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Category: Marketing

How to Make Your “Why” Video

3 steps to always make the right first impression

“It’s all about relationships!” Man, that statement used to aggravate me early in my career. 

Because I didn’t get it.

I thought it was about hanging out on golf courses, schmoozing with people, and kissing ass to make a sale. And I had more integrity than that! So, I hunkered down, focusing on being better, technically, than everyone else. But I was completely in the dark about the relationship part, and I struggled to hit my numbers while I watched others in my industry work half as hard and make twice the money.

Because every move I made was transactional.

Because I didn’t have a why.

It wasn’t until a number of years later when I started my own business that I “woke up” and understood. I was now selling to other business owners, getting to know them – as people, not prospects. I saw how the service I was offering had the potential to make a difference in their lives. Not just helping their business, but helping them. I began to care deeply about what I was doing, and in turn, about what they were doing. And things started to click.

I had found my why, and I began valuing relationships.

It was never about glad-handing and fancy lunches, it was about getting out of my self. I needed something more important than ME to focus on.

But, I can’t really explain what my why is. Even now, I struggle with the words.

It comes across in subtle ways. It’s who I am – and it comes out in how I show up at meetings, how I talk on the phone, and how I write emails.

Except on the days when my own selfish agenda and desires overshadow my why, and in that moment, the person I’m talking to never gets a glimpse of the authentic me.

This is where video can help.

How to “Show” Your Why

Here’s the process.

1. Find someone to talk to

Pick a friend, colleague, partner … someone who really gets you, who you can geek out with about what you do for a living, and completely lose track of time.

2. Film the entire conversation

Hit record and talk for an hour. Ignore the camera. It’s ok to plan talking points and questions, but don’t script anything.

3. Play it back and look for moments

Look for the sections that stand out. Make note of the times on a piece of paper. You want your why to resonate without actually naming it, and often it’s a look or the way something is said that speaks louder than the actual words. It may be helpful for the same friend you filmed this with to review the recording with you.

This can be done simply using a phone or shot with multiple camera angles by a pro. It can be edited, adding in other imagery, your logo, music, etc or just kept raw. There are pros and cons to both directions. I go into depth about how to film a conversation, what to talk about, and what to do with it afterward in the short book, How To Connect: A guide to creating content that resonates with your ideal client

No matter how you do it, put your “why” video on your LinkedIn profile, on your website, in your email signature, and send it ahead before every meeting. Make your first impression before you walk in the room, and the real you will always comes across loud and clear.

Header photo “heart made out of camera lenses” by Heather Liebensohn at Zen Mantis

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Embrace Your Uniqueness

Marketing the ‘who you are’ more than the ‘what you do’

I talk about authenticity in sales and marketing a lot, and this Freakonomics episode with Malcolm Gladwell really resonated with me.

Malcolm says, “what people respond to as an audience is authenticity … so you want to be as unusual as you can – spend time thinking about ‘who am I’ … what is the image and message I’m trying to project, about the kind of person I am and how I see the world”.

He’s saying to embrace your unusual-ness.

If you’re a business owner, non-profit, professional, or artist, it’s arguably more important to sell yourself – you, the person – more than your actual product or service.

Think about it – what’s worth more money, something rare and unique or a commodity you can get anywhere? An original painting or a knock-off made in China?

Video is a great way to capture the realness that words don’t do justice. The little mannerisms and body movements. The pauses in between the words. And of course, the voice tone itself. Remember back when we actually used voice mail? Have you ever called and heard a person’s voice for the first time, and you immediately created a mental judgement about them. Do I trust them? Are they nice?

Many people resist being on video because they don’t want to show their flaws, or they don’t want to make it about “them”. But, people connect with people. And especially with today’s overcrowded landscape of ads and social media posts, if you’re not being real, people will tune you out.

It’s important to somehow capture the real you and put it out there.

The best way to get good video of yourself is to film a long conversation, then pull out the best moments. The result is a video that evokes a feeling of trust with the viewer – like they’re meeting the real person behind the business, not just a talking head.

