A Marketing Lesson from Caddy Shack

I've gotta get inside this guy's pelt and crawal around for a few days" – Greens Keeper Carl (Bill Murray). If I were allowed to share only one concept with you to improve your marketing and sales results, it would be to put yourself in the customers shoes and see the world from their persepctive. It should be the guiding principal behind every customer or prospect interaction regardless of if it’s in your advertising, during a sales call, on your website or blog, on Face Book or Twitter, on a phone call with a customer or any other customer interaction that you can think of. Whether you work for a large corporation or you run a small business.

Everyone’s favorite subject is themselves. What’s in it for me? Now before you go off and say “hey wait a minute, I know people who care far more about others than they do about themselves” I agree with you. But what’s in it for them, is what it can do for others that they care about like their kids, or a cause.

To be successful you have to do something difficult, you have to take your biases, or biases being imposed on you by others, out of the equation and learn to think and speak like different types of customers. Greens keeper Carl in Caddy Shack, played by Bill Murray said it well while talking to himself after many failed attempts at capturing the gophor, “ I have to laugh, because I've outsmarted even myself … I have to learn to think like an animal. And, whenever possible, to look like one. I've gotta get inside this guy's pelt and crawl around for a few days.” Did you impersonate Carl when you read it? I did. I can’t help myself.

Caddy Shack – 1980 Orion Pictures Corp.

While this seems so obvious, I see well meaning marketing and sales people violating it regularly. It happens because we spend our entire day thinking about our business while our customers and prospects may think about it for 5 minutes every month when a bill arrives and we begin to assume that what is the center of our universe is the center of theirs. It’s not. Have you ever had a boss tell you what they would like to buy and how all your customers must like the same thing? How hard is it to push back?  Have you ever sat in a conference room and been part of the “I think” conversation? “I think the customer would like this”, “no I think the customer would like this” and end up with a complex message that no customer would take the time to read? “We said all the right things, heck we had ten benefit statements, I can’t imagine why the response was so low.” They didn’t read it because they are not as interested as you are. Tell them what's in it for them in a simple way that they will understand.

I met with a high tech firm in San Jose which shall remain nameless and the CEO laid out how they positioned both their products and price to their prospects and how they weren’t getting any sales. Putting myself into the shoes of a prospect I explained to him how I would react and he said “that’s exactly what the prospects said”. Now I figured I was about to land some business but he continued “and they don’t get it” and explained to me why his prospects were stupid. His message was all about his firm and the financial terms locked them into long term commitments with this brand new company and put them at significant risk. It looked amazing on a spreadsheet and he sold investors on it. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough and this startup, with a pretty nice product, failed to ever get off the ground. They were so focused on themselves and their future success that they forgot where the revenues would come from.

You’re not the average marketing or sales person, you’re a marketing badger and marketing badgers dramatically out perform their peers. You put yourself in the customer’s shoes and realize that they are not as knowledgeable as you are on your products and most of them will never be. You simplify your message and you get their attention with a big what’s in it for them opening. If you’re in sales, you listen before you respond. You have the benefit of being able to ask the customer what they would like to be in it for them and if you can’t help, move on, you won’t get the sale and you’re wasting your time.

In future posts I’ll share with you tools we use to keep ourselves focused on the customer. You’ll be asking yourself some tough questions but you can handle it, you’re a marketing badger!



Definitions: Customer – someone who spends money on your products and services. Prospect – someone you think should be spending money on your products and services.

Caddy Shack quote from the Internet Movie Database at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080487/quotes

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