If you’ve ever worked in marketing (and possibly if you haven’t), you’ve heard the phrase “sell the hole, not the drill”.
That’s a ludicrous example, because it’s patently wrong.
I was brainstorming logo ideas this evening: one was an arrow having hit the target, and the other was a first-person view, looking down the shaft of the arrow, with a target downfield.
Which one has emotional resonance? The arrow in the target, no matter how perfectly placed, is still and lifeless (not to mention a bit cliché).
However, with a different point of view, you can convey anticipation. A drawn and held breath. A steady hand. The tension in the bow. A moment of truth.
It’s my assumption that people don’t practice archery to see an arrow placed in the center of a target, but to experience the emotional swing that occurs between that point of extreme tension and the thrill of accomplishment afterward.
However, someone selling a bow to someone would most assuredly sell on its specifications and its championship pedigree.
Likewise, people buy drills to build their dreams. But they know that their dreams deserve the best tools. It’s why the cordless drill tantalizes with “18 Volt”, “450 in.-lbs. of max torque” and comes in construction-site colors like yellow or red. It doesn’t say “3.6 holes per minute”.
Because someone buying a drill understands its basic function, they can project all their anticipation, hopes, and desires on a simple inanimate object. They draw the line from the drill to finally getting that deck built. And because they did the dot-connecting, their emotions are fully engaged. You just stand back and collect your drill dollars.
The counterpoint is with newer, harder-to-understand technology. Apple’s done a masterful job of connecting the dots between a box full of circuit boards and a finished home movie, and turned what is basically mobile videoconferencing into a heartwarming way for far-away soldiers to see their newborn babies.
But as a product matures, people start resenting being told how to feel about the tools they already understand, and can create their own emotional reasons for buying. They just want the best solution or tool out there.
As long as your customers understand what they want, go ahead and sell the drill. And if people don’t yet understand your product, service, or market, you’re not exactly selling drills, are you?
I watched some videos 18 months ago. Here’s this surfer dude who claims to work 40 seconds per month and make millions by flipping a switch. He seems like a straight shooter, walks the walk.
4 or 5 obviously artificial “product launches” later, I’m seeing the same emails over and over. “Is this product for everyone? No. Not if you don’t intend to actually use it.”
What does that mean? So if you don’t intend to use this product, it’s not for you?
Great job. “Is this product for you? No, not if you’re lazy. Not if you’re a loser and hate money. Not if you can’t follow through.” Really? Wow, you’ve really run us through some funnels. Only the few, the brave, the well-intentioned, remain.
Trying to create an artificial market segment that includes “everyone” is the coward’s way out. Show some balls and pick out real people who won’t benefit from your product.
First of all, here’s a surefire way to conquer writer’s block; buy an iPhone. I downloaded the WordPress app, and being able to post when a thought strikes is awesome (plus the iPhone keyboard encourages brevity).
On to today’s topic.
My wife and I have been wanting to go out for sushi for many weeks, but due to the time and budget constraints of having a new baby, it’s been difficult to get out.
We’d made up our minds to go tonight, and planned to go to a nearby place that is not amazing, but a known quantity.
In the mail today, we received a flyer for a new sushi place near our house, offering 20% off any order. Two things scared me: 1) messing with an unknown, new restaurant serving raw fish, and 2) that this restaurant’s poorly-designed flyer needed to offer 20% off to draw customers.
So why did we end up at the unknown restaurant?
It wasn’t a sense of adventure. It was the 20% coupon, precisely the thing that turned me off at first. The idea of cheaper sushi compelled us there.
We werent the only ones; the place was more packed than any new restaurant I’ve seen. I doubt this new sushi place anticipated the result they got; as a marketer, I sure wouldn’t have. But in a tough economy, people don’t give up the things they want, they just look to pay less for them.
In this age of social media and “viral marketing”, it’s important to remember not to look down on the less flashy stuff.
There are lots of ways to make money in a down economy, but if you’re asking how you can help people save money on the things they’re already planning on buying, it’s not a bad start.
Today, I had a fantastic, revelatory day on an entirely new scale for me. And legally, I may never be able to disclose exactly how it went down, but suffice it to say I am thinking about the way I choose to work in this age where everyone’s connected. Now that information is contagious, lies no longer have the power to prop up a bad business, at least not for long.
