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May 11, 2009 / jasonpinto

I recognize you.

Have you heard the legend of Charlie Chaplin and the look-alike contest? I heard it recently for the first time.

Charlie Chaplin was a great actor and film-maker. But primarily, we all know the Charlie Chaplin look. The mustache, the top hat, the cane, the suit. During the height of his popularity, look-alike contests popped up around the world as a form of entertainment.

Well, did you know that Mr. Chaplin once entered himself into one of those look-alike contests? And, not only did he not win, he failed to make the finals!

How is something like that possible?

Well, the judges certainly had a pre-defined image in their head of who Charlie Chaplin was… Of how he would walk and move, of his facial expressions, and more. However, the image they had built up in their heads did not match what they saw when they finally laid eyes on the very real person himself.

When it comes to marketing our company, product, or service, we only have a few moments to catch someone’s attention. We have a small window to demonstrate the benefits we can bring to the individual.  When we start with a blank slate, it certainly may be possible to accomplish this.

However, people do not really come to us with a blank slate anymore. They can read about us on the internet. They can watch videos, and they can see some of our previous work. They also have a list of things in their head about what they need.

So, the next time you are about to start your elevator pitch or “company overview” presentation, ask a question of your audience.  It’s perfectly legal to do that. The more you find out about what is going on in their heads, the better the chances are that you will be able to deliver something that solves their problems.

We won’t win over everyone. Charlie Chaplin could have asked a hundred questions of his judges, and he still would not have won all of his own look-alike contests.

But if we treat each audience as unique, well, they might just start seeing what makes us unique and authentic as well.

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