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Laughing at my blue jeans

In 2002, shortly after moving to San Diego, I met with Costco’s regional VP to discuss potentially lucrative ideas for the company.

Reasoning he’s vice-president of a multinational corporation, I put on a suit and shined my shoes.

Imagine my surprise to see him at his desk wearing ratty jeans, a golf shirt, and threadbare sneakers. Hanging from the bare white walls was a nail and some picture wire. There was an obvious disconnect.

The gent politely listened for 15 minutes before walking me out. Crestfallen at my failure, I pestered him mercilessly until he agreed to another conversation with me.

And when I appeared wearing sandals, jeans, golf shirt, sunglasses, and hat, he smiled. “Now you’ve got it. NOW we can talk business.”

He added; “I’ve had guys come here 8, 10 times and they just never figure it out.” We then spent an hour spitballing concepts.

Though things never proceeded beyond the initial stages, I learned a great deal that day about building client relationships.

It’s important to remember that you’re always selling yourself to clients, and that means personality, grooming, clothing, and style. As you’re looking to increase your own market prominence, consider the audience to whom you’re selling.

Mirroring the way a prospective client dresses can be a big first step towards building a bridge. After all, people do business with those they know, like, and trust. If someone thinks you’re like them, they’re more likely to trust you.

Of course, dressing for success depends on both individual and audience. My appearing in a suit broadcast a message of stiffness. Had I considered Costco’s casual culture, I’d have realized jeans and a blazer made more sense.

Yet in my native New York, the jeans and blazer would have been scoffed at, with the suit and tie de rigueur.

Admittedly, I’m always sporting the hat, regardless of whatever else I’m wearing. That’s my brand, and an easy hook for strangers trying to spot me in a crowd. I’ve worn it so consistently that many don’t recognize me without it.

Plus, whether I’m dressed up or down, the hat announces I’m creative.

As you seek your next opportunity, consider how your audience dresses, and mimic them. You might be surprised at how effective it can be.

With that said, I wish you a week of profitable marketing.

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