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Baiting the Koi

Attention is a scarce commodity.

Forget Plutonium or Iridium, Attention is where it’s at.

Unfortunately, there is less and less of it going around, and what’s left is being fought over by more and more hungry marketers.

Sally Hogshead, Persuasion Researcher, comments in her book Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers To Persuasion and Captivation, “A hundred years ago, our attention span averaged 20 minutes: one minute for each year of age, up until age twenty.”

Contrasting that with a report from BBC News, she continues: “The addictive nature of web browsing can leave you with an attention span of 9 seconds - the same as a goldfish.”

Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, makes a similar observation: “People are overwhelmed by the choices they face. Forget the information economy. Human attention has become the new currency.”

Marketing expert Marty Neumeier states in ZAG, “Today’s real competition doesn’t come from direct or even indirect competitors, it comes from the extreme clutter of the marketplace.”

Our increasingly ADD world has changed the game for you and your business. Your prospects are constantly hungry for something new to arrest their attention. Anything to provide a stimulation fix. And they want it in 9 seconds or less. Otherwise, you’ve lost them.

Over a century ago, P.T. Barnum understood the importance of snatching attention. Barnum wrote: “The great secret of success in anything, is to get a hearing. Half the object is gained when the audience is assembled.”

If it mattered in 1891, it matters infinitely more today.

The world’s oldest advertising formula - AIDA - begins with the word Attention.

If your window cleaning business can’t capture attention, you are dead in the water. Even if you are the best window cleaner in your city, with the most amazing window cleaning experience money can buy, no one will ever hire you unless you can get their attention first.

In other words, commit to Baiting the Koi. Embrace the skittish nature of consumer .

attention in today’s crowded market climate, and work harder at arresting it.

Take it from Kevin Roberts: “Job number one for any marketer is competing for attention.”

According to the American Association of Advertising Agencies, despite the 3,000 thousand marketing messages we are exposed to daily, the average consumer can absorb less than 100 of them per day.

Less than 100 will break through the noise, reach the heart, and make an impact. In case you haven’t done the math, that’s only 3%.

What can you do to sneak your marketing into that 3%?

Two things:

1. Focus on the consumer.
2. Fight off the me-too trap.

1. Focus on the consumer.

America’s favorite station is WII-FM : What’s In It For Me?

Legendary marketer Claude Hopkins taught, “remember that people are selfish. They care not about your interests or profits. They seek service for themselves.” Chris Brogan explains in Trust Agents: “Most people see themselves as the star in their [own] life’s story.”

No one cares about your business, they only care about what you can do for them to make their lives easier and better. Whenever you communicate with your market, therefore, obsess over how you are going to deliver real, concrete benefits that will help them. Be customer-centric.

Instead of saying “We have been in business since 1999”, tell them that “If you have tricky windows to clean, count on our 12 years of expertise to get your home sparkling clean no matter how challenging your windows are to handle.”

Instead of saying “We carry £1 million liability coverage”, say “Sleep easy tonight, knowing that your home and peace of mind is completely protected by £1 million of liability coverage from Royal Sun & Alliance.”

Focus on them, and how what you’ve got can help them personally. Remember that when it comes to business, no one cares about you, they only care about what you can do for them. And before you cast the first stone at these self-obsessed consumers, stop and realize that you’re the same as them.

Take this book as an example.

You didn’t buy this book because you wanted to do me a favor. You bought it because you figured it could help you. As the guy who sold you the book, I don’t resent that at all. It’s simply the way it is. Unless you have a money tree in your backyard, you don’t throw money at everything that crosses your path. You spend money only on solutions to your problems.

Are you feeling hungry right now? You’ll probably spend money on food in the next few hours. Are you feeling tired? You’ll likely exchange dollars for a tasty caffeine boost. Are you feeling stressed? You’ll consider shopping for a relaxing getaway vacation. Or, if you’re like my wife, you actually never stop shopping for a vacation.

The more specifically you can focus on how your window cleaning services are solutions to their problems, and not just features of your services, the more appealing and entrancing you will become to the Koi. World-class copywriter Joe Vitale agrees: “Get out of your own ego, and into your readers ego.”

Especially is this true with headlines. The legendary copywriter John Caples wrote: “Try to get self-interest into every headline you write. This rule is so fundamental, that it would seem obvious, but it is violated every day by scores of writers.”

Next time you use the headline “Window Cleaning” across the top of your flier, don’t say I didn’t warn you when you get only 4 jobs from a 3,000 piece flier distribution. Instead, use a headline that is about them, and how their lives are going to be better. If possible, try to use the word “you” or “your” or “yours”, too.

If the Koi has to spend more than 9 seconds trying to figure out how what you’ve got is going to be able to help them, then they’re going to slip off your hook.

Having trouble coming up with some meaningful benefits?

