Two months ago my wife and I were trying to decide the best way to teach our six-year old son how to swim. We signed him up for swimming lessons sponsored by the local recreation center until a friend of ours started talking about a swim instructor who offered one on one instruction. Here was the instructor’s marketing message. “I guarantee your child will be swimming in six individual sessions or I will continue to teach your child, free of charge, until he/she is able to swim. It doesn’t matter who the child is or what their natural abilities are. I will get them swimming in six sessions.”
This was an extremely compelling message we could not ignore. Naturally, we looked into this woman to see if there was substance behind her promise. People all across our neighborhood raved about her service. Every parent we spoke with said they were amazed how quickly their child progressed. All of them said their children were swimming, not floating or doing the doggy paddle, in less than six sessions.
Needless to say, we signed our son up for the six-session package as soon as possible. We didn’t debate the cost for very long. Why? Because the message was so compelling that we felt it was worth a shot.
I’m not advocating that you or I make this kind of promise, as it might be difficult to replicate in a clinical setting. But we should at least pay close attention to what this woman has come up with – a powerful and original marketing message that beats out the competition by a mile.
This experience had me thinking about better ways I might help differentiate my employer. As a result, I’ve started asking, “What could my organization improve upon or create that would surprise and amaze people?”
As you work to define/refine your services and understand your market segments I suggest you ask yourself this, “What could I offer that no one else in my field would ever even consider?”
People will say, “It’s not possible” or “It’s not good practice”. And they may be right. However, I’m arguing that you should at least ask the question! True innovation is rarely found in comfortable and familiar places. If you verbalize an idea that’s met with considerable resistance you may very well have entered into a realm where limitations intersect with possibilities. This is where new ideas and possibilities often reside.
Rosamund and Benjamin Zander, in their book The Art Of Possibility, offer this bit of wisdom.
“We see a map of the world, not the world itself…The world appears to us sorted and packaged in this way, substantially enriched by categories of culture we live in, by learning, and by the meanings we form out of the unique journey each of us travels…Every problem, every dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view.”
You and I can offer our own “astonishing guarantee” or “compelling service”. It doesn’t have to be a promise in the spirit of the swim instructor, but it COULD be.
As you build your own marketing plan remember to look for areas where you can be original, where you can be authentic and boldly self-expressed. Create a message with substantial value and with some significant “sizzle” that will get people to notice all the wonderful things you are doing.
Who knows? You might figure out how to teach someone to swim in six sessions or less.
David P. Diana is a counselor, author, and a director for a behavioral healthcare organization. He writes a weekly blog on sales and marketing for counselors (www.davidpdiana.com)