The Last Naked Lady

Who is the last naked lady? Well, first, she’s not always a who; sometimes, she’s a what. Second, she takes many forms (sometimes even professional services marketing-related, I swear; bear with me). Most of all, the last naked lady is difficult to relinquish, though her relinquishment brings greater rewards than her possession.

OK, OK—enough riddles. The last naked lady is an idea. It came to me after a male friend of mine told me why, even after having dated his then-girlfriend, now-wife, for about five years, he feared the commitment of marriage: “I was afraid to commit to the fact that she could be the last naked lady.”

This friend now has been happily married for more than 20 years. In retrospect, he admits his fear was misguided. But, of course, he’s not alone in having felt that way. Man or woman, in our relationships and in our careers, we are often afraid to commit to being whom we want to be (or, sometimes, whom we already are) and bid adieu to the last naked lady—to our other options.

Among Berbay’s clients, this fear of commitment takes the form of professional services firms being scared to define what they do—to declare, “Our focus is representing entrepreneurs in the food industry,” instead of, “Our focus is representing entrepreneurs in general” (Ever tried to find those general entrepreneurs, much less, cost-effectively market to them?).

Why this fear? Why do our clients have such trepidation about targeting a defined market? It’s understandable, really. They’re concerned that if they promote themselves as focusing on one or two areas, prospective clients and referral sources won’t think of them for opportunities outside those fields. But, in reality, more often the opposite happens: A referral source thinks of a client because it has a specific, memorable focus. The referral source comes to the client and says, “I realize you specialize in food-industry entrepreneurs, but a widget entrepreneur I know has a need. Can you work with her?”

Of course you can. Let the last naked lady go, and you’ll find you never needed her after all.

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