Sunday, July 31, 2005

What Rush Hour is Teaching Me About Marketing

  • I can only control my car. Sometimes I may influence the actions of other drivers but I have no control over when or what they do. The same rule applies in competing with other law firms. I can only control the strategy and tactics of my firm, what my firm does may influence other firms, but that influence is not control. If I allow myself to be influenced by the marketing tactics of other firms (“if they do it, we should do it too”) it’s like being hooked on a tow truck. We will both (my car and the tow truck) get to our destination, but the tow truck will always get there first.
  • I can drive no faster (on average) than the cars around me. There are many things that influence the effects of any marketing strategy or tactic. If the speed of my program is constrained by things happening outside the four walls of what I control (a changing economy, changes in the competitive landscape, reduced capacity for new work, etc) then patience and perseverance are my only course.
  • I can monitor the flow of traffic around me and change lanes to catch a faster flow, but if I change lanes too often other drivers will seek to keep me in my place (negative influence). It’s one thing to be a mover and a shaker as long as what I do is not erratically different or infuriating to others. Good marketing tactics need to demonstrate a difference between my firm and others, but if my programs are scary, the market will push back.
  • If I know the freeway well enough I can sometimes predict which lane has the fastest flow and set myself up to be in the right lane at the right time. As a marketer I value knowing and understanding the markets I’m targeting. No plan is perfect, but understanding when and how opportunities may present themselves can accelerate my progress.
  • Surveys have shown that greater than 80% of all drivers believe they are above average drivers, and on any typical stretch of road, certainly better than almost all of the other drivers around them. That sort of mindset predictability means that if a driver near me drives in traffic a certain way, I can be pretty certain he/she will continue to drive that way. The same is true of other marketers and their strategies. If I watch them long enough I may be able to predict (on average) what his/her next move will be.
  • Getting cut-off, being stuck behind a slow driver, missing an exit, getting caught behind a dirt-hauler spitting sand and pebbles on everyone behind them…. It happens. I can either work my way out of the situation and move on, or, I can get mad, work my way out of the situation, and move on angry. Since the only person I can control is me, I usually choose the former. All too often marketing can be a similar trial. My competition may do just the right thing to foil my plans. So I work it out and move on.

I’ve spent so much time in traffic in Southern California that I could run on and on with all of the marketing lessons I’ve learned. These are just a start. At least I have something engaging to think about as I do the slow crawl in rush hour.

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