You and I may never meet in real life.
So there are a few things you might never learn about me.
The fact that I’m 6 ft. tall, for instance.
Or, that I generally operate on the “piles and post-its” filing system.
(But those are just surface quirks. Not the deeper, more meaningful kind to be revealed later…)
And yes, there are other quirks — weird passions and habits — that I do mention from time to time, that I believe help build the communication bridge between us.
Tidbits like my love for all-things sci-fi. My strange addiction to paranormal romance novels (okay, they’re trashy books gussied up with a little other-worldly afterglow). And my deep affection for sweet potatoes.
Watch my videos a little more closely and you might catch the fact that I have a waaay crooked smile. Or that I’m exceptionally well-endowed up top. (Trust me ladies, bigger is NOT always better.)
Again – these peculiar bits don’t mean a whole lot on their own. But they do help make me a little less one-dimensional, wouldn’t you say?
The funny thing is, these are all things that most people normally shy away from sharing. For fear of being seen as “unprofessional” or of revealing things that might hurt their reputations as “experts.” Or even looking a little silly.
They say things like, “Who cares if I’m the reigning pie-eating champ in four counties? It doesn’t really pertain to my business, so why on earth would I put in on my bio? Won’t it make me look dumb?”
Your weirdness makes you human. And being human is where it’s at — especially if you’re trying to build a strong brand and a successful business.
Branding, my friends, is all about story telling. And whether you like it or not, your brand tells a story.
That story can be boring as heck.
Or, engaging and interesting. Maybe even a story that your customers can’t wait to share with their friends.
The challenge is to make sure your story has lively and memorable characters.
You — as one of the main characters — need to be someone your audience finds fascinating.
Think of your marketing copy and content like a novel. Of course, you want your heroine to have a background, a history, and yes some motivations. Every author knows that.
But when we add weird quirks to the mix, then we’ve got a character our readers can relate to. A hero they can root for.
The trick is to find your sweet spot between the two extremes of buttoned-up-business and naked-like-a-streaker.
Here’s the kicker: it’s not that hard to do. Just start small.
Fear. Get Over It.
Clients constantly tell me: “I could never be who I really am. It’s just too ‘out there’ for my target market/professional circle/industry/etc.”
Isn’t the first rule of marketing to find your USP (unique selling proposition)? To stand out and be memorable?
So why on earth would you want to fit in? Being unpopular is what you’re after!
You’re running a business, not surviving high school drama.
Here’s proof: Purple Cows. Yep. I’m pulling the Godin card on you. (Yes YOU. The one who’s afraid to step out and be your brilliant, weird-ass self. You know who you are.)
Branding and marketing is all about being different. So you can be visible. And then memorable.
It’s about finding your Secret Sauce and then using that to create a product or service that is so unique, so YOU, that it can’t be copied or duplicated by anyone. Least of all, your competitors.
But How Quirky is Too Quirky?
Usually, when I talk with clients about creating a signature dish, I have them focus first on their strengths, goals and passions. Their values. Their talents. You know, the good stuff.
And those are important, don’t get me wrong.
But if you only show people your good side, they’ll never identify with you as a fellow-human being. A person.
And we all know that (say it with me now) people buy from people they know, like and trust.
So yes, rapport is what we’re trying to build. Empathy and…okay — in a strange way, fitting in.
But this isn’t you fitting in with them.
Nope. This is them feeling like they belong with you.
Because you’ve shown them someone they can relate to AND respect — flaws AND fortitude — in a way that helps both of you move your conversations toward the ones that really matter.
The trick is knowing when and where to add your idiosyncrasies to the conversation!
Here’s a little advice: don’t over do it.
Your personality needs to be there. Your voice, your opinions, your YOUness is the “salt” of your Secret Sauce.
Without it, your branding will just sit there like a bowl of oatmeal (sans the brown sugar, cranberries, toasted walnuts, and so on).
But too much, and your audience won’t be able to hear your true message — and your bright shiny vision and mission won’t have a prayer of being realized in all their glorious glory.
No, there’s no exact measurement or ratio I can give you for putting this together in the tastiest way possible. But, I can tell you it’s a lot like cooking.
The trick is to add your quirks a pinch at a time. Taste. Repeat. Until it clicks. Until you start getting a positive response from people. Until you start feeling like your whole, authentic self. Then, you’ll know you’ve got the recipe just right.
And a little advice? The more the quirk has nothing to do with your expertise, the more careful you should be about how often and where you share it.
For example, a little on your About Me page will go along way…just don’t lead with it. These are the kinds of things you say in passing — in a blog post (when it fits), in an email newsletter (when it’s appropriate), and yes, especially via social media.
