THE MINUTE MARKETER
by David Trottier
We called him the Minute Marketer. Brilliant. Successful. Shrewd. And best of all, about to retire. In a month, he would pass the torch to me. Why me? Because his rare gifts were only exceeded by my own. Without question, I would be the next Vice President of Marketing. I would be the next Minute Marketer--able to explain core marketing principles in seconds and apply them to ponderous marketing problems in mere minutes. I had a fire in my belly, a vision in my mind, and an Armani suit on my buff bod.
My only competition was Herbert. Yes, he was ten years my senior, but he bore the battle scars of failed ventures. Besides, he wore Lee's jeans. How could he market a complete product line if he couldn't market himself? Didn't he understand packaging?
"Mr. Alabaster will see you now," sang the Minute Marketer's secretary. I strided into his oak palace and accepted his invitation to sit on one of three leather chairs.
He knitted his white bushy eyebrows and brought the tips of his fingers together. "Young Sherwood, I want you to train our new employee, Jenny Cummings. She'll be here momentarily. I want you to teach her what you know and show her the ropes."
My face betrayed no emotion, but my inner smile was as comprehensive as our integrated marketing communication plan. Obviously, I was selected above Herbert for this task. If I could turn Jenny into half the marketing genius I was, she would inherit my hallowed cubicle while Herbert carried my robe train at my marketing VP coronation.
Then Alabaster ended the brief interview as he always did, with a quiz. "Generally speaking, what will you tell her?"
The words flowed effortlessly from my lips: "Only what she wants or needs to hear, not what I want to say."
"But Sherwood, how will you know what she wants or needs to hear?"
"First, I will identify my purpose, which is to teach her what I have learned from you so that she will succeed as a marketer. In other words, get her to buy our product--proven marketing tools that can be quickly grasped and used." I glanced at Alabaster who had eased back into the comfort of his chair. He was pleased, so I continued.
"Second, I will evaluate my audience--my target market. In other words, do my marketing research. In this case, I will assess her intelligence, her background and life style--the usual psychographical research--and pinpoint how she will likely perceive my message. Finally, I will formulate a strategy, coming from her point of view, but achieving our purpose."
"Excellent, Sherwood," beamed the mighty Alabaster, his eyes gleaming.
Little did he know that I, having mentally conducted a situation analysis at blazing speed, had applied those same principles to him. My purpose was to communicate my message: I am the man for the job. My audience was the Minute Marketer himself, whose need at the moment was to confirm the existence of my vast stores of knowledge, and who also wanted his ego stroked. Naturally, my strategy was to regurgitate principles he had fed me and to deferentially deliver them in a gilded vomit bag. And, as expected, he had grabbed the bag and bought my message. Clearly, I was the man for the job, and soon Herbert would be polishing my shoes with his polyester tie.
At that moment, a stunning brunette with large blue eyes drifted into the room on the air of elegant grace. I nearly gasped. She was Aphrodite reincarnated, a goddess I would gladly worship if I wasn't such an Adonis myself. If she had more than a bucket full of rocks for brains, she might even be my equal. And even if she were brain dead, she still fit the decor of my Eastside suburban spread. Alabaster stood and introduced me to Ms. Jenny Cummings.
Even with hormones raging through my body, I thought clearly, greeted her professionally, and (yogi like) stabilized by blood pressure at 110 over 65. Instantly, the beginnings of a strategic marketing plan formulated in the precision instrument that was my mind. Not only would I demonstrate to Alabaster my mentoring skills in bringing Jenny out of marketing obscurity, but at the same time I would sell her on me. In a month, she would be mine.
And why not? After all, I was destined to be the next Minute Marketer. I would apply all the skill of my cunning arts. In one mere month, I would inhabit the oak palace and Jenny would be my queen.
I convened my first session with Jenny in a small conference room with a window that looked over the city. Jenny was right on time, wearing a tweed suit and white silk blouse. After wishing her a pleasant good morning, I began with a question. "Jenny, what would you say is the first step in marketing?"