The great thing is that there’s only one you. If you get a soundbite or two that capture some passion and feeling, with a touch of vulnerability, the right “buyers” will resonate with your personality and the wrong ones will be filtered out. You’ll do more business with people who are aligned with your values – people who are happy to pay what you’re worth, and the others are free to go be someone else’s headache.

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What Not to Do During a Podcast or Video Interview

Authenticity and truth speak louder than words

Last week, I was invited to be on someone’s podcast, which is something new for me. But, I didn’t think too much about it, because I knew the guy pretty well and we had a rapport. I didn’t prepare anything – I figured it would just be a conversation, and whatever comes out, comes out.

It was going to be taped over a video call. Of course me being in production, I started obsessing a bit over the scene, staging a nice shot so I looked good. I rearranged the room a couple times, and tested different lights and microphones.

The call was set for 4pm. My wife and kids went out so the house was quiet. I was having a great, peaceful day. I had exercised earlier and I was feeling pumped and ready to go!

Normally I’m the other side of the camera, not the subject. And I started noticing that old familiar anxiety showing its ugly head. It was only 3:30, and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I tried to meditate and relax. What was renting space in my head was this idea that I was about to be interviewed as an author, like I’m supposed to be some expert!

That really messed me up. Instead of showing up for a natural conversation with a friend, I’m now worried about saying the right things. What if I screw up? What if I can’t remember the 3 steps I outlined in the book? I’ll look like an idiot and embarrass my friend who invited me on his podcast!

In spite of all my experience interviewing other people, and my mindfulness practice, here I was, full of fear and completely in my own head.

4pm came and things started off strong. I was able to put my thinking aside and just be present, answering questions and being myself. But, about halfway through I could feel my face flush and my ears turning red, a sure sign that I was beginning to panic. We had ventured into territory that I did not feel confident talking about.

What I should have done was to be honest that I didn’t have a good answer for his question. But, instead I came up with some bullshit just so I had something to say (now I know how politicians feel!) It wasn’t me, it wasn’t authentic – and my body was reacting, further compounding my anxiety, causing me to work even harder to “put on a show”.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20. If only I had said, “You know, I’m not sure I can give a great answer to that question, but I can try.” That little disclaimer alone would have let some of the pressure out of my stress balloon and would have perhaps sparked a deeper conversation about it.

The rest of the interview felt like a disaster. I mentally checked out. I wasn’t present at all. I was completely in my head, replaying what I had said, judging it. He asked more questions and I did my best to give superficial answers, because I was no longer rooted, no longer in the moment.

I haven’t seen the final cut yet, so I don’t know how well it actually came across. It may have been fine. But, I have a feeling it lacks “soul”.

I believe, if the words come from beyond the mind, from a place of no-thought, from pure inspiration, then they will resonate strongly with the viewer, listener or reader. When the words just flow from a place of presence, I trust that they are right. But as soon as I get up in my head trying to script the words in real time, I kill all the life in them. They may sound good, but they lack power and emotion. They don’t make the necessary connection. And, what I really want is to transmit a feeling, not just words.

Above all, during an interview it’s critical that the two people are fully present, so that great moments flow out of true love and passion for the subject at hand. The guy who invited me on his podcast was awesome. I’m the one who checked out.

State of mind is paramount.

What would have made me more comfortable? I should have stuck to what I was absolutely confident about. Sure, I could have prepared answers to his questions in advance, but then I might have been preoccupied the whole time trying to remember my “script”. No, I want the words to flow from a place of pure inspiration and no-thought, because those words carry more power.

Header image, Dog Driving Budget Rental Moving Truck by Zen Mantis

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Building Your Own Audience Based on What You Love

Passion is the secret to making good content and building a following

I woke up yesterday morning, like most mornings, playing the alarm snooze game. I had some vivid dreams … I was at a recording studio, an old abandoned mall, and at one point I was wrangling a blue and orange man into the back of a van, then through the kitchen of a fancy restaurant. Why would I ever want to get out of bed with that kind of entertainment? Especially when I know what’s waiting for me – that old familiar tormentor, the voice in my head.

