Best Meat in Town

Guest Post by Shakirah Dawud

Let me tell you a story I’ve never told anyone else. I was a pharmacy technician at Wal-Mart years ago, and one day when a customer and his wife showed up, I began automatically tapping his name into the touchscreen before they reached the counter.

“Johnson?”* I said with a smile as I hit “Enter.”

His brow lifted in surprise. “You’re good.”

Yes, I was good. I made it my business to remember customer’s names, to call them when I anticipated delays, to remember the little things they told me about themselves that we didn’t record in the system.

I did it because I instinctively knew those mini-relationships would pay off when the system came up short.

I started out as possibly the store’s worst cashier ever, knowing nothing whatsoever about retail transactions from the drawer-side of the cash register. So now I couldn’t bear to let that compliment go un-seconded.

“Oh, yeahhhh,” I said””purred, practically. I sounded so cool and sure of myself to my own ears I smirked, letting it linger as I glanced up at the couple’s identical shocked delight just before I turned to find their package. Yes, I was good, and it was about time to make that plain.

JK Allen wrote a post about self-promotion from the personal branding sense. He made the point that fear of seeming shallow or self-centered may make us reluctant to push ourselves up front, but it’s necessary, because we need others to recognize our personal assets in order to make progress toward our goals.

He’s right.

We need the professional equivalent of that not-quite-arrogant Oh, yeah for our businesses as well””expressions that speak not in glittering generalities but in shameless yet entirely honest boast. Well articulated service breakdowns, stylish layouts, testimonials, portfolios… they don’t make a reader grin and go, “Oh, no you didn’t!” without a large dose of personality and a bit of a wink. But there’s an art to it, certainly.

First of all, it must be directly relevant to the context. There’s nothing slick about the offhand mention of your roomful of awards even when people are talking in general about awards. Not until someone asks you.

Wait until you have the spotlight. Your website is one. Don’t hesitate to brand yourself as “premier,” “only,” “favorite,” or “cutting-edge”””as long as it’s true without doubt in context. And as JK mentioned, work your “About” page for all it’s worth.

When you network in person, describe your services with a focus on the other person by simply adding on “for businesses like yours,” or “for your customers.”

That’s a much bolder statement than it looks on the surface: it subtly joins the two of you. You’ve just put one foot in a prospect’s territory as if you belong there. And maybe you do.

But above all, remember to test reactions whenever you make a change in how you present the most incredibly talented company in the world.

When you’re thorough, responsive to customers’ sensibilities, and maintain consistent quality, you’ll find people will forgive you for bragging a bit.

*Name changed. HIPAA and all that.

Photo credit: Mark Wallace via Flickr, CC 2.0

Shakirah Dawud is the writer and editor behind Deliberate Ink. Based in Maryland with roots in New York, she’s been crafting effective marketing copy as a writer and polishing many forms of prose as an editor since 2002. Clients in many fun sizes, industries, and locations reach her through the Web.