What the Heck is a Quirk? (And how can you get some?)
It’s safe to say that the trauma of junior high school (and yes, high school and most of college) made us all believe that there are certain things we should keep to ourselves.
If you were like me, you endured your share of teasing. And so you did the best you could to NOT stand out.
I hit my current height at the age of 12. And blossomed into a C-cup by the time I was 14.
As you can imagine, these two things made it darn near impossible to hide. Even though I tried to make myself smaller. To hunch over and slink away unnoticed. It didn’t work.
Thankfully, my mom nipped that bad habit in the bud. She told me to stand up straight and look people in the eye. She said, “People can still see you when you hunch over. And all you’re going to do is end up with a bad back and a horrible attitude. Cut. It. Out!”
It wasn’t easy for me at first. In fact, it was pretty dang uncomfortable. So I know that sharing your authentic self might not feel normal. That it might even feel a bit scary.
That’s okay. Just know that now’s the time to come out of the proverbial closet and be who you are — warts and all.
Start small, grow BIG
Here are a few examples of peculiarities that folks shared with me on Facebook earlier this week.
Nancy (of Nancy Meadows Interior Design) says, “I don’t think loving peanut butter and mayo sandwiches is quirky. But, if someone sees me eating one or hears about my food favorite, they think it’s weirdly quirky. Now, peanut butter and banana sandwiches? That’s quirky!”
Katherine (of Haydn Grey Copywriting) told me, “I obsessively photograph food – (both mine and other people’s) My family always sighs with exasperation if their meal comes along and it looks nice because I have to photograph it before they can eat…When I spent four days in Japan a few years ago I took over 5,000 photographs — mainly of food.”
Rachel (of ruzuku.com) said, “I’m faceblind. I can barely recognize my own husband out of context.”
Jennifer (of Scraps of Life) revealed, “[I’ve got an] “obsession” with monkeys…most probably calling myself “Queen of the Helper Monkeys” is a bit quirky. (And I see your paranormal romance thing and call it with my witchy mystery chick-lit.)”
Rachel (of ProNagger) shared three: “1. I consider books on philosophy, history, brain science and evolutionary psychology pleasure reading. 2. I still have my comfort object from childhood. 3. I literally fall down laughing.”
Joel (of JoelTrainsAuthors.com) confided, “It’s one I haven’t indulged in a while, but I used to LOVE to slide pretzel sticks into a bottle of coke, sip the foam that resulted from the salt, then slurp the soggy pretzels out of the bottle. Ahhh!”
Rebecka (of Monkeys Love Donuts) told me, “I talk to myself. out loud. a lot. (I spoke that last sentence as I typed.) Also – I can’t work unless I have a cup of coffee sitting next to me. I don’t necessarily drink it, but it has to be there.”
Did you notice a pattern? (I mean, besides the food references?) These are “safe” quirks. They’re not dangerous in any way, shape or form. They’re also not damning evidence that these folks can’t do their jobs. They’re just tiny oddities that help us see them from a different (slightly weird) perspective. Something that might make us smile. Or even laugh. Or — wonder more about them. (<–The Ultimate Marketing Goal.) And really, these are the best kind of quirks to start with.
What’s cool here is that these are also unexpected and unrelated to what the person does for a living. This concept is key.
If you’re a photographer by trade, then telling people you have a weird obsession for taking photographs doesn’t really help us see you in a different light. We expect photographers to be obsessed with taking photographs. And yes, that kind of thing can be helpful to your branding, too. Just in a different way than we’re discussing here.
When you get your sea legs and feel a little more confident, you can then choose to reveal a political opinion or your stance on something spiritual. (Those bigger, deeper quirks will help draw your right people to you super fast while simultaneously pushing away those that don’t belong. Revealing them takes courage, but can be uber-powerful.)
Here’s a layer of my own onion I haven’t pulled back before: I’m an ex-Mormon who is deeply spiritual (but not religious). My particular outlook on life (and business!) is that it’s all about the journey, not the destination. Now, that might seem like business heresy, so let me clarify: Yes, goals are crucial. Yes, planning needs to happen. But ultimately, being present and open and willing to play and enJOY what we’re doing (and learn from it), is what will make getting there worth every second of the ride.
How about you? Are you ready to reveal something strange about yourself to the world? Go ahead and share in a comment below. We’re all ears! Or, if you’re still too shy, share a another blogger’s quirk — something fun about someone you admire.
And if you’d like to get started on the whole self-inventory process (Step 1 of finding your Secret Sauce), click here to grab my free workbook and video.
This post is part of the May 2012 Word Carnival — a monthly group blogging event specifically for small business owners. (It’s the most fun you’ll have all month!) Check out the rest of the fabulous carney work here.