Remember Extenze? Enzyte? Superjuices that are 95% grape juice and 5% bullshit? It’s over. If you were doing those things for a living, I hope you made enough to retire. You can still lie, but they’re uncovered in hours, not years.
Of course we all want to put ourselves in the best light, but being forthright (especially mixed with a dash of humor) lets people know you don’t take yourself too seriously, and are probably trustworthy in other areas.
A few years ago, I told a job interviewer exactly how I had been recently fired, and why I deserved it. I tried to handle it with humor and grace, but on the way home, I got the sick, panicky feeling that I’d over-shared. I got a call back letting me know that everyone was talking about “the fired guy”, and I got the job.
In the case of this amazing video, it took a fan to shine a hilarious and honest light on Trader Joe’s. (Let’s see if Trader Joe’s has the chutzpah to hire this guy to do an entire series.) Let’s be our own fans and look at the experience we provide from the outside in, and share the good with the bad, as long as the bad doesn’t outweigh the good. And if it does, we’ve got problems marketing won’t fix.
Much of the reason I’ve been sparsely populating this blog over the past week is that I’ve been laboring on a 10,000-word marketing opus for my day job.
That was about 7,000 words too many, and now it’s a process of “killing babies” until it gets there.
It doesn’t matter whether you write for a living every day or not; the fact is that everyone is a writer, and more so if you’re in marketing.
When you’re in high school, writing assignments are padded to reach a certain word count. After high school though, overly verbose writing is the hallmark of the lazy. George Orwell’s rule is, “If you can cut a word out, always cut it out.”
This goes for emails, blog posts, and especially ad copy: you can take the easy way out and write so much that you wind up diluting your original message, or you can spend time trimming fat and condensing it into something potent.
How do you know if your communication is overweight? I use these guidelines:
Did you say everything you wanted to? Great, but that’s exactly twice as long as it should be.
Think it should stay? Delete it first, and see if you miss it. Chances are, you won’t.
Stop thinking about what you want to say, and start thinking about what you want to get across.
No one likes cutting up their own communication, it’s time-consuming and ego-deflating. But, much like sharpening a pencil (or losing 500 pounds), you won’t miss what you lose and you’ll be much happier with the result.
So many of our problems as marketers and (and as coworkers, and as spouses…) stem from just being too vocal.
Here’s a tip: Are you “endearingly opinionated”? That means you’ve actually got a big mouth and are in constant, mortal danger of destroying your career and relationships (trust me on this one).
But there’s help! This lesson was driven home to me today when I found out that Metallica had a new album.
Remember Metallica? They’re the band that whined their way into cultural irrelevance. Instead of sitting back and seeing where the “digital revolution” was leading, they reacted immediately and harshly, passing judgment (literally) on those that dared reach into the candy bowl labeled “OMG FREE MUSIC”.
In one PR blunder, one to go into history, they were able to turn their enormous success into a tremendous amount of anti-Metallica fervor. Suddenly, fans and casual observers alike watched in delight as the band started to tear itself apart (on camera!), culminating in the loathsome musical atrocity St. Anger.
Metallica pissed off the entire Internet. There’s no coming back from that, right?
But today, I heard something remarkable: I heard samples from Metallica’s new release, and it didn’t suck. It specifically did not suck.
And you know what? I was glad for them. Glad? I’d assumed there was no end to the well of schadenfreude I had reserved for them. But I found myself glad to see them succeed. I’m not the only one; mark my words, you’ll see a surprising pro-Metallica sentiment arise in the next few weeks.
Rather than chalk that up to our generation’s short attention span, I hope this underscores the forgiving nature of people, even among the digital masses.
More significantly, it underscores the importance of just shutting up and letting a product speak. Where was the massive marketing campaign? The self-indulgent documentary? The angry tirades and lawsuits following its early release?
Whether architected this way or a lucky coincidence, the plan is genius in its execution. By not saying anything, they let community members tell each other about the quality of the album, rather than generating resistance by offering cringe-inducing promises that the band “is sorry” and “has returned to form”. Good show.
The lesson is: not every problem requires a full mea culpa. Often, silently getting your act together is the most effective way to repair a tarnished reputation. Except for your wife. Always, always apologize to her.