The FRIDAY ALTERNATIVE # 34: TO MARKET, TO MARKET

In the evolutionary jungle of organisational life, the 1980s belonged to the Financier, all padded shoulders, red braces and ‘greed is good’. The 90s was the epoch of the Marketing guru, when a brand could be valued on a balance sheet and to write a descriptive label for a cook chill meal required a thesaurus.  So far, my feeling is that the dominant species of our current decade will prove to be the Life Coach.  (By the way, I understand that there’s a gentleman somewhere who in protest at the bacteria-like proliferation of life coaches has set himself up as a Death Coach.  If he contacts me I shall be delighted to offer a link to his website.).

And yet, despite our transition into this latest touchy feely evolutionary era, Marketing refuses to lie down and die.  Like the poor, it is always with us.  We are particularly aware of its powers just now, of course: we are currently in the grip of election fever, when every marketing device known to humankind is likely to be employed.  But that aside, whether by coincidence or otherwise, half the consultants I know seem to be in the throes of reviewing their marketing strategy.  I accept that in practice this may mean little more than updating the first paragraph of their c.v. to change the phrase: ‘has worked in this field for 12 years’ to: ‘has worked in this field for 13 years’ – but it still shamed me into doing my own review.

Before I could review my existing marketing strategy, I realised, I needed to work out what it was.  After much analysis, I concluded that it consists of little more than writing one of these once a fortnight.  Wondering idly how many of my readers actually know anything about my professional life, I had a look at my website, and noted en passant that it fails to mention what I actually do and whom I do it for. 

This seemed a pretty serious situation.  I needed a new, fresh approach to attracting clients.  As the best idea I could come up with was listing myself in the Yellow Pages as AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA11111111111111111111 Phil Lowe Emergency Creativity Services I ran out and bought some books on marketing.  And very enlightening they were too.  Should you be on the verge of reviewing your own marketing strategy, let me share with you my new found knowledge.

The essence of your marketing message, I gather from my reading, is to voice a problem that is in your potential client’s mind.  Customers, it seems, are more engaged by their own problem than by the product or service you may be offering.  Hence an ad beginning: “You can have clear skin!” will be less effective than one headed: “Do you suffer from spotty skin?”  The average teenager’s response to the former is likely to be “Yeah, right!” (If you don’t know any teenagers, ask a passing one to read that with the right tone of torpid sarcasm), but they can’t help but answer ‘yes’ to the latter.  And once your potential client is in the habit of saying ‘yes’ to you….

I returned to my website.  Clearly, it needed a poignant question as its headline, designed to lead the right client to find me.  After a few hours brainstorming, I came up with: “Do you need something?”  Open enough, I felt, not to exclude too many potential customers, and at the same time I was fairly confident I could deliver on their expectations, since I clearly provide something – if only I could work out what it is.

Then I read the bit in the book that said the poignant question should be as specific as possible, lest clients think of you as some Johnny-come-lately-jack-of-all-trades (Surely nobody would think that of a consultant…?).  A specific question will create an aura of expertise and lead your target market straight to you.  So I changed my headline question to: “Are you free Tuesday week?” (well, I had an empty slot in my diary, and thought this way I might fill it with a specific client).

I can tell you’re impressed with my new found marketing literacy.  So while I’m on a roll, as a service to my loyal readers (subliminal marketing message: hire me soon….) I’ve come up with some all purpose attention-grabbing questions you can use for your own business, be it HR (“Fed up with dull, lifeless employees?”), strategy consultants (“Can’t get enough 2x2 matrices?”) or, just to show there’s no hard feelings, life coaches (“Is a blocked chakra ruining your social life?”).

And if all else fails, I shall headline my website: “Are you fed up with marketing messages in the form of rhetorical questions?”.  I’m sure the right client will beat a path to my door.

 © Phil Lowe, 2005.  All rights reserved.

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