Get Back Inside the Box.

I was sitting in a meeting the other day with a marketing manager. At the beginning of the meeting she stated that the goal of the process we were going to undertake was to “think outside the box”. This well-worn cliché used to refer to looking at a problem from a new perspective without preconceptions – i.e., using lateral thought processes to arrive at a solution to a problem.

Upon asking her to further elaborate on what she was hoping to accomplish, she stated that she was looking for a completely original, fun, and exciting approach to her marketing program. Before I go much further, it’s important for you to know that I really try to be cooperative with my clients. Unless they insist on doing something that will doom their business. It was my professional duty to speak up.

I gently reminded her that her target audience consisted mainly of engineers and accountants. For these intrepid souls, stepping too far outside the box is a terrifying experience. This doesn’t mean you can’t approach them with a compelling or even provocative message – you just can’t get too far “out there” with these folks. My position is that it is better to be relevant than original.

Does this mean we will do the same old song and dance? Hardly. Upon doing a short study of the competition, it became clear that none of these competitors were putting forth efforts that addressed the unique pain and emotion of the target audience. The most common approach was to bludgeon prospects with features upon features – with nary a compelling sales pitch to be found.

Our approach would certainly be different from the competition but we would simply put forth messages that resonated with prospects and moved them to take action. We would first implement some basic research to truly understand what motivates these prospects to choose one vendor over another. Our message and approach would be based on this factual knowledge.

Basing marketing programs and decisions on facts and appealing to people’s emotions are as “inside the box” as one can get. This methodology has worked since the dawn of man and continues to outperform the standard feature, feature, feature dreck that passes as lead generation and promotion. With most marketing resembling the latter, I guess doing what works really is “thinking outside the box”.

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