The human brain loves contrast. That’s why mostly we read black letters on a white background. It makes things easier to see than if we had pale yellow letters on white background or green letters on a blue background.
The same is true when we write and speak about our work. When we compare and contrast, people new to what we do to perceive what we are offering more clearly. And the more clearly they perceive it, the more likely they’ll want it. And the more they want it, the more likely they’ll pay for it.
Comparison makes us feel safe and rooted. I know where I am. Contrast tells our brain “wake up, pay attention, there is something to notice here!” (We can use the two together. Compare first, then contrast.)
My smart, complex clients might want to dismiss contrast as being overly simplistic. Too formulaic.
But like anything, it’s a skill that can be wielded well or clumsily.
Consider playing with this just today to see if a new way of writing or speaking about what you do opens up.
Before and After
There are multiple ways we can play with contrast, but one of the simplest ways we can create clarity through contrast is by using Before and Afters.
We know and love this in make overs. Visuals that show how someone looked before they used the product or program and after.
You can do the same by painting pictures with your words. “Go from spending your evenings noshing on nachos in front of Million Dollar Listing to writing your futuristic detective novel!” (This is a great place to challenge yourself with those concrete details we talked about in Lesson Three.)
Or we can make it a slogan: From Sobbing to Sunny. From Overbooked to In Control. (Harder to have details here but not impossible.) From Cash-strapped to Creatively Well Resourced.
Is there more to the story of your work than this? Absolutely. But these verbal pictures or quick contrasts give folks a way to hold and contain the story you are going to tell them.
In my Words on Fire training (and private work), I take people through more forms of contrast, like sharing Misconceptions (“You may think ___ but what I’ve seen is ____”) or Distinctions. These are verbal structures that help you pop out the meaning and power and value of your work. But for now, let’s stay focused on Before and Afters.
1. Plan on working on this for 20-30 minutes if you can. If that’s too much, do 10 minutes.
2. Grab a piece of paper and a pen:
a. Divide your paper in half down the middle.
b. On the left side, write words and phrases that describe where your ideal client is BEFORE they start working with you. Draw on how they feel, what’s happening in their world, their inner dialogue.
c. On the left side, write words and phrases that describe where you ideal client is AFTER they’ve done a good chunk of work with you. Draw on how they feel, what’s happening in their world, their inner dialogue.
d. Plop those into this formula “From (something on the left side) to (something from the right side.” Don’t edit too much, play with some pairings.
3. What else can you compare and contrast your work to? Or the outcomes you create to?
4. If nothing else, this word play will help reinforce to you the value of what you do.