Magic Beans Marketing

Sometime back Motoko Rich, economics reporter for Times, wrote this about the lessons he started seeing in children’s stories.

These days, perhaps because I’m covering the national economy — or because current economic troubles are too much to ignore — I often stumble across passages in children’s books that inadvertently teach economic principles.

When Rich reads story of a little girl buying back an item wrongly sold by her sister for lot more than what the seller paid for it, he sees pricing lesson

Pricing is often a function of who wants something more, and what that person is willing to pay for it.

Note that Rich is well grounded and knows why he is seeing these lessons in unexpected places.

It’s just that once economics is on the brain, it suddenly seems to pop up a lot in children’s literature.

And it is likely the news items that were current in his mind were the lessons he saw. Had he been a marketing guru whose school of thought is – all marketers are liars tell stories – that is the type of lessons he is going to see. Unfortunately those could be just plain wrong interpretations.

It appears Mr. Seth Godin, marketing guru (and author of All Marketers Tell Stories), seems to have read Jack and the Bean Stalk and no surprise he sees lessons on telling stories and word of mouth marketing. Before you join the 999 others who shared the story on LinkedIn, ask some questions on the three steps to successful marketing

  1. The individual has to be open to hearing the offer at all –  What is your role as a marketer here? You could start with the right segment to target and reach them through channels in which they seek information. Or take a calculated and deliberate scattershot approach so some individuals will self-select themselves to hear your offer. Either way it is about your action.
    An example of second approach is the Nigerian money laundering mails. I see lot of similarity between the magic bean scam and email scam,

    Since gullibility is unobservable, the best strategy is to get those who possess this quality to self-identify. An email with tales of fabulous amounts of money and West African corruption will strike all but the most gullible as bizarre… Those who remain are the scammers ideal targets. They represent a tiny subset of the overall population.

    So it is not about the individual being open to hear your story, it is about you finding those prospects using segmentation and analytics.

  2. The person hearing your story has to want to believe it – I do not get the subtlety Mr.Godin says this point has. It is not about the person wanting to believe the story as much as how you are positioning the product in his mind. If segmentation is about identifying customer jobs you want to serve, positioning is about telling those customers, “what job is your product applying for and why it does it better than alterntives”
    And his Uber ensuing example seems to put down Uber and confuses me.

    Uber, for example, offers a newfangled way to call for transport in big cities. Many people haven’t heard of it or used it, largely because they don’t think they need it, aren’t open to something new, or are unwilling to go through all the steps necessary to get the app, etc. So, even if it works as promised, there’s no urgent need felt by some, so they don’t care.

    It does not matter to Uber or other such marketers that not all people use their product. Marketing is about segmentation. Uber as a product targets those who are willing to pay higher price for better value. You do not want everyone who wants your product to be customers, only those who willingly pay prices that maximize your profit.

  3. It has to be true – This is mom and apple pie advice. I cannot argue with this. More like a ‘deepity‘. On one hand the statement is trivially true. But the truth is indeed relative, it is in the minds of the customers. If you are selling on economic value add to customers then you are not making a marketing promise but showing proof of value you create and get your fair share of the value created.  On the other hand, think of all the luxury products out there – do the stories have to be true? Or what is true other than the utilitarian aspects?

Marketing failure occurs because you failed to – start with customers needs you want to address, choose those that you can profitably address  and tell them how your product fills those needs better than alternatives.

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