. That just makes it harder to read.

If you want to add emphasis in the middle of a paragraph, use italics instead.

7. Not using sub-heads

Another great way to increase readability is to break up pages with sub-heads.

This is simply text in a larger font, often colored and/or bold text, as I’ve done in this article.

Subheads serve to organize the most important sections of your content.

Again, all of this increases readability which is what you want when a visitor comes to your website, right?

Cheers, Robert