This old movie house clichÃ?Â© hides a deeper truth: Money is life, because earning money requires an investment of time (as your alarm clock reminds you each morning). What do I mean? Try this simple exercise: close your eyes and start counting off seconds. As you do this, consider the fact that each passing second is gone forever. Each passing second is one second closer to the end of our lives as we know them. Tick tock, tick tock. The end keeps approaching, steadily and relentlessly. Tick tock, tick tock.
When we look at time this way, we suddenly realize that time is life itself. We further realize that any discussion about time and money must be a discussion about exchanging a non-renewable resource (our time, indeed our lives) for a very renewable resource (money).
What does this mean for your business? Traditional business thinking says that money is the engine behind successful marketing campaigns. This two-step approach forces you to invest time earning money for further investment in actually marketing your business. Question: Can you achieve the same results in a one-step process whose main ingredients are not money but time infused with energy, imagination, and information? Think you could do more with a lot less money? Think you might see faster results because you’re investing time for the desired outcome instead of for some intermediate goal?
Remove the connection between money and effective marketing and you’ll find yourself actually connecting with your customers and getting to know them as the wonderful people they are. You’ll find yourself understanding your customers in ways you never thought possible, and you’ll find that you’re much better able to sense and respond to their needs. You’ll also find your customers noticing and appreciating your human touch and returning to your business again and again. In nature, this is called a symbiotic relationship, where all participants benefit from their relationship with each other.
“Sounds good”, you’re saying, “but does it really work? Can the little guy with no money and no slick marketing program really triumph over the big guy?” Here’s a real-life story (name changed):
Henry owns a small furniture store that happens to be smack in between two very large furniture stores. One morning, he arrived for work and was horrified to see that the store on the left had unfurled a huge banner: SALE – 50% OFF. Even worse, the store on his right had unfurled an even larger banner: ANNUAL CELEBRATION – 60% OFF. “I’m ruined,” thought Henry. “No way I can match those deals with losing money on every sale. I can’t even afford my own huge banner!” Then inspiration struck! Henry marched into the store and set to work. Within minutes, a much smaller banner appeared above his own door: MAIN ENTRANCE.
Who do you think was smiling all the way to the bank that day? Here’s a hint: It wasn’t the stores who spent lots of money on huge banners! What if Henry had gone down the money hole and slashed his own prices? He would have invested lots of money on his own marketing and confronted the prospect of a protracted struggle just to return to his starting point, older and- hopefully- wiser.
By removing money from the equation, using his imagination, and refusing to compete on price, Henry came out way, way, ahead.
But what about the customers? Were they screwed into paying twice as much for their furniture? Not at all. Yes, the large banners attracted them to the stores. Yes, the sign proclaiming MAIN ENTRACE funneled them into Henry’s store. But nothing made them stay and nothing made them buy. Nothing, that is, except the confidence instilled when they found helpful knowledgeable salespeople, the superb selection of high-quality products, and the convenience of doing business with Henry. Had any of these elements gone wanting, these customers would have left the store to visit one of his larger competitors. Besides, despite the confidence, selection, service, and quality, not everyone who entered Henry’s store bought there. Some decided that price was more important and purchased elsewhere.
In short, everyone got what they wanted and went home happy. Well, almost everyone; Henry’s competitors weren’t too thrilled. But hey, let’s hear it for little guy!
Why did people buy from Henry knowing they could save a bundle next door? Surveys consistently show that confidence, quality, selection, and service trump price with only 14% of customers citing price as their chief buying criterion. The other 86%s seek wonderful buying experiences and are happy to pay a premium for it.
Question: How can you create a wonderful buying experience and how can you market said experience on a shoestring using your time, energy, information, and imagination? There are 100 ways to market any business, 62 of which are totally free. We’ll talk more about these methods in future columns.