That's the untold story behind your decision to get into the business you're in today? Was it a lifelong ambition? Were you busting your buns for someone else in the field and decided to go out on your own? Was it the inspiration of a family member or friend in the same industry? Or was it just an opportunity that fell into your lap?
Everyone has a story--a potentially interesting story--to tell about how they got into the business they're in . . . a story that can actually be used to promote your business. Even if you think your particular tale seems mundane, trust me, it can be turned into a provocative hook for an ad that gets people interested.
I once wrote a column about a former social worker who made a rather radical career leap to running a maid service. She had written to ask me if there might be a provocative way to promote herself, and I told her, in effect, she was sitting on it. I suggested she use the headline "Why I gave up social work to rid the world of dust balls" in her ads, followed by her story. I thought it would add lots of curiosity value and establish credibility through the real-life element of the message.
Another example of the potential for an anecdotal ad involves my plumber. Here's a guy who, as a kid, used to go out on service calls with his dad, also a plumber, and enjoyed it so much that after college (where he majored in chemistry), he decided to become a plumber himself. Besides that, he's a fourth-generation plumber. So he's got a potentially great yarn to tell that would sell anyone on using him to come out and fix their drippy faucet. I might even recommend he spice up his Yellow Pages ad with a little of that history.
Then there's the friend of mine who's a high school history teacher by training but prefers working outside and getting his hands dirty as a landscaper. His story could be massaged into a nifty piece of advertising with a headline like "Why I switched from teaching kids to sowing seeds." If it's done right, I guarantee it would get noticed and read.
You get the idea. Instead of racking your brain trying to think of a grabby ad concept, hook prospects with an interesting first-person story. It will certainly separate you from your competitors. And you'll have accomplished the hardest part of advertising: getting attention. That's my message to John Arseneault, a self-employed accountant from Auburn, Massachusetts, who wrote recently. Apart from managing the books of several companies, Arseneault has embarked on a side venture that resulted from a recent personal experience. When cancer took the lives of both his beloved grandparents, it spurred him to start another business that would help others avoid the same fate. He founded the nonprofit Cans for Cancer, a recycling and redemption business whose proceeds help support the New England Medical Center Cancer Research Department.
The company, now in its third year, is doing well. But Arseneault wonders if the brochure he and his associates hand out to businesses could be strengthened. The answer is yes . . . simply by relating his own poignant story right on the front.