“We’ve got to pay bills today,” my inner voice tells me.

I know, I know, I replied.

“We have to call the guy about the video project too.”

Got it.

“And, don’t forget, we have to work out today too.”

Yes, thanks for reminding me.

So, I manage to pull myself up onto the edge of the bed, staring out the window. The Venetian blinds are closed, but I can feel the cold and nasty outside. Another dull rainy day, trapped in a house that seems to be shrinking by the minute. It gets smaller and smaller the longer my family attempts to live, work and go to school all in the same place, thanks to COVID-19.

But, there HAS been a silver lining. My writing. I had always enjoyed writing, but over the past few months it became a passion. I even started thinking that I might be able to do it professionally (whatever that means these days).

For some reason, I was feeling really down. Aside from the normal life problems, worrying about money, politics, and health, I couldn’t shake the idea that I was just spinning my tires, working hard at nothing. I had been pouring so much of my heart and soul into writing. In a short four months, I had written a book about spiritual awakening, a short story (fiction), and probably a dozen fairly involved blog posts / articles. I should be proud of that. But all that went through my head was: NO ONE CARES. No one is reading it. There are so many writers out there, the world doesn’t need another one, I thought.

Pretty depressing, right? Yes it was.

That afternoon, after Heather was done overseeing virtual school for our 3 kids, we went out to vote (Keith Richards for president! (joking)) and to get some groceries (it’s so exciting just to get out of the house lately.) We listened to David Tennant’s podcast in the car (it’s amazing, by the way.) He was interviewing Neil Gaiman, one of our all-time favorite authors. They talked about the writing process, and thankfully, I was hearing exactly what I needed to perk me up.

One of the questions David asked Neil was: how do you know who will make it or not (as a writer)?

His reply: “The ones who consistently polish the chair with their ass each day.”

In other words, the ones who continue writing (ass in chair), because they love it. They keep at it, even after their first novel flops, and their second novel flops … they keep going.

I knew exactly what he meant. Before COVID, I had a habit of pursuing most things in life, not because I loved them, but in order to “get” somewhere. But now I was compelled to write each day purely out of love. I enjoyed doing even if no one ever reads it or buys it.

It was as if I had just stumbled upon this new thing inside myself, that had always been there, that fired up EVERYTHING in my life. My video production work, my music, my relationships – it all got better, because I had found a way to satisfy my soul. I became more playful and more inspired. I was more “whole” – more confident, and less needy! You know what I mean by needy … needing praise and needing people to stroke my ego, to quell that insecurity deep in my gut. There was less of that now.  

Obviously, finding my passion had brought many indirect benefits. But, WHO SAYS no one will read what I’m writing? That’s just another bullshit story I’m telling myself. I just need to get some clarity on what exactly I’m trying to accomplish here.

The other critical part I gleaned from the Neil Gaiman conversation was the understanding that, the more I write, the better I’ll get, and the more I’ll find my own voice and my own audience. Good stuff finds a way to the top, and good stuff finds an audience (without gimmicks or slick marketing.)

By consistently writing for and sharing specifically to my own “custom made” audience, I start to develop relationships. And relationships make the world go ’round. People who know, like and trust me are likely to buy my book when I put it out. They are also likely to refer someone to my business. They know who I am.

But it’s not just a matter of writing and sending out a weekly email. There’s a lot of clutter out there, and people are busy – and people are jaded.

So, how do you stand out? By making people feel something.

How do you do that? By being real, raw, genuine, and vulnerable. Go deep into who you are and what you know. The right people will resonate.

It might take a little while, but in the meantime, it will empower you in other ways. The momentum created by feeding your passion will bring opportunities that you had never even thought of.

It doesn’t have to be writing. Do you make physical art, furniture, paintings? Take a series of pictures and turn it into a blog post. Consistently share your work. But don’t just post it on social media. Send it personally to people who are interested. In the beginning it may only be 10 people. This is about finding and nurturing a finite audience, making them feel special – talking directly to them. 

