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What to Say When Nobody Cares What You Do

It’s a simple but uncomfortable truth.

Nobody cares what you do.

Oh, people might ask. At a networking lunch, a cocktail party, and so on.

But nobody cares.

What do people actually care about?

“Enough about me. What do you think about me?”

It’s funny because it is true.

People want to hear if listening to you is worth their time and energy.

  • How might you help them?
  • Who do you know who might be useful?
  • Are you fun to be around?

Wait … didn’t I say they don’t care what you do?

Yup, it’s not about what you DO, it’s about what they GET!

  • I bought a dog, he is pretty useless. He sniffs butts and tries to climb up my chest so he can bite my ear. These are not compelling selling points. The cat contributes even less to the household chores, and is not the worlds best listener when I need to talk something through.
  • My flights to Chicago might involve a lot of waiting around and being scanned by the TSAs nudetron machines. Yay.
  • The government of Canada just took a large slice of my hard-earned, possibly to use wisely, but potentially to give to oil companies and bankers.

We rarely spend time and money on what these things do. Instead we are buying into a promise of a change, benefit or outcome.

My dog gives a lot of joy to my family, and will give even more joy when he grows a brain. The 8 hours of traveling are not a pleasure, but being in Chicago for SOBCon will be. Paying taxes is worth it as part of my duty as a citizen to pay my share for the services we get, but more immediately compelling on a personal level is to stay out of jail.

So Here is What You Tell People Instead …

In your marketing, in your content, your tagline and your “elevator pitch”, instead of talking about what you do …

  • I’m a coach …
  • I run a course …
  • My blog …
  • Wrote a book …
  • Farm naked mole rats …

… Instead focus on why they should care.

You may have seen I just took a gig as a kind of teacher. Who cares right? It will only interest you if what I am teaching makes a difference to your life or business, and for that it needs to promise a beneficial outcome.

If you are an accountant then you can potentially keep someone from getting into a lot of trouble, but also save them a lot of money. It’s not about papers and numbers.

Coaches lead their client to their goals, evolution, problem solving and the outcomes they dream about. It’s not about spending time with you on the telephone being “coached”.

Your non-fiction book is possibly an entertaining read, but it is even more attractive when thought of as a knowledge delivery system. What is that knowledge good for? What will the ideas and information lead to?

Bottom Line

You are never going to be louder or more interesting than the me-me-me track looping in their head. Work with that rather than against it.

So … what do YOU do? …


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  1. You and the dog and cat are absolutely right. It is all about what each creature gets out of the relationships. Good luck on your new teaching position Chris. Teachers have gotten a tough rap lately. Maybe you can help us explain what education is all about.

  2. What do *I* do? I make people more useful to their professional colleagues by providing them with a contact that they can pass on when asked ‘Do you know anyone you can recommend who knows about internet security? There are so many out there, but who can I trust?’ Knowledge is power and I can empower you with the knowledge that I’m the best in the field. There… does that fit? 😉

    • I would suggest when you help with internet security that you take away risk and fear, and bring customers confidence in their systems?

      You are giving people the ability to sleep soundly at night without the panic feeling of “what if” 😉

      • Nah… no-one ever thinks they have a security problem, but always think that they know someone who does… 🙂

  3. A masses’s problem solving title for what you do. A way to be front and center, top of mind and ultra relevant the moment you start speaking about how you can help others.

    I’m always hoping you’d write longer posts 🙂

    Btw, congrats on your new venture with Copyblogger Chris!

    Catch you later!

  4. Great post Chris and congratulations on the role with Copyblogger!

    Such an important lesson. Showing the client the transformation that we can bring to their life, home or business rather than just what we do. Much more compelling for them and powerful for them to share with others. Thank you!

  5. This was very relevant material for me. As a mental health therapist, coach, and psychology doctoral student, I have no background in marketing, nor do we get any courses in school related to the business of therapy. Since people are naturally tuned into me-me-me, we automatically say, “I am this and I do that.” We don’t automatically say, “You will gain this and this from working with me.” This is definitely a new skill to learn.

