Much to my surprise, I actually care what my grass looks like. This is a surprise to me, because while growing up, I could never understand my dad’s unwavering interest in the condition of the front lawn. And I mean unwavering.
He spent hours walking around the house, shovel in one hand and a pocket full of grass seed in the other. Anytime he spotted a patch of brown he would dig it up, drop some seed and move on to the next area of imperfection. He even bought pieces of sod–three foot by one foot strips of turf–that he would keep alive on life support in the driveway until needed, like donated organs awaiting an accident victim.
I didn’t understand it then, but I do now. There’s something oddly satisfying about planting seeds and watching them grow. It’s like having children, except you don’t have to wait 18 years for the results. And the grass never leaves the light on in the upstairs bathroom even though you’ve told it a thousand times to shut it off and we’re not made out of money over here and… Where was I?
No demand, no response
Early spring is the best time for grass. The sun’s out but not too hot. It rains fairly regularly. The weeds have yet to take over. As my dad would say, “Any schmuck can grow grass in the spring.”
Can you do it in the summer? Yes. But it’s way harder.
In the world of client acquisition, there’s much similarity to the grass-growing magic of spring. It’s called demand.
Here’s what I mean.
I love marketing. Creating interesting content; staying in touch with my contacts; and positioning myself and my clients in a way that makes us the clear and obvious choice to prospects. Does it work? You bet.
But I’ve come to realize that the most important element in successful marketing–the thing that determines whether the phone rings – isn’t marketing at all. It’s need.
If people already need what you’re selling (and they’re aware of the need), marketing is pretty straightforward and generally successful. If, on the other hand, your offering doesn’t line up with a problem they are currently experiencing, you’ve got a lot of work to do.
First you have to convince people that they have a problem. And that it’s worth fixing. And that they can’t fix it themselves. Only then do things like awareness, likeability, trust, pricing, packaging and all the other marketing necessities come into play. It’s a lot easier if they’re already in search of a solution.
Think about it. Have you ever seen the fire department do advertising? Me neither. Why would they? When your house is on fire – you have an immediate need. When it’s not on fire, Smokey the Bear himself couldn’t persuade you to pick up the phone, regardless of a special promotion, one-time offer or whatever.
No demand, no response.
Any schmuck can do it
Here’s the bottom line. Marketing your business is not about figuring out how to promote it. Rather, it’s about figuring out where pain already exists and positioning yourself and your services as somebody who can remove it.
Can you manufacture demand by convincing people they need whatever it is you’re selling? Sure. You can plant seed in the middle of July too. Just remember, any schmuck can grow grass in the spring.
Michael Katz is a Boston-based marketing consultant and founder of Blue Penguin Development. He specializes in helping professional service firms stand out from the pack by positioning them as Likeable Experts. Get a free copy of his report, “The Professional Service Provider’s Essential Reading List – 11 Recommended Business(ish) Books,” here.
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