Let’s say that you are awesome at window cleaning workmanship, but aren’t sure how that is of specific benefit to your client base. Maybe this is what you’ve come up with so far: “Doug’s Window Cleaning offers you the highest quality window cleaning workmanship in the tri-county area”. Now what? Try adding the words “so that” to the end of the sentence, and then complete the sentence again.

For instance “Doug’s Window Cleaning offers you the highest quality window cleaning workmanship in the tri-county area, so that your home will look and feel as great as it possibly can for your backyard barbecue bash this weekend!”

When you add so that again, you get something like this:

“Doug’s Window Cleaning offers you the highest quality window cleaning workmanship in the tri-county area, so that your home will look and feel as great as it possibly can for your backyard barbecue bash this weekend, so that your brother-in-law finally gets off your back!”

Bril, isn’t it? Okay, now you try a couple of these so that exercises:

“Doug’s Window Cleaning always provides written estimates, so that

_________________________________________________________________________.”

“Doug’s Window Cleaning only sends professional, uniformed crew members to care for your home’s window cleaning needs, so that

_________________________________________________________________________ .”

Good. Now do this for your company, too. Whenever you get stuck on trying to find a benefit that appeals to the Koi, try the so that trick.

Do you ever find it easier to come up with this kind of stuff for other people’s businesses, instead of your own? If so, try using “Doug’s” window cleaning company as the guinea pig when brainstorming for your company’s value propositions, and then just switch your company name back into the copy at the end.

It’s a good way to trick your own creative juices into flowing stronger.

Self-interest is certainly not all that drives purchase decisions, but it is a great way to get the attention and cut through the noise in the world of the Koi.

2. Pomegranatize your company.

As much as you would like to believe that your window cleaning company is the undisputed best option for your local market, chances are that you are operating a me-too company. To see whether or not you are, try the following test:

Pull out your last few marketing pieces, and see what happens if you replace your company name and logo with your competitor’s name and logo. Does the message still work? Could they claim to offer the same stuff as you?

As Christophe Morin and Patrick Renvoise explain in Neuromarketing, “if you’re not selling what is unique, you’re selling for your competition, too.”

Think about that.

You get a flier in the mailbox telling you that the grocery store across town has chicken on sale. What do you do? Drive across town? No, not unless there is something special about that store across town. Instead, you probably just go to the local store around the corner, and buy some chicken there.

The same thing happens when you advertise your window cleaning services, without first making your company interesting and different in some meaningful way. The homeowner may receive the flier and think “Oh yeah, I should get our windows cleaned. Let me do a Google search for local window cleaners.”

Say it with me: “If you’re not unique, you’re advertising for your competition too.”

Believe it.

Here’s another test: Write down the 3 most important, relevant benefits that your window cleaning company offers your target market.

Benefit #1: _____________________________________________________________________

Benefit #2: __________________________________________________________________

Benefit #3: __________________________________________________________________

Now ask yourself the very big question: How many of the benefits above are unique to my company, and not available from my competition?

How did you do? 0 for 3? Don’t feel bad, you’re not alone.

You are definitely running a me-too business though, and me-too businesses are boring. And boring makes you vulnerable. According to Marketing Expert Seth Godin, “Boring is always the most risky strategy. Smart business people realize this, and they work to minimize the risk from the process.”

Have you ever thought of a bland window cleaning marketing strategy as risky before? You should, because it is. “Being a little bit better is invisible”, says Seth Godin.

If you are running a me-too window cleaning business, how do you fix it?

Answer: Find a way to make it remarkable to the Koi. Mitch Joel advises: “do one thing great.”

If your target market is trying to commodotize your services, and do an apple-to-apples comparison, then turn your company into a pomegranate. Or a peach. Or a plum.

It can be as easy as switching the ending on some words. As Claude Hopkins taught, “you need to secure a preference in some way”. You need to upset the impression that all window cleaning companies are the same.

Actually, let me clarify that: you want every other window cleaning company to look exactly the same. You want your company to be the only one that stands out.

Are you trying to be friendlier than your competition, because your target market seems to be very responsive to that particular characteristic?

From now on, obsess over becoming the friendliest!

Subtle spelling difference, but huge attention difference. “Er” words make you invisible; “est” words make you remarkable. Take all the “er” words out of your current marketing, and try to make them “est” words, instead. Anything that you can’t make into an “est”, stop talking about.

Are you faster at getting back to clients? Become the fastest.
Do you offer a better guarantee? Offer the best.
Are you more careful inside someone’s home? Become the most.
Do you carry more liability coverage? Carry the most.
Do you have a better website? Create the best.
Do you have better looking crews? Assemble the best-looking.
Do you have better looking vehicles? Get the best.
Do you use better equipment? Use the best.
Can you reach more windows? Reach any window.
Are you often recommended? Become the most.
Are you easier to do business with? Become the easiest.
Are you better at your workmanship? Become the best.

Find a way to make your window cleaning company remarkable. “Be different. Don’t just ask different,” warns Kevin Roberts. When it comes to remarkability, there are no points for second place. Second place is invisible. Just ask Elisha Gray. (Google him.)