  6. Just stumbled across your site. Looking forward to reading up on the ebooks and future posts. Congrats on the CopyBlogger goodness!

  7. dianne says:

    Hm. Good thoughts. My tagline is “making your words work for you.” Yet when asked specifically what I do, my reply sounds so lame-O. This makes a lot more sense. .

  8. Samuel says:

    I find that to successfully attend any network event is to learn not to feel uncomfortable about the “fact” that nobody cares about you in the beginning. Yeah, and what Chris suggested – ask about what they do FIRST and you are basically all set.

    no one is going to remember what you say after a while, so unless I believe it is important, I don’t say too much about myself. By really paying attention to what they say you have a better chance installing a feeling in them that lasts longer than your words.

  9. Ha ha love this post! Well said.

  10. Kristen says:

    Can you give any examples? I feel this is hard to do without being super cheesy (and also when your benefits are specific to the person?)
    “I make dreams come true!” 😉
    or, “I do X, so you will have more time to spend with your family, or on your other dreams, or working on things that interest you, etc”
    or, “I will help you share your knowledge and message with the world!”
    or, “I will help you achieve fame and fortune and we can change the world for the better!”
    while ideally, all of these things are my goals to (eventually) help people accomplish, and what people would hopefully get from working with me, they sound super cheesy, and also incredibly dramatic and highly unbelievable. How do you appeal to people’s emotions and their hopes and dreams, without being ridiculous? Thanks for the post!

  11. This is so true no one cares about what you do, but that is the magic of being a good listener you only care about what they do, that can make you a success, if you figure out how to answer their questions. Just had a ah ha moment. Thanks

  12. This is perfect preparation for an upcoming to-do with some folks who not only do not care what I do, probably do not know. So, I’m going to take this column literally and tell them I’m farming naked mole rats. Or, that I’m a naked mole rat farmer. LOL

  13. Oh, Chris…you are SO right.

    I have to keep reminding myself not to answer “what do you do” by saying I’m a CPA because then folks assume my main activity is preparing personal income tax returns (which I don’t do anymore) or telling them I run a payroll service (which most small business owners think they don’t need).

    I’ve even stopped saying that I specialize in business startup consulting after realizing that doesn’t tell anyone about a benefit or result they can get excited about.

    What I really do is:

    1. Keep people out of trouble with the IRS

    2. Help entrepreneurs choose the proper business structure so they get tax-free fringe benefits and save as much as possible on their taxes

    3. Teach small business owners how to turn money they’re already spending on personal expenses into legitimate business deductions

    Thanks for your post. It’s helping me keep this awareness top-of-mind today.

  14. I help people present their ideas in a beautiful way. I help small businesses get noticed. And I help people put their best foot forward with their marketing materials. I am a graphic and web designer.

  15. Totally spot on! Things completely turned around for me when I started pitching one of my blogs as “a blog that helps __________ with ________” instead of “I write every week about ____________.” (Trying to get my point across without any self-centered plugs.)

    No one cares about what YOU do. They care about what THEY get from what you do. Thanks for sharing.

  16. I think this is 99.9% right.

    The other 0.1% is that (my kind of) blogging is personal. People do like to hear a little about me so they get a sense of connect (know, like, trust).

    I write about self development so this may not apply to more techy topics.

  17. Hi Chris
    You are absolutely right. It only matters when they get something out of you and the best thing is when they get it for free. Well for me I am more to sharing. I do not care what others think. I blog to share the knowledge and my experience on ways of making money online. Should be useful to online user especially to those who are new to the internet and wanted to make some money through it.
    Good luck on your new venture with Copyblogger Chris!

  18. Great point Chris. I see this in the coaching world a lot. Coaches feel very passionate about the power of coaching – and that is true. Working with a coach is a very powerful way to get great results. But it isn’t why people hire us.

