Most entrepreneurs don’t look for marketing help when things are going well. The phone is ringing, the schedule is full of appointments, and they just don’t have the time right now. Maybe next quarter.

So by the time they are open to me and my services, they are usually in a pretty desperate space. The calls tapered off. Traffic to their (neglected) web site has dropped off. They have tried a number of things to get the business hopping again, and nothing seems to work.

Now the bank account is low, and it is time for desperate measures. So they scrape together a couple hundred dollars, and give me a call.

This clearly is not the easiest way to start a relationship. Much of my initial work with clients has nothing to do with marketing, but is more of a social worker / psychologist / friend role.

They need to talk. They need to be heard. They need to vent their frustrations. They need to ask WHY? And they need validation.

Since I most likely don’t know them, their history, their business, etc, the first thing I do is help them tell their story.

Essentially this part of the relationship is like an interview. There aren’t really any excellent interviewers out there in the public eye any more. (Notable exceptions include Terry Gross and Matt Taibbi, but the list is short enough to fit legibly on the paper inside a fortune cookie.)

Over the years I have developed a technique for how to do these interviews. (And I am writing a book about that technique.)

And this interview process is what people thank me for.

What I manage to do during the interview is dig down to the core of this particular entrepreneur’s driving animus… uncover the essence of why they do what they do… and in the process, I remind them of their love, their passion, their drive.

After their first meeting with me, entrepreneurs are energized, fired up, focused, and ready to kick some ass!

I had a massage therapist break down in tears as she remembered how she helped an 80-year old man stand erect again, and look up at the sky for the first time in 20 years. She was about to abandon massage therapy and do “something else”. After digging this story out of her, she found her muse, she got her mojo back, and her client list filled up to capacity within a month.

Stories like this happen to me with more than half of my clients. I see them walk in, stooped, harried, unsure, and watch them walk out two hours later standing erect and practically sprinting back to their office to get started again.

People thank me for helping them clear away the clutter and remember why they do what they do.

What do people thank YOU for?

(Special thanks to the amazing Danielle LaPorte for asking the question, and for Pema Teeter to inspire me (yet again) to take action and write.)