Hey, Joe, what do you know?
Many years ago, my grandfather (for whom I am named) owned a barber shop in North Arlington, New Jersey. It was a very busy place, 4 full-time barbers and still a wait, especially on Saturdays. When I would visit there for my once-a-month haircut, one of the barbers, named Ray, would always greet me the same way: “Hey, Joe, what do you know?”
I was reminded of that experience recently as I was having a conversation with a printing industry salesperson. We were involved in a coaching/goal setting discussion and we started to talk about his experiences. It seems that his primary customers for the past 12 years have been organizations involved in fund-raising activities and campaigns. He does the printing and mailing for these campaigns, and also does high-quality magazines and annual reports that are directed toward the same audience as tangible evidence of all the good being done with the money raised.
I mentioned that he must have accumulated a great deal of knowledge on the subject of direct mail fund-raising campaigns. He said that was probably the case, but he really hadn’t thought about it all that much. He was just trying to get the next campaign, magazine, or annual report (where the real money is), and to get new customer accounts that were trying to do the same things.
I probed the subject a bit more and we came to the conclusion that, yes, he really had developed a pretty good working knowledge about what an effective campaign looks like, how it is packaged and presented, how it should be timed, and what should go in front of the direct mail appeal (the magazine or annual report, for example). He even admitted that while he is not a skilled copywriter, he does know what effective copy looks like.
In other words, through our conversation, he came to the realization that he really is a subject matter expert. And that expertise, if captured and offered in the form of content, can effectively position him as a thought leader on the subject of direct mail fund-raising campaigns.
At this point, he expressed concern that since he was not a writer by training, getting that valuable wisdom out of his head and on paper would be a daunting exercise. Not to worry. I suggested that if he were willing to sit with a skillful writer for 30-40 minutes and answer questions, a series of brief white papers and/or blogs could easily be developed. Using these tools as high-value information pieces, he could potentially reach an important audience–not as a print salesperson selling production and execution capabilities, but as a thought leader offering unique wisdom and experience relevant to a target audience in need of leadership, innovation, and direction.
The point is that as we go about our day trying to get in front of customers and prospects in new and creative ways, I wonder how many of us hold a wealth of experience and focused wisdom in our heads that, with some guidance and assistance, could be used to create content that would position us as thought leaders in any number of areas.
So the question stands: What do you know?