This is Part 4 in my series, The Old Rules of Business That Still Matter. Previous Rules can be read by clicking these links:

Old Rule #1: It's All About People

Old Rule #2: It's X Over Y

Old Rule #3: Everything Walks the Talk


I'm not sure what possessed my Dad, but he decided to put a bird feeder in our back yard. He enjoyed watching the birds out back, but I never thought he was a true bird-lover. Then again, my father was known for doing things that didn't always make the most sense. He was an eccentric inventor, of course.

So Dad picked up one those DIY kits at the local hardware store. Thankfully, he didn't make me help him this time; it was a pretty simple project — a small feeder attached to an eight-foot pole. He dug the hole near the window, so he could watch the birds while having his morning coffee, or evening libation. He stuck the pole in, filled the feeder with seed and headed indoors to watch the bird show.

What Dad didn't think about, though, were the squirrels. No sooner had he walked inside when a couple of the little varmints scooted up the pole and began filling their cheeks with birdseed. As soon as Dad saw this, he blasted through the screen door waving his arms and yelling at the squirrels. They ran away. Dad went inside. They came back. Dad attacked them with a broom. They ran away. He went inside. They came back. Dad threw things at them — some rocks, his baseball cap, his shoe, our cat, 8-track tapes — whatever was nearby. 

But the squirrels came back every time, so Dad attempted more serious efforts. He built a barrier below the feeder. They just climbed around it. He greased the pole. They jumped from the roof. I would say Dad resembled Bill Murray's Carl Spackler character trying to rid Bushwood Country Club of gophers, but this was years before Caddyshack came out.

Dad finally went back to the hardware store and angrily confronted the guy who sold him the bird feeder kit. (Dad was very even tempered. He was ALWAYS angry.) 

"I didn't buy this to feed the squirrels! I bought this to feed the birds! I want a squirrel-proof bird feeder!"

The salesman looked at Dad and calmly responded, "Well, I can sell you one that's advertised as a squirrel-proof bird feeder, but the squirrels will eventually get in. There's really no such thing as a squirrel-proof bird feeder. You see, you want to put up a feeder and then forget about it. You want to go to work, go to sleep, and go about your life without thinking about that feeder. But once you put it up, those squirrels will focus 100% of their attention 100% of the time on getting that food out of that feeder. And they won't rest until they succeed. They want that food."

My Dad's squirrels might be a wild example, but wouldn't you love to have a target market that wanted your products or services as badly as those squirrels wanted that food? Wouldn't you love to have people focsuing 100% of their attention 100% of the time on getting your stuff? Sure you would. We would ALL love that situation!

The answer lies in the Old Rule of Business That Still Matters #4:

Where Value is Clear, the Decision is Easy

The problem, of course, is Value means something different to all of us. Value is in the eye of the beholder (our target market) and we have to somehow get in that eye! I talk about this all the time and that's why I call my blog Two Hat Marketing. We must put on the hat of our prospects and customers and get in their minds and see the world through their eyes.

This is really, really hard to do! It's hard because we see the world through our own eyes, based on our own perceptions, experiences, situations, wants, and needs. Our eyes are not our prospects' eyes. Our prospects see things differently. How often have all of us (including me) said, "What our prospects need to understand is…?" They don't NEED to understand anything. We do.

Where value is clear, the decision is easy. I've hammered this into my clients' heads for many years. And for those many years we've all searched for the answer — what is Value? There is no simple answer. But we must constantly look for it. We must be vigilant in our efforts to wear the customer's hat…to understand THEIR world…to learn their wants and needs…and to deliver products, services, solutions, and experiences that have clear, meaningful, relevant, and needed value to them.

Dad's squirrels saw extreme value in his bird feeder. They were going to move heaven and earth to get that value. When Dad tore down the feeder, the squirrels simply looked for another supplier. The way I see it now, the squirrels were actually my Dad's target market, not the birds.