My wife walked in on me last week. I’m guessing I’m not the first man this has ever happened to, but it’s embarrassing all the same.
I was standing in the upstairs bathroom with the door mostly – but not completely – closed. I thought I was alone in the house. Suddenly, and much to my surprise, Linda burst in, took one look and said, “What are you doing?!”
Don’t worry, it’s not what you were thinking (what were you thinking?).
What I was doing was talking (out loud apparently) to our Roomba – our robotic vacuum.
I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something to the effect of, “Ready Roomba? Here we go.”
I confess, I have a special relationship with Roomba. It’s one that goes beyond mere functionality and quite different than what I have with all the other devices in the house.
That’s a little odd, don’t you think?
After all, I’ve never had a conversation with the coffee maker or the lawn mower. As for the dishwasher, I don’t even say hello.
Let’s talk about the gadgets we love (and business)
So why is Roomba different and (just as important) why does it matter for iRobot’s business – and yours?
It’s different because it has a friendly “face.” It’s not quite a face, but it looks less machine-like and more human than most appliances (and politicians); it moves on its own. That adds to the notion that in some way it’s alive; it speaks out loud.
When it has a problem it alerts me in a female voice and it refers to itself by name. It doesn’t say, “empty the vacuum,” or “clean the brushes.” Instead, it says things like, “Please charge Roomba.”
I don’t know how much of this anthropomorphizing (or “humanishness”) is deliberate, but I’m hoping the answer is, “a lot.” Either way, it benefits the company.
Thanks to my emotional connection with Roomba, I’m way more interested in its health, safety and longevity than I would be if it were just a vacuum; I’ve had it for years. I’ve replaced the battery, the chassis and all kinds of brushes several times. And, maybe most important for iRobot, the day Roomba dies for good I’ll go out and buy another one (after a respectful amount of time has passed, of course).
In business, emotional connections matter
Now I admit, maybe my fascination with this particular device is not the norm. But the concept is valid across all kinds of businesses and all types of clients and customers: Emotional connections matter!
Which is why I continue to be surprised by the number of professional service firms – from big to small to solopreneurs – who seem to believe that facts, figures and user benefits are all that matter when it’s time to close the deal. Not me!
My primary focus (with all of the content I create) is to make an authentic, personal connection with the reader. Does that mean I don’t need to provide useful information in your newsletter? Of course not – if Roomba doesn’t clean the floors, all the personal connection in the world wouldn’t help. That said, the problem for us professional service providers is that all of our competitors are equally skilled and experienced at “cleaning floors.”
Our prospects – and in many cases, our own clients – can’t really tell how good we are relative to other options. Everybody is qualified, certified, experienced, hardworking, etc. Which is why, for me, the answer is simple: Find a way to connect, emotionally and subjectively – and, therefore, uniquely – with readers.
Put real pictures of real employees on your website. Tell stories from personal experience – with names and details of actual people – in your email newsletter.
Write as if you are sharing an anecdote with a friend.
Bottom line. One of the reasons people get tied up in knots when creating content (i.e. content marketing) is because they assume it’s a fact-based challenge. It’s not. It’s a connection-based one.
Take it from me and Roomba: Write your stuff in a way that other humans feel like they know you, and pretty soon they will. That’s when the phone starts ringing.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Michael Katz is the founder and Chief Penguin of Blue Penguin Development. He specializes in developing email newsletters for professional service firms. Sign up for his free newsletter, The Likeable Expert Gazette, here. Connect with @MichaelJKatz on Twitter.
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