"Mr. Sherwood, that's quite a--"
"--Just Sherwood, everyone calls me Sherwood. And just take a stab at the question. It will make for a useful discussion."
Jenny put a finger to her head, wrinkled her brow, and looked up to the left. This gave me a perfect view of her perfect royal blue eyes. A man with less control than I would have audibly sighed and fallen off his chair. Finally Jenny spoke: "Identify a market for your product or service."
"No, no, no." I slammed my hand on the table, startling her. I followed this feigned display of displeasure with a gentle smile that exuded both warmth and wisdom. I enjoyed watching her flawless face undergo a slow transformation from worry to relief. With three words and the right body language, I had established myself as the authority and her as the fledgling in need of my tutorage.
"That's the mistake almost everyone makes," I playfully scolded her. "The first step...." I stopped and whispered as if revealing some great secret. "The first step is to identify a need, and then create a product or service to meet that need." I patted her hand reassuringly. "Don't feel bad. Everyone makes the same error."
"But I'll bet you didn't," she responded. "I'll bet you figured that one out right from the start."
Now it was my turn to be surprised. This woman, though clearly my inferior, was smart enough to recognize my perspicacity. "Take the University of Phoenix, for example," I said, "Doctor Sperling did not create a university and then look for students. First, he found a segment of students--working adults--with a particular need. Working adults could not easily return to school for their degrees because traditional universities held daytime classes and catered to students out of high school. So Doctor Sperling created a university specifically for working adults. That's one reason the University of Phoenix has grown so quickly. They are a marketing company."
"I get it. They identified the need first, then created the product. Hot diggity dog!" she shouted, jumping from her chair, then catching herself: "Excuse me, Sherwood, but I am so excited about this stuff. I love marketing. It's so dynamic. It's where the rubber hits the road." She slapped her hands together.
"Precisely, I said; then added sternly with a dash of mirth, "Now lay your pom poms aside and take a seat." I frowned at her, but took comfort in her spontaneous enthusiasm. That could be channeled for good, thought I.
She plunked herself down, and instantly her eyes widened with delight. "Okay, here's what I see. The problem now is that the traditional university is trying to adapt their product for the working adult, but it really wasn't created for the working adult in the first place. Right, Sherwood?"
"You've got it, Jenny."
"Okay, but what about the small business person who comes up with an idea or invention? I suppose his or her challenge is to identify a likely market for the idea and to assess how that idea--that product or service--can best meet that market's needs. Perhaps even retooling the product or reshaping the service."
"Yes, yes," I said. I stood up, strategically glided to the window, then quickly turned to face Jenny. "We always want to see things from the point of view of the market. That's what we do here." I approached the conference table and leaned on it with my hands. "We ask, what do they need? And how does my product or service meet their need better than anyone else's?" I slowly raised my golden mane to perfect posture, all the while holding her gaze with my piercing, slate gray eyes.
"Now you're talking about differentiation."
"...And segmentation. First, identify the segment of the market place that has unfulfilled needs or poorly filled needs. Next, differentiate your product or service from all others attempting to penetrate that market segment." We were in an ecstatic flow.
"That's wonderful!" Jenny nearly shouted. "This is really great, Sherwood." Her countenance was one of innocence and her bearing one of exuberant charm. The perfect ornament to hang from my arm at executive gatherings.
And in less than a microsecond, the first pieces of my private marketing plan fell into place. Jenny was my target market. She had a primal thirst for marketing information. I was the fountain satisfying that thirst. My product was me--actually, a future with me. Differentiation? Well, who else could provide her with a body like mine, an intellect like mine, and a bank account that was just beginning to bulge? Soon she would swoon under the influence of my polished savoir-faire and raw sexual power.
"True or false?" I asked. "If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your doorstep."
