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9/21/2003

Marketing lessons can be learned in school

By Stacy Cornay
Special to the Times-Call

Did you hear that whoosh blow through town a while back?

That wasn’t the wind.

It was a collective sigh of relief heaved by parents as the apples of their eyes reluctantly headed back to school.

Decades ago, when I was one of the reluctant students, my mom sent me on my way with ribbons in my hair.

My dad, on the other hand, reminded me for the umpteenth time that my generation had it easy.

In his day all the kids walked to school through hip-deep Wyoming snow.

It was 10 miles and uphill both ways.

When they got to school, teachers were waiting with hickory sticks to drum lessons home.

I accepted the ribbons (for a time), but I always discounted most of the back-in-my-day monologue — all except part about the hickory stick.

That’s gospel. There’s even a song about it (… reading and ’riting and ’rithmetic, taught to the tune of a hickory stick…). Remember?

You can revitalize your marketing efforts by taking cues from the teachers.

One of the most important things all teachers know is this — we tend to forget.

That’s why teachers spend the first few days of each new school year reviewing things that their students presumably already know.

They have to fill in the gaps caused by summer forgetfulness.

Your customers and clients also forget.

They forget what you’re about, what you have to offer, and what you can do for them.

It’s up to you to fill in the gaps by reinforcing the marketing messages and ideas that you’ve been communicating to them over a period of time.

Teachers also know that students have limited attention spans. Simply getting their attention is not enough.

The trick is to hold each student’s attention until the point of the lesson is driven home.

Again, the same is true for your customers and clients.

You not only have to craft marketing messages that get their attention, your messages have to hold their attention until you make your sales point.

Then you have to do it again and again, each time building on and reinforcing what has gone before.

Teachers might command respect, but the really good ones earn it. There’s another lesson you can take from the classroom.

You and your business must earn the respect of your customers and prospects.

When you have earned it, you have to work hard to keep it.

That means you — like all teachers — must have answers to “Why?”

“Why?” is the first question students have when they’re confronted with new learning (like algebra). It’s the same question your customers or clients have when you hit them with a sales pitch. “Why?” If you don’t have the right answer, your marketing falls flat.

This is a great time to go back to school on your marketing plans.

Review what you’re doing.

Refresh your approaches so you can hold the attention of your clients and prospects.

Don’t assume that because you’ve advertised in the past that everyone knows, or remembers what you have to offer.

Take another look at your messages. Know why people should do business with you.

Make sure you’re saying what you want to say.

If you need a fresh look, consult with a communications/marketing professional.

We know how to reinforce your messages and how to get your marketing points across.

According to Malcolm Forbes, education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.

That’s what you can accomplish by educating your public about your services and products. If you can’t do that, get out the hickory stick.

At least you’ll get their attention.

Stacy Cornay is owner of Communications Concepts, a public relations/advertising firm in Longmont. Her Web site is http://www.ccpr.cc/.