"Be yourself ... everyone else is taken"
This saying is attributed to Oscar Wilde - the chap on the right. But this blog is really about a gentleman who bears no resembance whatever to the famous Victorian man of letters. This blog is about Sean.
Sean is a landscape gardener, local to Northampton. I first met him a while back at a networking breakfast. He immediately struck me as a nice chap, attentive and courteous in every way. Sean even had the good grace to listen to my unfunny anecdotes.
His newsletters just weren't hitting the spot
Sean dutifully introduced me to the other members of the group, making sure I wasn’t last in the queue for breakfast. (OK - I confess. His name isn’t Sean. If you’re local to Northampton, you might know him. So, anonymous he must remain. But he's a lovely feller nonetheless!).
As the event went on, Sean told me about something that was bothering him in his business. He'd started sending out newsletters but the response had been really poor.
Could I help? Well, Sean was right about one thing. Writing regular newsletters is a great idea. And he isn't just a nice man. He’s an authority who knows his stuff. His clients would surely be pleased to receive regular gardening tips from him.
His newsletters were packed with ideas and information and illustrated with great photos (his partner is a talented photographer). But – the newsletters were dragged down by a style that was impossibly stiff and formal:
- They were filled with has not’s and will not’s instead of hasn’t’s and won’t’s.
- He signed off with ‘Yours Sincerely’ when ‘Happy Gardening’ would have been so much better.
- His sentences were wordy.
- His paragraphs were endless blocks of unbroken text.
- He wrote as though an English Teacher from the 1950s was standing over him.
The critical missing element from Sean's newsletters was … his fantastic personality.
Don't 'write' - 'speak'
A day or two later we went through the newsletters together. We agreed he should forget about ‘writing’ to his clients. Why not ‘speak’ to them instead - crafting his newsletter in the same upbeat, friendly way in which he greeted me at the networking meeting? In other words - write as though he was chatting over a cup of coffee.
Sean agreed to give it a go. The effect was staggering. Within weeks, his social media ‘likes’ were through the roof. He had clients emailing and ringing him to ask him about the tips he’d given. Before long, he was (and still is) a very happy and successful landscape gardener.
All that he needed was ... to be himself.