In business, reaching the right people is vital, as the Ghostbusters quickly learn in the 2016 remake. For my own part, back when I launched my entrepreneurial journey, I was, if you will, “a rather green Ghostbuster.” I’d been a writing instructor and coach for years before I took on my first social media client. Until then, everyone I’d met had been part of the same writing network. Like the Ghostbusters, I had to learn fast!
Below, I share three lessons that I’ve learned about reaching the right people as an entrepreneur, all through the lens of the latest Ghostbusters movie.
Courageous content can be powerful: At the start of the film, Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) believes the book she and Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) published about ghosts must stay hidden, else it will ruin her career. But Ghosts from Our Past actually proves to be powerful content, attracting the Ghostbusters’ first client —and first ghost.
The act of sharing meaningful content can be courageous, especially when we’re saying something new. But such content is a terrific way to attract those who need our services and prove to them that we’re knowledgeable and compelling. As Ann Handley says, sensational content is useful, has empathy, and is inspired. I don’t have to read Erin and Abby’s ghostbusting book to know it possesses those qualities — why else would Erin’s first client, Ed Mulgrave, rush to her at his time of need? The book proves so important that the movie’s events wouldn’t even get started without it.
Great content does tend to set things in motion, especially when its writers dare to be authentic. To quote Michael Port in Book Yourself Solid, the process of attracting those clients you long to reach “isn’t about how to please as many people as possible. It’s about how to convey your own unique message to those who are waiting to hear it.” Yes, there are many who reject Erin and Abby’s writing, but those naysayers are not members of their target audience. One terrified man is, however—and he needs their services as badly as they need his ghost.
What you bring to the table can be simple: The idea of business is to meet another’s needs and receive value in exchange. Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) provides a great reminder of this when she leaves her frustrating job at the M.T.A. and offers the Ghostbusters her knowledge of New York, and a car. This is her way of getting into the business and working with people she trusts. Without that hearse and Patty’s knowledge of the city, the venture wouldn’t get going. These women need to get places, and swiftly.
Similarly, I once volunteered to transcribe dozens of letters for an editor whose work I deeply admired. I found the work straightforward, but there was lots of it, and I did it for free. In terms of time, it was a large investment. But that editor is now a friend, and, under my pen name, I’ve now appeared in his journal three times. Sales of my romance books rocketed on each occasion, and I’ve become part of a wonderful literary community.
Offering something for free, in order to create a relationship, is worthy and can be powerful. What you need to ensure is that you’re giving the right thing, in the right way—especially if the person in question is more established than you are. “You have to solve the puzzle of what you can offer this person,” says Dorie Clark, author of Entrepreneurial You, in this interview with Neil Patel.
Patty isn’t a scientist like the other Ghostbusters. But she has valuable skills, and she knows what to offer.
Build your brand by focusing on your clients’ or customers’ needs: At first, the Ghostbusters call themselves Conductors of the Metaphysical Examination—a title so complex that their receptionist (who, admittedly, is not the best) muddles it up when he answers the phone. When they’re dubbed “Ghostbusters” by the media, the women react with frustration. But “Ghostbusters” turns out to be a big branding plus. Finally, people are talking about their services. The phone starts ringing. Demand grows.
Anyone can understand the Ghostbusters’ wish to be taken seriously. But as entrepreneurs, it’s important that we focus primarily on what our target clients or customers need, and how we can serve them. “Ghostbusters” is a name that customers can remember, and, unlike “Conductors of the Metaphysical Examination,” it’s easy to google in an emergency. We truly take ourselves seriously when we focus on service, rather than ego.
By creating compelling and knowledgeable content, offering to be helpful to others, and by ensuring their brand serves their customers’ needs, the Ghostbusters reach the right customers and connections. By the end of the movie, they receive the funding they deserve — and though this takes them by surprise, it’s no accident. Such is the power of recognizing a need in those we care about, and serving it.