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Scott McKain

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Practicing what I preach…


I’m writing this on an Air France flight from Paris to Budapest – having just left my Las Vegas home a little more than twelve hours earlier.  I’m on my way to speak for a global technology conference for mobile telephone carriers.  (By the way, the conference theme is “Conversation and Motivation.”  Interesting, huh?)

At my core, I’m a guy from a small Indiana town who grew up in my family’s grocery store and on our little farm.  So, how did I get this invitation to travel halfway around the world to speak to leading executives in, perhaps, the hottest industry on the planet?

  • Social media.
    • Someone with the company sponsoring the event – Alcatel-Lucent – started following me on Twitter.
    • That led her to my blog…that led to watching a video on YouTube.
    • Seeing those videos then created the speaking invitation.

In my earlier days in professional speaking, it never would have occurred to me to market my services to a company based in Paris holding a meeting in Budapest.  I focused on the company from Des Moines that was taking a group to Orlando.

Now, however, it’s just as easy for a prospect based in France to evaluate my work as one based in Florida.

  • Question #1:  Are you revisiting and revising your efforts to be certain you’ve expanded your base of potential customers? 
    • (This includes your activity on social media, posting videos and ideas on your blog, and more.  It even encompasses making certain your website is responsive to mobile searches and browsers.)

On this long flight, I’ve been doing some reflecting on my career.

One of the points I’ve always made about distinction is that we frequently run away from our own uniqueness.  We love to hear about what Apple has done, or talk about the friendliness of Southwest – however, we’re much more reticent to tell our own story.

Booking this conference in Budapest – and another one we just confirmed in New York City for LeadsCon, the top meeting on lead generation and high-impact marketing – has made me realize something that I hate to admit.  I’m guilty of the same mistake that I’ve been so vocal in criticizing others for making.

You see, I just keep doing what I love doing:  writing books and giving speeches about creating distinction in the marketplace.  It never really occurred to me that my background is unique – and created a way of thinking that makes my focus on distinction very natural.

Because of many fortunate circumstances – and a lot of hard work – I had some unusual opportunities in life.  My age 21, I had met with the President of the United States in the Oval Office…and the Chairman of GM in their Detroit boardroom.  By 25, I had visited the Kremlin and met the President of Brazil.  I started not just speaking to – but, more importantly, learning from – Fortune 500 CEOs and small business entrepreneurs on a full-time basis by age 27.  I ran for statewide elective office in Indiana.  I played the villain in a movie that esteemed critic Roger Ebert called one of the fifty “Great Movies” in the history of the cinema. In my part-time avocation as a movie reviewer, I met and interviewed the biggest celebrities in the world.  By age 40, I had spoken on the lawn of the White House with the President in the audience, and appeared on major national television shows.  Since then, I’ve written five books — including one that thirty major newspapers called one of the “Ten Best Business Books” of the year.

I’m not listing those to brag or to impress, but to make a point. To me, each of those steps was just a natural progression in my career development.  That viewpoint has created two challenges.

First, I never marketed that uniqueness and distinction because I honestly didn’t see it in myself

If someone else would’ve entered the speaking field with those qualifications, I would have seen them as unique – however, because it was me, it wasn’t a big deal.  It couldn’t be.  I was just a farm kid from a small Indiana town…right?

Secondly, because I didn’t market my uniqueness properly, my customers – in many cases, speakers bureaus, for example – could not discover it, either. 

Therefore, they continued to market me as a “good speaker and a nice guy.”  Why wouldn’t they?  They didn’t know any better…because I wasn’t informing them in the manner that I should have been.

The problem now is that it’s harder to reposition than to position.  A new speaker with the same background would rocket to the top of the business.  However, because I’m seen as a “good speaker and nice guy,” by those who have been booking me for years, there’s a sense of complacency.

  • New clients – like the ones in Budapest and New York – have a different perspective entirely. 

Yet, just as I outlined in “Create Distinction,” with your existing clients there is the fundamental problem that “Familiarity Breeds Complacency.”

  • Question #2:  Are you marketing your uniqueness – the very elements that make you distinctive? 
    • (Note: you have to recognize them in yourself or your business before you can share them in a compelling manner with others!)

I’m going to work at being better at answering both of those two questions – and, I hope that you will, too!

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Scott McKain is a business leader, bestselling author, and Hall of Fame professional speaker.
Scott's latest book, "The Collapse of Distinction: Stand Out and Move Up While Your Competition Fails" reached the #1 spot on Amazon.com list of Customer Service Bestsellers! He is the author of two #1 additional business bestsellers (Amazon.com & 800-CEO-READ): "What Customers REALLY Want" (currently available in trade paperback) and "ALL Business is Show Business."
He is the Co-founder and Principal of The Value Added Institute, a think-tank that examines the role of the customer experience in creating significant advances in the level of client loyalty, and has appeared on multiple occasions as a commentator and analyst on FOX News Channel. His platform presentations have run the gamut from the White House lawn with the President in the audience carried live on CNN and NBC's "Today" show...to a remote outpost near the Amazon...all 50 states, seven Canadian provinces...and from Singapore to Sweden...Mexico to Morocco.
An inductee into the Professional Speakers Hall of Fame, he is also a member of "Speakers Roundtable" -- an elite, invitation-only group of twenty of the world's top business speakers.