Why acting like a 7 year old will get you more customers

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” – E.E. Cummings

The electric train streaks along the model railroad track, puffing along at an impressive pace.

“The Union Pacific Big Boy!” my son Bailey shouts, running alongside the replica steam engine as it pulls dozens of cars along the track, heading into a dark tunnel running under the middle of a large, man-made mountain.

Inside the Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum, I glance around and see scores of young boys … and most are toddlers. Diapers, drooling, pointing, tantrums … all the familiar signs of early boyhood are evident.

Bailey, however, is 7 years old, and it becomes more obvious each time we visit that he’s the oldest boy in the building. (Not counting the gray-haired men reliving their 1950s childhood hobby, of course.)


Isn’t he supposed to have grown out of this phase? I ask myself while Bailey plays with the toy trains. Isn’t he too old for this type of activity? Shouldn’t he be falling into line with what most boys his age enjoy doing?

And then it dawns on me – as long as I don’t screw it up, my son is going to have a long and successful career in business and a happy life.

The Secret to Personal Branding Success

The reason is, Bailey has not yet been steered or shamed into becoming someone he isn’t.

And while “fitting in” and “going with the flow” helps you navigate the often-cruel social stratosphere of grade school and high school, it’s a death knell in the 21st Century business world. (Not to mention that doing work you love is easier than ever to achieve in today’s environment.)

“The feeling of not wanting to be noticed is prehistoric,” Bestselling Author and Speaker Seth Godin noted in this interview. “What has happened, in the last twenty years in particular, is that the only people who are achieving their dreams, the only people who are creating value, the only people who are being fairly compensated, are the ones who have figured out how to stand out.

“We are all connected now. With one click, I can find someone cheaper than you are. With just a quick search, I can find a blog more interesting than yours (not you in particular). What we see is that attention and surplus and revenue and profit and influence all go to the people who are doing work worth doing, and those of us who try to fit in are going to get less and less and less of what we used to be able to obtain.”

Think about how many people cross your computer screen or mobile phone on a daily basis via social media or emails. How many of those professionals are memorable? How many stand out? How many can you attach a “hook” to?

As a freshman at his New Jersey high school, Gary Vaynerchuk was so scrawny that a bully in the hall once shoved him up against a locker and said, “This is high school, not Kindergarten.


Vaynerchuk went on to become an International Bestselling Author, Speaker and Entrepreneur, in large part because of his refusal to tone down his outgoing, passionate personality in order to “fit in” and not attract attention to himself.

He credits a large part of his ability to risk “standing out” to the enormous amount of love and self-esteem bestowed on him by his mother, who loved him as he was and not as he should be.

(That’s the same reason my wife and I agreed to clean out a basement bedroom so Bailey could set up a 1976 Lionel Model Train Set – the only one he could afford with his current savings – and have spent hours playing trains with him.)

Being Unique = Big Benefits

Here’s the good news: If you finally decide to just be yourself, and to share more of who you are on your LinkedIn profile and elsewhere online, you’ll be amazed at what happens.

First, you’ll start attracting people who want to work with you or buy from you. Customers want to work with someone they Know, Like and Trust. If you put more of your personality into your professional life, you become much more memorable and likable to potential clients.

Sure, you’ll also repel some people in the process, but who wants to work with those stiffs, anyway? Life is too short!

Case in point: On my free LinkedIn lead generation trainings, I use film clips from Star Wars, quote the wisdom of Vanilla Ice and include pictures of my dog to illustrate key teaching points.

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Is my “info-tainment” style of training and teaching for everyone?

Of course not. But for those who do enjoy my training and teaching style, it’s an easy transition to become a paying customer. Best of all, I end up doing business with people who enjoy my personality and non-work passions, and we will often go beyond a business transaction to become friends, bonding around those non-work stories or passions I’ve shared.

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How it works on LinkedIn

You might be wondering where to start with all of this, especially when it comes to a more “professional” and “stuffy” platform like LinkedIn.

Some ideas:

  • Add a personal video to your LinkedIn profile. It will showcase your personality and communication style. If you’re not comfortable on camera, use an animated video instead.
  • Find ways to mix in more of your personal life (family, hobbies, etc.) into your marketing and customer service emails. When my family went on vacation to Orlando, for example, my work email’s auto-responder had a subject line of “Out of Office – I’m going to Disney World!” and a bit of info about the trip we were taking. Clients loved it. Many, in fact, wrote back about their family trips to Disney as well.
  • Mix in some personal shares with your LinkedIn newsfeed updates. Share a family photo, or something about your favorite sports team, something funny that happened at home, etc. (Note: There’s a fine line between sharing personal thoughts/opinions/stories and over-sharing, so read this post to make sure you strike the right balance.
  • If you haven’t already, use animated GIFs as part of your status updates on LinkedIn to catch attention and showcase your personality.

There are many ways to “stand out,” of course, but my best advice is this: Be yourself! Don’t hide who you really are out of fear that people won’t like you or want to do business with you. Instead, it’s being yourself that is going to make or break your long-term success and sales.

The reason is simple: The more memorable, likable and friendly you are, the more people will want to do business with you.

And note I said “memorable,” not gimmicky. So be true to who you are – let the lines blur a bit between your business and personal life. Put yourself out there, as scary as it might feel.

Once you do, watch what happens to your prospect and customer relationships as a result!

(Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to run – Bailey is ready to talk model trains!)