Maybe you have a thing for technology hacks. You can share bits of code, Excel shortcuts, and productivity software? You can share links to other articles and just be the curator, adding your own comments. Or, maybe you’re a better talker than a writer. Film yourself being interviewed – have someone ask questions about your expertise and experience, then chop it up into soundbites (they can be transcribed and turned into articles too.)

If you share what you love, that authenticity will attract the right people. And if you create for those people, they will love you back. Passion is the fuel you need to keep going when you start to doubt yourself. But, like I said, you never know what opportunities may arise, and what this process may do FOR you. If you feed your soul and share it, you’ll be amazed at what happens.

Do you have a passion that you might want to build an audience around? I love to brainstorm stuff like this. Let’s talk. I may be able to provide the perspective you need to recognize how and where to get started.

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Making Videos for Your Small Business or Personal Brand

Approach it more like a documentary than a commercial

We’ve all grown up seeing ads on television. Car commercials, insurance, food, toys … all trying to sell us something, tugging on our desires, insecurities, and fears. The makers of those ads are trying to “get” us, and we know it. That straight ahead traditional ad format may work for the big corporations, but it’s not necessarily the best approach for small businesses.

First, there’s the issue of budget. We don’t have millions to barrage people to point where our brand becomes a household name. The big companies are in it for the long haul, knowing that over time, the repeated messaging will become entrenched in our minds. I always laugh at Limu Emu, it’s memorable. But it’s also on ALL THE TIME. (My 10 year old daughter, Abigail, has the Farmer’s Insurance and Arby’s theme songs jumbled together. “We are Arby’s, bum da bum da bum bum bum.”) The problem is that most of us don’t have the budget to even make a dent using traditional ads. If we don’t have the resources to go “all-in,” we need to make our videos more personal.

Second, there’s the messaging. I’ve been working with business owners for over 10 years, and most of them are not crystal clear on who their target market is and what they’ll respond to. They don’t have a marketing department to test ideas, or a sales department in the trenches to provide feedback. Without that clarity, running traditional ads is just gambling. And most business owners tell me that new customers come from word of mouth, relationships, and referral partners. “People buy from us because of who we are,” they say. If that’s the case, then the video better have some depth to it. Not like the law firm commercials where it’s grossly obvious that the elder lawyer, who “cares” about you, is reading from a teleprompter. That doesn’t give me the warm and fuzzies.

What’s the solution?

Make real, authentic videos that capture some of what’s already going on inside your business. Document rather than advertise. This way, whoever sees your video – even if it’s just a link in your email signature or a boosted Facebook post – it’s an extension of you and your team. It may not double the size of your business, but it will help maximize the interactions you’re already having. When someone visits your website, they will be more likely to lean-in if they see real people being real, rather than hitting the back button to avoid your ad.

Forget about writing scripts that sell your features and benefits. Embrace the idea of not knowing exactly what the video will be about. Pick out some interesting people (you, employees, customers) and focus on a situation, and keep an open mind. A good writer would tell you their inspiration comes from somewhere beyond thought (Stephen King calls it uncovering fossils). You want to go exploring, interviewing people, and looking for genuine moments. Then, go through the footage (the 2nd draft), and only use the parts that stand out. This could be talking or it could be visuals – or even better, both. The exciting thing about this process is that you get to see yourself and your company from a completely different perspective.

We’re looking to capture passion and substance. Why do you get out of bed in the morning? What’s the reason the company was created in the first place. (Be careful, we want emotional moments, not a history lesson!)

This is the stuff that, when someone visits your website, or scrolls through their Facebook feed, it makes them stop and feel something.

Remember, it’s not just the words people say, but how they say them. Sometimes everything can be summed up with a look. That kind of content can’t be faked, and the viewers know it. That’s why we purposely don’t script things. Gather first, then judge later.

BUT, for this to work, you and your people need to feel comfortable. They need to let down their guard, so the conversations unfold naturally. A good producer will create the atmosphere, and ask the right questions – and, of course, listen with obsessive curiosity.

Header image “Cash Squirrel” by Heather Prescott Liebensohn, Zen Mantis Photography

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