Marketing expert Marty Neumeier agrees in ZAG, “You need more than differentiation. You need radical differentiation. When everybody zigs, zag.” Neumeier provides the following quick and easy way to find and define your differentiation.

Complete the following fill-in-the-blank sentence:

”We are the only [window cleaning] company that
________________________________________________________________.”

Okay, what did you write? Is it accurate? Is it noteworthy? Does your target market care?

If so, then congrats, you’ve made yourself some Koi bait. You’ve made something different. Researchers Levvit and Dubner assert in SuperFreakonomics, “perfect substitute” situations must be avoided, where “commodities are easily interchanged.”

Beware the allure of awareness.

Sergio Zyman, the marketing genius behind much of Coca-Cola’s rebirth, points out that two of Coca-Cola’s most well known commercials - ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing’, and ‘Mean Joe Greene’, sold not one more bottle of Coke. Sure, they entertained people and got lots of media attention, but they did not produce a measurable increase in sales volume.

That’s a nice way of saying they were marketing failures, according to a profit-driven definition of marketing. Sergio is reported to have joked that they should have reworked the song lyrics to be ‘I’d like to teach the world to drink’.

In short, awareness is overrated. To quote Sergio: “K-mart has plenty of brand awareness. So what?”

You can either pump out me-too marketing all year long, and hope for the best, or you can find a way to become remarkable instead.

One is easy and invisible, and one is challenging, effective, profitable, and fun. “In the absense of relevance, people always fall back on price,” according to Sergio Zyman.

Deliver some relevance. As Gary Vaynerchuk begs you: “Care.”

Create a window cleaning service offering that is noteworthy, interesting, and worth talking about, and your customers will look after much of the marketing for you. Go for broke and earn the right to own the “est” words.

In his insightful book Buying In, Rob Walker explains how being remarkable in your marketing and service experience affects the brain of the person being exposed to it: “Novelty that breaks a familiar pattern can suggest potential reward - inspiring anticipatory spikes of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that is often associated with sensations of pleasure...any perceived source of surprise can activate the part of the brain that is equipped with dopamine receptors.”

Of course, what you choose to focus on must depend on the market you are selling your window cleaning services to. The next two chapters are designed to help you figure that out in much more detail.

For now, though, understand that determining what your target market cares the most about, and becoming the absolute industry-leader in that specific category is powerful Koi-bait.

It never stops, either. “Yesterday’s remarkable is today’s really good, and tomorrow’s mediocre”, muses Seth Godin.

Especially when barriers to entry are so low in our industry, and anyone with a few hundred bucks, some ladders, and Photoshop can give you a run for your money almost overnight. Marty Neumeier agrees in ZAG, “If you’re not zagging, you’re lagging.”

Ray Kroc, the legendary CEO of McDonald’s, once observed that their in-house promotions were consistently copied and rolled out by their competitors within 3 weeks of publication. How do you survive in the face of that kind of cut throat competition? Whine and kick and scream and complain that it’s not fair?

Of course not.

So why are you complaining when your competition starts copying all your great ideas and strategies? Take a lesson from McDonald’s. For Kroc and his team, the only answer was to keep innovating, so they did, and in the process, built the world’s highest-grossing and most famous restaurant company.

Sometimes, innovation can create a category of one, where you are the only option. Imagine what kind of window cleaning service experience you could create if you started with the question: “What would blow the minds of every person that hired us?” Guess what? That question is allowed.

Make the answer the blueprint for your company, starting today. Cirque du Soleil did.

Innovative marketer Hugh McLeod asks in Ignore Everybody: “Is your plan unique? Is no one else doing it? Then I’d be excited.” Make your services remarkable and your marketing will take care of itself.

Ironically, the more remarkable and buzz-worthy your service offering, the more thought and careful planning you’ll need to invest in your “experience supply chain”, as Robert Brunner and Stewart Emery call it. “It takes long-term deliberate focus...to produce instant delight and gratification for your customers.”

If you think that sounds like something that will require effort, you’re right. I guess that’s why they call it work.

Take a page from Howard Schultz’s book. (Google him.)

Realize that you are not in the window cleaning business at all. You are in the experience business, and the portal to that experience is your window cleaning company’s services.

How would it affect the design of your customer service experience if you set out with the goal of being the most loved window cleaning company in the world? What would it take to make that happen?

Do your clients continue to use your services because they have to, or because they want to? If you went out of business next month, would they care?

In Do You Matter, Robert Brunner & Stewart Emery summarize, “The worst form of arrogance is thinking the customer’s experience isn’t your teacher. What your customer values might come as a surprise to you.”

Your focus needs to be customer-centric.

The next time you make a decision that affects your clients’ customer service experience, ask yourself:

Who benefits?

If it’s not the consumer, then why am I doing this?

How can I make this a win for them, too?

Obsess over these kinds of questions, and you rivet the Koi.