We live in a relatively middle-class younger neighborhood. Everyone has kids under 13 and the houses are all quiet by 9pm because there is school, sport practice, and
work early the next morning. In the blistering heat of summer, the neighborhood kids decided they wanted to start a lemonade stand to make some money and quench some thirst. (GREAT IDEA!) They attracted by my attention because when I walked outside, I could hear them screaming ‘LEMONADE! COLD LEMONADE!’ I recognized the voices, so I happily found $0.50 and bought for a cup. In 4 hours, they sold $1.50 of (now warm) lemonade.
A week later, when all the kids were together again, they decided to do something for a little more profit. They had a car wash. For 5 hours, whenever a car drove by they lifted their hands in the air, screamed ‘CAR WAASSSSH!!!!’ to any car that passed. Just like the lemonade stand, no signs — just hollering kids dancing and waiving their hands.
They did a great job designing the car wash. They had hoses from two houses, they had cones out and when one car stopped for a car wash, they put the cones around the car to protect it (and them) from other cars that might drive by. They had bottles of car wash liquid on the little table they set up.
After a few hours, their frustration grew at cars that would ignore them and ‘CAAAR WAAAASH’ was starting to sound a little more frustrated. In the beginning they were just saying ‘car wash’ loudly, but now it was so loud their voices were getting hoarse & CAAAAR WAAAAASH was barely recognizable.
They had 1 person in 4 hours. After coming and going from the house all day, I was feeling bad for their success rate. It’s a very hot day, just like last week, and people have their car air conditioning going (windows up). They couldn’t hear the kids.
This short story runs much like our own businesses. We might set up a business saying ‘if we have the right standards and make it look nice enough, people will come.’ This isn’t true.
So we stand from where we think enough people might hear us and become entrenched in the one marketing method we fully believe will work. We scream it from the roof tops and announce it to everyone who can hear us. And when we get one person in our target market who signs up, we jump for joy! We say ‘WOOHOO! OUR METHODS WORK!’ and our method is now reinforced. Eventually, we’ll work our marketing method until we feel defeated. Then we might say ‘well, that business doesn’t work’ or ‘the area doesn’t have a need me; I did my best’ or ‘the economy sucks’ or we make up some other reason why it isn’t working how we wanted.
We don’t want to take the blame that our great idea was not so great, we want to defend it. (Some marketing ideas ARE great, they just don’t happen in the right ways.) Regardless of how loud you screamed or how hard you worked, unless you get into the mind of your potential clients and provide them with the reasons that work for them — people will not hear you. Their windows are up. Their music is blaring & air conditioning is on. They’re not paying attention to us jumping up and down shouting CAAAR WAAASH.
So what happened? I gave the kids a HUGE sign that said ‘AWESOME CARWASH $5.00.’ and another that said ‘KIDS CLEAN DIRTY CARS. $5.00’ This still didn’t do anything, they posted it at the end of the cul-de-sac. (Large scale marketing to the wrong audience is still bad marketing. Everyone in the cul-de-sac KNEW they were having a car wash.)
With their parent’s permission, we posted a sign just a block away on the busy intersection. (As seen in the picture above.) We posted the other sign at the entrance of the subdivision… and THEN a few cars rolled in. Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to go outside of our comfort zone and do things we would have never thought to do.
Sometimes we need someone else give us advice. Sometimes, we need to go just a few hundred feet further because we’re exerting too much effort into something that is a great idea, but just isn’t working like we thought… and perhaps THEN it will work like we had hoped.
Regardless of where you are in your marketing efforts, it’s always wise to look to see what is working for others and what you can do to improve your own business. In the famous words of Walt Disney: ‘Keep Moving Forward.’
(By the way, a membership to APSE is a GREAT way to keep moving forward. We have all the tools you need inside to help businesses of every stage grow.)