Are You A Doorknob, or a Doorway?

The other day, I was at a networking event–nothing unusual, to be sure. Three life insurance brokers were there: competing for a seat at the table. The first stood up.

“I’m a life insurance broker. I help people create security, and feed them a lifeline into their futures. They can have peace of mind for their loved ones, and cash flow, too,” he said. Not bad, I thought. Generic, but eloquent.

A minute later, the second stood up, said her name, and pointed vaguely at the first. “I do what he does, only for a different company,” she said, amidst laughter.

The third took his turn. “I’m the exact same person as those other two, only I work for THIS company,” he said. More laughter. Now it was an in-joke. But my inner MarketSmith reeled.

Here was an opportunity to deliver a captivating pitch: to set oneself high above a visible throng. A commercial well delivered is candy for the listener…and frankly, butter for the wallet. But what had just happened?

Broker no. 2 identified herself as a commodity–no more skilled or sensible than a hammer, a fork, a doorknob.

Broker no. 3 took this further. He admitted to a factory seal–without warranty. Who’s going to hire him?

Even commoditized businesses need to humanize themselves. Some of the most fun I’ve had all year is mesmerizing a packed room with a speech ghostwritten for an electrician. Turns out what he does isn’t a commodity at all: it’s intricate, precise, perfectionist.

You’re not a doorknob, silly. You’re the bomb. But you owe us an explanation. If it’s not your forte, well then give us a ring.

Copywritten with Care,


A champion of high-end content, Jean is a living tribute to copywriting for humans. In 2012, at a TEDx talk, she declared her now widely viewed “War Against Bland.” The visionary founder of MarketSmiths, Jean leads her growing team to captivate, inspire, and motivate readers. She has helped thousands of global clients generate revenue from words (up to 12,000% ROI), and transformed the writing of hundreds of seminar attendees at the SXSW Interactive Festival (2014 and 2015), SXSW V2V (2014), the Small Business Summit (2014, NYC), and other venues.

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