Why you need a thick portfolio of examples

If you are an expert, you need to serve all the clients in your audience. You need a diverse portfolio of examples to draw on, so you can answer any question.

All of your examples will be in some way similar, because they all relate to people similarly situation to your audience. For example, they may all be people who had imposter syndrome, all people innovating within companies, all marketers doing digital marketing, or all authors writing nonfiction books.

But your virtual folder of examples should include:

  • Product and service organizations
  • All sorts of industries: manufacturing, retail, media, financial services, consumer goods, technology, and so on
  • Large, medium-sized, or small companies
  • Different geographies: North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, South America, Africa, Middle East
  • Public and private companies, not-for-profit organizations, and governments
  • Companies in the early stages of the solution you’re describing and companies at a more mature stage
  • People with different organizational roles, such as freelancers, individual contributors, professionals, supervisors, managers, C-suite leaders, or CEOs
  • Men and women
  • People of different ages and generations
  • Ethnically and racially diverse people

Ideally, you’ll have at least a few dozen examples that cover this whole range of possibilities.

How a big folder of examples helps

Inexperienced “experts” tend to tell the same stories over and over again. This gets old. Not only that, but the potential clients you’re trying to reach won’t relate. They may be thinking, “How does this story of a 50-year old white male head of HR in financial services relate to me, a millennial Latina in product development in a retail company?”

As your consulting and advisory business grows, you should concentrate on collecting diverse examples. These can come from news stories, from vendor case studies, and from your own experience.

Then, when it’s time to write the speech, you can keep the same basic structure and slot in examples relevant for a particular audience.

The same applies to creating a stream of podcasts or blog posts (for example, “Customer experience for financial services,” “Customer experience for retail,” “Customer experience for millennial middle-managers,” “Customer experience in Asian companies,” and so on.)

When I was developing a reputation as a social media expert in the wake of coauthoring the successful book Groundswell, I could ready a customized presentation in 15-minutes. I’d swap out examples for others relevant to a particular client or audience and ask my data people to slice an existing consumer survey for the client’s customer base. Clients loved it; it felt to them like I’d put enormous effort into preparing for their needs, when in fact, it was effortless. I assembled and delivered 180 similar variations of presentations that way.

But that only works if you put constant effort into growing and modernizing your portfolio of examples. Do it deliberately. It will pay off with years of relevance for your most lucrative offerings.

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  1. I’d also add another dimension, depending on the context: success vs. failure.

    In my first book, I covered companies that handled new system implementations well vs. those that failed. I like to think that the array of real-world examples helped the book resonate with readers.