Thursday, September 10, 2009

Marketing Lesson from High School: The Prom

When I was in High School I was pretty much a big dork. The first two years were hell, but finally by my senior I had blossomed into less of a dork. Like most kids I was not comfortable in my skin, did not have a clear understanding of my identity, and desperately wanted to be liked. The challenge was that I didn't know why people should like me...I just thought that they should.

This is the same thing I see facing businesses today:
They are not comfortable in their industry.
because they don't spend the introspective time as a student of the industry
They lack a clear understanding of their identity.
because they want to be everything to everyone
They desperately want to be liked.
because if people like them then they will generate income

Just like trying to secure a prom date, businesses need to walk their potential date through the buying process: Population, Awareness, Preference, Engagement, Retention.

Population - All the people on campus
In my high school there were approximately 3000 people on the campus. If I assume half of them were females, that create a pool of 1500 possible prom dates...not too bad.
  • How big is your market? Don't say it's everyone on campus unless you are really willing to entertain offers from the guys and the gals.
Awareness - All the people who know me
Like I said, I was not that popular. I played sports early in my high school career, but that stopped when I started working. So I can conservatively guess that 300 female students knew me....the number is starting to drop.
  • Sure a lot of people exist, but how many of them know about you? They gotta know you before they are gonna like you. Sometimes it pays to be popular...but being popular does not necessarily mean being liked.
Preference - All the people who have a positive opinion of me
I did a lot of stupid stuff in high school. You know what they say about a bad customer service experience...upset one person and they will tell eleven others. Well, that caused my pool of candidates to shrink even more. Now I was down to 75 gals from which to choose. I didn't protect my brand very well.
  • The catch: They know you and like you. Just because someone has heard about you does not mean they like you. Some people (and businesses) are popular for all the wrong reasons. You know who that girl or guy was on campus.
Engagement - All the people who are willing to go to the prom with me
Well, I waited until two weeks before the prom to start my search. Many ladies already had dates, many decided not to go, many were willing to go with me, but I was not that desperate. So now I was down to 12 prospective dates. There were 3000 people on my campus and I had to select from the Dirty Dozen.
  • Are they willing to buy or just smiling in your direction? Bad timing and poor closing skills leaves a lot of opportunity on the table. You can increase your odds by recognizing when a person is ready to say "yes" and actually make your move.
Retention - All the people who are willing to go out with me again
I surveyed the options, asked one gal, she said yes. The problem was that it was a bad date. The muffler fell off my car. I insulted my date's religion. I made a fool of myself at dinner. She wasn't "into dancing". I gave her a High Five good night. It wasn't pretty.
  • Do you have a plan to keep them coming back for more? Sometimes you want to marry your high school sweetheart. If she has a bad prom experience, the wedding bells probably will not happen. What is your retention strategy?
What happens when someone has a bad experience? They tell eleven others...there goes the Dirty Dozen.

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