If Your Marketing Doesn’t Sound Like A Broken Record, You’re Doing It All Wrong

When it comes to small business marketing, the broken record metaphor is one you want to keep close at hand. In short, repetition is your friend.

Photo: Michael Katz, founder and Chief Penguin of Blue Penguin Development; Source: Courtesy Photo

My kids live all over the country. I’ve got a son in Memphis, a son in Denver, and a daughter in Portland, Oregon. And we live in Boston. So on those rare occasions where we are all in the same place at the same time, we take advantage of it.

Most recently, that involved a three-day, family getaway to nearby Brattleboro, Vermont. As always, we booked an Airbnb. There are many benefits to Airbnb accommodations relative to a hotel. One is the element of surprise – you never quite know what you’re going to find. Since you’re staying in somebody’s actual home, there is an unlimited number of potential situations awaiting you.

If you book a private room, there could be a dog to play with, while “Entire place listings” may include the use of a luxurious tub. And sometimes there’s beer in the fridge (okay, was).

This time, the fun surprise was a working turntable, a pair of 1970s-era speakers, and a healthy record collection. All of which came with an explicit invitation from the host to “enjoy!” And enjoy we did.

Photo: Tyler Nix, Unsplash
Photo: Tyler Nix, YFS Magazine

My favorite part was finding albums I used to own (e.g., Joni Mitchell, Court and Spark, Bob Dylan, Blood On The Tracks, The Best of Bread (don’t pretend like you didn’t have this one too – we know you did)).

They sounded great, despite (maybe because of) the numerous skips and scratches. And I mean numerous. Every five minutes or so, somebody had to jump up and advance the needle. That’s when I realized my kids, while certainly familiar with the phrase, “like a broken record,” had never actually experienced one firsthand.


‘Say it again’ marketing

When it comes to small business marketing, the broken record metaphor is one you want to keep close at hand. In short, repetition is your friend.

Why? Two reasons.

  • First, there’s a lot of noise out there. In the space of twenty years, the world has flipped from “How do I find the answer?” to “What should I pay attention to?”
  • Second (and this is partly the result of the noise problem), people have a lot going on in their brains and their lives. We have all become extremely selective filterers of information.

Taken together, this means if the way you describe yourself and your work change constantly (i.e., you say one thing on your website, another on LinkedIn, and whatever moves you at the moment when asked in person), I’ll never come to associate you with anything in particular.

That’s a problem.


Create a memorable marketing message

Being associated with something in particular – hopefully, a pain for which people desperately need a fix – is why humans remember you and refer others your way.

If, however, you put yourself out there as an ever-changing mishmash of whatever business-sounding blah blah spills out at the moment, you’ll evaporate from memory without a trace.

So try this instead.

  1. Settle on a sentence or two that describes what you do. I know it’s an oversimplification; that’s your only option.
  2. Use it consistently. There’s a reason Nike doesn’t say “Just Do It,” in one situation, “Just Go For It,” in another and “What The Hell, Give It A Shot” in a third.
  3. Use it broadly on your website, business card, social media accounts, personal introduction, etc. In an ideal world, no matter how and where I encounter you, I hear the same message.

Here’s the bottom line. On any given day, 95% of the words and phrases you use to describe your work should be the words and phrases you’ve used before.

That’s how you’ll get better at saying and writing them. And that’s how the outside world, who at best only encounters you here and there, in bits and pieces, will come to remember who you are and what you do. In short, if you don’t feel like you’re a broken record, you’re not doing it right.


Michael Katz is Founder and Chief Penguin of Blue Penguin Development. He specializes in helping professional service providers talk about their work in a way that is clear and compelling. Sign up for his free newsletter, The Likeable Expert Gazette, here.


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