Monthly Archives: July 2009

S&M or Rescue the Princess? – How to tell the difference.

A few nights ago my neighbor and her daughter were at my place.  Aimee and I were sharing a glass of wine and catching up while our kids played just outside the front door.  They quickly burst in – her daughter’s hands clasped together, wrists wrapped in rope.

Without missing a beat—and utilizing the exact same language and tone— Aimee and I immediately hit them with a barrage of questions.

“Why are your hands tied-up?”  “What are you doing?”  “Whose idea was this?”

It was clear that we were unusually curious to understand the specifics of this particular game.  In return, without missing a beat, the kids looked at us as if we’d just stepped off Planet Crazy and responded:

“I’m a princess.”  …..   “And I’m rescuing her.”

My friend and I locked eyes, acknowledged the breakdown in processing the visual cues and had some funny verbal exchange about the Marquis de Sade.

It hit me—so to speak—that the four of us encapsulated in that moment the reason that market segmentation is a critical success factor. We’re talking about verbal and visual cues. This is why humor works when presenting a situation out of the normal context.

Whether it is business-to-business or business-to-consumer communication, creating and using customer profiles enhances your chances to provide the ‘right’ verbal and visual cues to illicit the desired response.

There can be dozens of factors to consider when segmenting your market – ranging from social esteem, to language, to specific needs such as a reduction in expense.  It can be mind-numbing and paralyzing.  And, depending on the size of your market, overkill.  That said, at minimum the following should be addressed:

  • Demographics (age, family size, life cycle, occupation)
  • Geography (states, regions, countries)
  • Behaviors (product knowledge, usage, attitudes, responses)
  • Psychographics (lifestyle, values, personality)

No need to beat a dead horse, but take the time to analyze the needs and wants of different market segments before creating messaging and marketing tools. By doing so you will make marketing easier, discover niche markets, and become more efficient with your marketing resources.

How to market to Aimee and me?  Well, isn’t that obvious?

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Cheeky Little Ankle Biters

Well, let me just start by saying that anyone who takes themselves too seriously AND happens to be in sales may want to hop over this week’s blog.

A few weeks back, my almost seven year old got in this “I need a bunny” kick.  It was life or death and for days he relentlessly, without the aid of collateral and a website, expounded on the virtues of this purchase.  I was ‘featured’ and ‘benefited’ to death. 

Feature: “It can use the same litter box as the cats.”

Benefit: “No additional work for you, Mama.”

It was also round the clock – let’s ‘make-a-deal’ time.  Classic over-promise/under deliver, sell your soul to the devil type behavior.  “If I get a bunny I’ll be good for the rest of the summer.”  When that wasn’t accepted, he upped the ante.  In true hard-wired salesperson style, he had no problems changing the terms of the contract.  “OK, I’ll be good for the REST of my LIFE.”

Now we’re talking.  Tempting to say the least.

I am the biz dev person for my company.  Bluntly put, I am in sales.  It says so, right on my card – Market Builder (fancy, innocuous term for ‘I want to sell you our services’.)  It occurs to me that I am not that dissimilar in my approach.  Ok, ok, I try not to make ‘life-time’ promises to clients but there is something to be said about not giving up. 

Once you are clear on your service/product offering and have identified those in your market who would best be served by them, then a little tenacity and creativity can make all the difference.  That being said, figuring out when to ‘take NO for an answer’ is valuable as well.

Luckily for me my son’s loyalty to a particular product is whimsical at best.  He’s hopped on over to negotiating life-time behavioral changes for Super Mario Figures. Kid’s got a future – if his employer can just keep him focused.

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Forrest from the Trees

A friend took me sailing, if you can call it that when both the mast and boom are naked, a week or so ago. (I cheated on these terms and looked them up.)  A beautiful, sunny, breezy day. A perfect backdrop to hang-out, swim, eat, drink and listen to music. 

A half-bottle of chardonnay later, I lay down on the bow—I know, I know…some of you might not think I work—what jumped out at me was a thick, even, tree-line juxtaposed against the bright blue sky. 

This long line of trees all seemed about the same size.  In the world of Adapt or Die, it struck me that on the surface it appeared as if these trees were all in agreement to grow and flourish collectively—a wall of uniformity. 

It reminded me of Big Brands. HP, IBM, Dell.  Eli Lilly, GSK, Pfizer.  Coke, Pepsi.  – You get the picture.

We know that between these players the only agreement is the constant pursuit of ‘lunch eating’.  They have to appear to play nice, partner, co-opitate. (Except Coke and Pepsi—no cooperation there.) But underneath the veneer, you know they struggle. They’re tripping over each other to separate from the pack, gain an advantage and then somehow keep it. Look at Coke Zero. It’s even fighting against its mothership, Coke. 

Market share, revenue, shareholder wealth—or in the case of my chardonnay-induced analogy, sunlight, water, air and nutrients.

I know I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but once again the notion of having a Disruptive ConversationTM blows its way in.  Of course to have the Disruptive Conversation you have to be disruptive.  Be a tree that thrives in shade, have seeds that are light enough that wind can carry them to places where there are fewer trees competing for resources.  Live with less water.

Find and embrace your differentiation. Be disruptive. If roots can break rocks, what can you do?

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Two Ears, One Mouse

There’s an expression that we were given two ears and one mouth because listening is twice as hard as talking.

My son’s mouse—and I use this determination of ownership loosely—was cast in a movie recently.  We were to be out of town during the filming and the director/producer agreed to take possession of the rodent star ahead of time.  I was thrilled to find someone to take over the duties associated with the mouse while we would be gone.

Two days into the trip I got the ill-fated phone call that Gus had met with an untimely demise at the jaws of a large dog. The dog was only partially responsible. The reality is that Gus was a victim of poor listening.

My son had shown concern about leaving the mouse in the first place.  “He’ll be scared.  They don’t know how to take care of him.  I don’t want Gus to be in the movie.”  I ignored all of his pleadings in order to push my own agenda, which was having someone take care of the mouse.

At drop-off, I questioned the wisdom of leaving the mouse cage on the floor of an office that is oft-times visited by a number of dogs.  My question was equally dismissed. 

See it coming?

How often do we ignore, gloss-over or run roughshod over questions or concerns raised around us?  It is hard for us—when we’ve made up our minds—to truly hear differing opinions.  Or not even differing, simply opinions that make our brilliant ideas not so stellar. 

I am a big believer in the Pareto Principle when it comes to pulling the trigger on business decisions.  And, one could argue that this mousicide falls into the realm of an acceptable level of risk-taking.  But, it is a good reminder that sometimes pearls of wisdom don’t always emanate from the loudest, most powerful or most driven member of an organization.  Listening is a crucial component of success.

According to Brian Wilson, the editor of, the top two strategies for business listeners are as follows:

  1. Know your goals for the conversation.
    • Exchange information.
    • Build a relationship.
    • Feel good.
    • Make someone else feel good.
  2. Be aware of your choices.
    • Talk or listen.
    • Focus or clarify.
    • Listen attentively or not.

It’s always helpful to recognize that our actions and inactions are really choices with consequences. Maybe if I had been a bit more attentive to my son’s concerns, or I had expressed more clearly my hesitance to leave Gus snout high, I wouldn’t be struggling with the obituary.

 (P.S. The witness to Gus’ demise said it was over very quickly. No one had informed the dog owner that the office was temporarily off-limits.)