My thumb

Sent by Jonathan Stark on April 29th, 2019

What if I told you I burnt my thumb this weekend?

I imagine the conversation might go something like this:

You: “Is it okay?”

Me: “Yeah, it’s fine.”

You: “How’d you do it?”

Me: “Making toast.”

At this point, what’s your level of interest? I’m guessing it’s probably pretty low. This would probably be the end of the “burnt thumb” conversation. We’d probably move on to talking about something else.

Now consider this...

What if I told you I burnt my thumb this weekend on an AK-47?

I’m guessing your level of interest would be a bit higher.

In fact, I’ll bet that right now you’ve got at least three questions that just magically jumped into your head.

“Like... you mean a real machine gun?!” (Yep)

“Where the heck were you?!” (At a shooting range in Massachusetts)

“WTF were you doing?!” (It was my youngest brother’s bachelor party and he’s into that sort of thing)

...and then you’d probably have a bunch of follow-up questions...

“Why was the barrel hot?” (I’d just finished firing a clip full of rounds)

“Why did you touch the barrel?” (I was trying to get the chamber locked open, which is a really awkward maneuver)

“Are you some kind of gun nut?” (No, quite the reverse)

“How loud is it?” (Very! But not the loudest gun there that day)

“Did you were ear protection?” (Heck ya. I doubled up: ear plugs with those “airport runway” ear muffs on over them.)

“What about the kick back?” (It’s not as bad as a 12 gauge shotgun, but it’s pretty hard. I imagine firing an AK on full automatic would just about rattle the teeth out of your head)

“Was it heavy?” (Yeah, heavier than it looks. It’s a very solid thing)

...and maybe you’d have even more questions...

“What did you shoot it at?” (Paper targets with a variety of designs like dart boards and zombies and turkeys)

“Did you rent the AK from the shooting range?” (No, one of the guys in the bachelor party brought it. We did rent a bunch of other guns from the range, though)

“Did you like it?” (It was a good bonding experience with the guys, but tbh I’d have much rather gone bowling)

...and further still, we might even get into a discussion of gun laws and politics and all that. I’ll stop there, but I think it’s fair to say that the “burnt my thumb on an AK” story could easily turn into a long conversation.

Here’s the thing...

How come “toaster” is a conversational dead end, but “AK-47” turns into an animated and engaging 30-60 minute discussion? In both cases, I got a minor burn on the tip of my thumb. Why does it matter what I burned my thumb on?

Because a toaster is commonplace and an AK-47 is not. Most everybody I know has a toaster and hardly anyone I know has ever even touched an AK-47, never mind fired one. It’s more interesting because the storyteller has a direct personal experience that the listener lacks.

(ASIDE: I recognize that there are probably parts of the world where machine guns are more common than toasters. If you live in such a place, the “toaster burn” story would probably be the more compelling of the two. The content depends on your context, but the principle is the same.)

If you want to engage in conversation with the folks in your target market, look for an experience that you have and they don’t. Ideally, it would be relevant to your expertise, and about an experience that they desire. Or if you don’t know who you target market should be, make a list of your experiences and ask yourself, “Who would be most interested in having this experience?" and then get your story in front of them.

Yours,

—J


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