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September 3, 2018
My aunt and uncle used to live in one of my favorite houses in the world. It was a nice, warm, orange color and it was small. The front room was crammed with couches (but perfectly designed to do this well) and my aunt and uncle would pack dozens of people in there on a fairly regular basis to have intellectually stimulating conversations about books, play live music, and tell stories.
For their Christmas party, she invited me, my sister, and my cousin to come sing and play for the party. When we walked in, the house smelled like something sweet and bread-y and festive was cooking, candles were lit, and my aunt greeted us and showed us where she wanted us to set up and sing.
When each of the guests arrived, my aunt greeted each of them and helped them find a comfortable place to sit and would get them a drink. She let them have a moment to mingle and then she introduced us and we played our set. People watched attentively yet relaxed, and with smiles.
When it was over, my uncle got up to make his signature (and pretty dang authentic) Liege waffles for everyone. As he served each one to us, he asked how we liked it with a smile, excited for us to try it and taste the authenticity of a real Belgian waffle. I could’ve eaten five more of them, the way it felt sweet, and yeasty, and bready, crispy and little soft all at the same time.
We finished the night by telling embarrassing stories. Including mine where I had a moment of intense forgetfulness brought on by heat exhaustion in Burma and told a dozen policemen ready to help that someone had stolen three hundred dollars from me, only to realize I had never gotten that money from the ATM at all. We continued telling stories for the rest of the night, laughing. And then we went home and I’ve remembered it as one of my favorite Christmas parties ever since.
But what does this have to do with business or brand building, you’re asking? Everything.
Whatever you want to call what you’re building: a brand, a platform, a community, it needs to feel like this party. You are the welcome host. Your audience is your guests. The home you’re hosting in is your website, your email list, your Instagram, and any other platforms where you’re hanging out with your people. You want them to feel comfortable, happy, like this is a time they’re going to remember for a long time. You want to give them a drink and a place to sit. You want to feed their souls or their minds or their bodies with some beautiful experience. You want to invite them to engage with you and share vulnerably, you want to laugh with them, cry with them, and then when it’s time for them to leave your party that they’ll remember it as something wonderful.
But you have to do the prep work before people can come. You have to find the people, treat them well, and help them take the next step and the next step to keep giving them more beautiful experiences with you (i.e. paid services/products with you).
Here’s the biggest mistake I see creative entrepreneurs make when building their sales funnel (if they even have one): they forget they’re human and that their customers are human. They start thinking and talking like a business person instead of a real person. The trick is to figure out how to recreate real experiences you’ve had in your life and make your business interactions as close as possible (while, of course, still being professional).
Grab a pen and paper and write down ideas from the best parties you’ve been to. What have been your favorite things? How can you translate that into relationships you’re building with your business?