A Halloween Marketing Lesson

Marketing ‌• November 1, 2012

As I was coming down from my candy high this morning, I was thinking back on some of the adorable trick-or-treaters I saw last evening and there was one child that stuck out in my mind…and reminded me of a key marketing lesson.
As you can imagine, we had a few laughs after he was given some candy and sent on his way. And then, naturally, I started debating with myself whether this kid was right or wrong to debate us on his costume. Just to be clear, this is no judgment on whether a child is allowed to be exasperated with an adult who cannot understand he is clearly dressed as a kung fu guy–this is me extrapolating the conversation into a larger marketing discussion. So for the sake of this discussion, the child is the business and I was the customer. The ultimate question then was whether to let the customer believe what she thought about his product (that he was a ninja) or to do as he (the business)  did and clarify exactly what he was. I’m calling it for the kid.This particular trick-or-treater was probably about 7 or 8 years old. He came to the door dressed in an outfit that resembled a ninja of sorts. When complimented on his ninja costume, he said, “No! I’m not a ninja!” Never wanting to be the adult who makes a child feel his costume is indistinguishable, the next guess was to compliment him on his karate costume. “No! Not karate!” We were now feeling a little at a loss but luckily he gestured to his belt and exasperatedly clarified: “I’m a kung fu guy.” Oh. Got it.

Oftentimes in B2B marketing, we give in to the temptation to be whatever the customer wants – to let the customer always be right: “Sure, we do that, too.” “Sure, we can find a way to work that in.” “Sure, we fully integrate with your ERP system implemented (and last updated) in 1997.” And then what happens? You either have to back track later or scramble to find a way to deliver on what you promised you could do. The kung fu trick-or-treater had it right: Be clear about exactly what you are and be passionate about explaining it so that someone understands. If a buyer doesn’t like it or it isn’t the right fit for them, that’s perfectly fine. At least you were clear on the front end.

Sam McCue
Inbound Marketing guru, avid fisherman, and all-around backcountry enthusiast.

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