As I mentioned in my previous post, the Seattle area was hit by a really big windstorm on December 14. Our home lost power for four days. What made the damage worse was the fact we had record rains in November, so the ground was completely soaked and trees had nothing to hold on to. Trees everywhere simply uprooted and fell over. Some trees found targets.
The good news was the annual Daddy/Daughter Getaway Weekend was already scheduled. 14-year-old Kelly and I were planning to drive to our cabin in Sunriver, Oregon for four days in the snow. So we loaded up the Jeep, fired up Sirius Channel 2 for non-stop, 100% commercial-free Christmas music, and hit the road.
The bad news was that wife Kay, who was planning a Big Girls Weekend with her big girl friends, now had to contend with the power outage and our two border terriers. Little did we know as we waved goodbye they would end up bouncing from friend’s house to friend’s house for the next four nights. Kay and her ratpack.
Bad news also hit Kelly and I as we headed to the freeway. Our house is maybe three miles from the interstate, yet it took us a full hour to get through the fallen trees, powerlines, and intersections with no traffic lights. But we mustered on.
Still more bad news, though. As we merged onto I-5, I realized I had less than a half-tank of gas. With power out everywhere, finding an open gas station proved to be more than a little difficult. It wasn’t until we reached Centralia, WA (almost 70 miles) that we were able to fill up and stop praying.
A couple days later, warm and snug in our cabin (Jeep outside, full tank), I mused about this turn of events. What lessons did I learn? Keep a Honda Deluxe Generator EM5000is 11 HP Single Cylinder Overhead Valve Air-Cooled MSRP $3484.95 in the garage? Never let our cars get below a half tank? Convert our home to solar power and make Al Gore happy?
No! I learned a marketing lesson!
Find a need and fill it has been a battle cry of marketers for years. I, for one, didn’t agree with it anyway and the windstorm reinforced my thinking. Find a need and fill it is bogus. Not true.
Look at it this way. I’m a strategic marketer. I help organizations get successful and stay successful. I also happen to spend a lot of my time working in the exhibitions niche, helping organizers build better events and exhibitors make money off those events. My client list of organizers includes the biggest and most elite in the industry. My corporate client list has made hundreds of millions of dollars from exhibiting at trade shows around the world.
In that niche, for example, EVERY organizer needs my service. EVERY corporation on the planet that exhibits in trade shows and fairs needs my service.
The problem is they don’t all AGREE they need my service. If I were to follow the “find a need and fill it” philosophy, I would focus my marketing efforts on the thousands of organizers and corporations involved in the exhibition industry. I would spend a lot of time and resources communicating the different products and services I have available, knocking on lots of doors, cold-calling a lot of people.
I, for one, don’t want to work that hard. I’m really a lazy guy. I’m looking for the shortcut. (I also HATE cold-calling.)
I’m looking for those people and organizations who already AGREE they need a service like mine. I’m looking for events organizers who want their events to be successful ten years from now and already AGREE they need help. I’m looking for corporations who are tired of not getting the biggest bang for their exhibiting dollar and already AGREE they need help. I want them to raise their hands for me.
The windstorm made a lot of people raise their hands. We AGREED we needed electricity. Kelly and I went to the cabin to get it. Kay mooched off her friends to get it. We AGREED we needed gas. And Kelly and I would have paid a premium for it when we pulled into Centralia. We and everybody else in the Pacific Northwest raised our hands high and that made us all high-quality prospects.
Instead of spending my time and resources on filling the funnel, I
spend them on getting people who agree they have a need to simply raise
their hands. As a result, this cuts the number of personal contacts I
need to make WAY down. Instead of making 50 calls a day, I make two or
three. But these two or three already admitted they have a need for my
type of services.
I still fill my calendar. I still have the world’s best clients. And I have time to go buy that Honda Deluxe Generator before the next windstorm hits.
…but how do you identify the hand raisers?
Great question, Bill. I’m planning on getting into more about this in future postings, but I’ll give you one example of this.
I wanted to get CEO’s of major trade associations to raise their hands regarding strategic help with their exhibitions. I wrote an article titled, “Will Your Trade Show Be Alive In Seven Years?” In that article I identified several areas typically overlooked by these execs, and then how each of those cracks in the armor had killed past events.
The execs who identified a crack with their own event agreed they had a need. They raised their hands and many are now long-time clients.
With respect, I think you are missing something: People are often not aware of their own needs. Most could not see why they would need to carry a mobile phone, or use email or the Web before they became mainstream. But need it they did. It just took some education to unleash the potential and some very lucrative markets.
If we are addressing new needs, we have to be prepared to do some educating.
Or, if we can, skip customers who don’t know they need us. You are doing the smart thing by going after customers who are already aware of their need. This saves you from having to educate them.
“Find a need and fill it” certainly stands.