Thursday, February 12, 2009

More marketing lessons from Washington D.C.

Politics is not pretty. But it can provide valuable insights into marketing. Everybody is selling something, whether it be a bill, an agenda or an election campaign. The most heated marketing campaign recently has been for the stimulus bill and the newest version of the Treasury's bail out plan.

The stimulus bill will pass on mostly party lines, but less than half the American public is convinced it will do any good. Wall Street greeted the bailout plan with a 400 point sell off.

Regardless of what you think of the merits of the measures, there's no doubt that the marketing of them has fallen flat. They have not inspired confidence or positive buzz. I think a key mistake that was made in promoting both was "couching". That is, forewarning the buyer that the product may not actually work as advertised.

Both the Vice President and the President made a point of saying that there's a good chance that many of the things they're going to do aren't going to work out the way they would have liked. Treasury Secretary Geitner repeated the sentiment when asked why he couldn't provide more details on the bailout proposals. He said they're going to wait and see how things work out, then decide how to proceed.

How can you expect someone to have confidence in what you're selling when you don't express confidence in it yourself? I understand the misguided motivation. They're trying very hard not to be wrong. If things don't work out they can say "Well, I told you it might not." The fact they're missing is that whether they warned us or not, they will be held accountable for the result.

What's an entrepreneur to take away from this? If you don't believe in what you're selling, don't sell it. If you do, stick your neck out and make me believe that you believe. If you have two job applicants with similar resumes and you ask each "Are you the right person for this job?" and one says "Absolutely" and the other says "I think so, but there's a good chance I'm not." Which one are you going to hire?

If you can't confidently recommend your product or service to your best friend or family members at your regular asking price, you need to reevaluate your product and service mix, your pricing, or both. Confidence is contagious and so is uncertainty. Nobody wants to buy uncertainty.

No comments: