The secret to becoming a ‘likable expert’

Upton resident Michael Katz, founder of Blue Penguin Development, puts the focus on his customers’ likability.
Upton resident Michael Katz, founder of Blue Penguin Development, puts the focus on his customers’ likability.

By launching Hopkinton-based Blue Penguin Development in 2000, Michael Katz of Upton made the switch from corporate marketer to marketing coach for established solo professionals. His specialty: helping them get more and better clients by positioning themselves as likable experts.

Katz, an award-winning humor writer, holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from McGill University and an MBA from Boston University. He has written four books and published more than 400 issues of “The Likeable Expert Gazette,” a twice-monthly e-mail newsletter and podcast with 6,000 subscribers in more than 40 countries.

Q. What is your role?

A. You know how lots of people left their jobs in the last 20 years to go off and work on their own? The problem they have is that they are really good at what they do, but they don’t know how to explain it in a way that is clear, compelling, consistent, interesting. What I do is work with them to boil it down into concise statements that encapsulate what they do, what makes them different, and the value they provide. As a result, other people are able to understand them, remember them, and share them with others.

Q. What is a likable expert?


A. The truth is that most clients can’t tell if you’re a better financial planner, or recruiter, and so on. My emphasis is on the likable piece, so when people need someone in your field, they think of you. I help professionals become more visible.

Q. What are some examples?

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A. I’m big on what you can do that the big guys can’t. Write handwritten notes. Meet for coffee. All the personal touches in relationship-building. Also, you need to become slightly famous for having a narrow niche. It seems counterintuitive, because the more things you claim to do, the more chances there are to get hired, but it’s way more effective to be known as the authority.

Q. What are some lessons learned?

A. People are so afraid of being “unprofessional” that they don’t reveal their personal side — and then they lose out on learning what connects us, such as going to the same school or having a friend in common. The best relationships develop gradually, which is why it’s so important to be deliberate about staying in touch in an authentic manner. It’s like planting seeds far and wide, and seeing which ones turn into tomatoes.

For more information, visit bluepenguindevelopment.com.

Reach Cindy Cantrell at cindycantrell20@gmail.com.