    My own business changed hugely when I got this. The shift from banging on about the power of coaching to specialising in a particular pain and problems that I could help solve transformed my business. Coaching/mentoring is just the tool. My clients don’t care about the tool. They care about getting the results they want.

    I guess it is the same as if your house heating breaks down in the winter. I don’t want to lsiten to the plumber banging on about which wrench or screwdriver he is going to use – I just want him to listen to my problem and sort it!

  19. Sean Chang says:

    Congrats on the ‘teaching’ position!

    Great post by the way. It’s so true. And learning to work with it instead of against it would make life so much easier.

    As for what *I* do..

    Right now I’m just another reader of your blog who helps to increase your traffic numbers and add to your social proof by commenting on your posts 😉

    Looking forward to more great content from you both here and over at copyblogger!

  20. This is a toughie for me. It’s something I’m definitely working on because I start my business next week. I’m new to the industry I’ll be working in, so I don’t really know how will the work I’ll be doing benefit my clients. Definitely something to explore.


    • Gemma, you made an interesting statement-that you are new to the industry so you aren’t sure how the work will be doing will benefit your clients. Is this a job you’re starting or your own business? If it’s your own business and you don’t know why people should do business with you, which is a another way to say what the benefit is, it’s pretty tough to market it. Even if you’re selling a product, there is still some sort of gratification the buyer wants from the purchase.

      • It’s my own business. But I’ve solved my dilemma in part, as I will be kicking off with something I have a lot of personal experience in. So I can use that to help with the selling part later on.

        In the meantime I have to rely on freelancing as a front-end developer to pay the bills while I work on the rest of my business. I’ve never freelanced before nor have I ever worked as a front-end developer. It’s always been a hobby til now. So it’s a bit tricky for me to market my services until I find my feet.

  21. Seems I’ve come full circle. Carnegie’s “How To Win Friends And Influence People” echoing through the annals of time and space. Funny how it always comes back to this. At the end of the day, old-school values carry the day. You can’t sustain massive success without a genuine concern for people. That’s what I’m taking from this post. I’m sold! It’s a huge deal, because this is the main advantage small companies and sole proprietorships have most large brands have lost… when a customer or client can look us straight in the eye and see no bull, just genuine caring for what THEY’RE looking for. Thanks for the reminder, Chris. Methinks its time for me to start chasing big dreams again. Keep it coming.

  22. What do I do? I (do an effort to try to) help people have a better life, and I enjoy doing it. Is this answer according to your teaching?

  23. Great analogy! Looks like I need to redo my site and profiles too!

  24. Simple, it is making people care what we do for them and what they get from us. If I expect to be paid and make someones business better with social media I neglect my duty if they don’t get something. It’s a full circle relationship and over performing beyond expectation should just happen with quality work.

    Chris, you have taught me a valuable lesson reminding me to give more than I receive, it’s age old and worthy of a review. You inspire me and for this I kindly thank you.

  25. Good stuff.

    Answering the WIIFY (What’s In It For You), always goes a long way. It’s right up there with seling benefits over features, and sell the sizzle, not the steak.

    I think the key is differentiation and specialization.

    In Own the Room, their recommendation is to create a little story about yourself that stands out, and really lights up why you do what you do, and how you do it differently.

  26. This post came at a good time for me as I’ve decided to do a complete overhaul on several of my sites, and am starting with the taglines. Creating a tagline that expresses what you can do for the reader is a good first step to promoting a blog.

    Right now I’m closing shop on several sites that haven’t been profitable and am focusing on developing ways to make my remaining sites useful to readers.

  27. I loved this approach and it really helped me reimagine how to describe what I do.

    I help people [and over nearly 30 years a lot of communities] decide what’s important in their lives and how to map a path to their dreams. I’ve created a lot of tools that ignite people’s passion, purpose and direction. I create safe and creative spaces for people and communities to make real choices so they can create celebratory lives.

    That was a very useful exercise. Thanks Chris.