"False," she replied with elan. "How will the world know it's better if they don't hear about it? And what segment of that world actually has a need for the mousetrap?" She laughed out loud, fully animated.
"And that's where we'll start tomorrow," I concluded with a flourish.
"Wow, that was fast."
"That's minute marketing," I explained with a hint of a swagger.
"But I just gotta tell you what I'm thinking. Ready?"
I granted her request with a nod and a glance at my watch.
And then she whispered, "Here's the key. You've got to make the mousetrap sexy."
"No, no, no. Not make. Communicate that the mousetrap is--well, I'm not sure sexy is the proper term." "Oh, Sherwood, I can hardly wait to hear your ideas. You know, I think I'm going to like being your protégé." She winked and was out the door before I could say Madison Avenue backwards.
During the month that followed, I labored diligently with Jenny. As a result, her admiration for me grew like a young bamboo during the rainy season. And I, like the rain, pouring my knowledge and natural gifts upon her, carefully nurturing her growth in session after session after session. The only glitch was that each meeting ended the same. She would utter that simple minded, pedestrian bromide, "It's gotta be sexy," and I would banish her to Herbert's office to practice her lessons on him. I considered that generous of me, allowing my pupil to teach my competitor the very marketing principles that had made me heir apparent to the king of marketing himself.
"Mr. Alabaster will see you now," sang the Minute Marketer's secretary. At last, the moment of my coronation had come. I led Jenny into the oak palace while Herbert walked the appropriate five paces behind. We sat on the three leather chairs. My mind blazed ahead. Within a marketing minute, I would be declared the next minute marketer and would ascend to my throne to accept the bows of those less endowed than I. And Jenny would serve as my queen. The exquisiteness of it all nearly caused me to laugh out loud, but I instantly subordinated my glee to a willful and serene Alpha state. I then glanced confidently at Alabaster as if to say, "You may proceed."
Alabaster knitted his white bushy eyebrows and brought the tips of his fingers together. Then, without a word of introduction, he announced: "The next Vice President of Marketing is Ms. Jenny Cummings."
Jenny leaped from her chair with an involuntary "Hot Diggity Dog!" Herbert stood and embraced her most unprofessionally.
I remained seated. Although momentarily stunned, I remained in my yogic state, willing my pulse rate to a fraction over 60. "But Mr. Alabaster," I said calmly, "if Ms. Cummings' strategic marketing plan was excellent, was it not due to my expert advice, my patient mentoring, my careful nurturance of her mediocre ability?"
"A fine job of instruction," Alabaster acknowledged. "There can be no doubt of your knowledge, and certainly Ms. Cummings is a quick learner and quite capable, your careful nurturance notwithstanding. But you failed to implement your plan."
"Sherwood, there is not so much sludge in my head as you think. You created a strategic marketing plan to bring Ms. Cummings into your court, to make her yours. Everyone in this room knows that. You had the best product around, and yet she didn't buy it. And that's the bottom line." Alabaster allowed himself a wicked smile. I glanced at Jenny and Herbert, whose eyes were studying the carpet. And then Alabaster unsheathed his final dagger and plunged it deep into my washboard stomach. "Instead, she went for Herbert." And then he winked at the doofus and said, "No offense intended, Herbert."
"None taken, Sir," Herbert responded without a hint of defensiveness, his worn corduroys glistening in the lamp light.
And then I watched Jenny pat Herbert's hand and give him a smile that, if aimed at me, would have turned me into a gyroscope. For the first time in my life, I was embarrassed, defeated, even humiliated. I had often wondered how the minions felt in such situations. Now I was one of them. Soon I would languish in a 12 step recovery program with the Great Unwashed of the Earth. I sat in silent turmoil.
Oh, but I was not done yet. My massive intellect did not fail me. Like a flash of brilliant light amid black rain clouds, the logical question thundered. But dare I ask it? Dare I challenge the Minute Marketer himself? Dare I expose his failing faculties of reason? Why not, I had nothing to lose. I ventured forth.
"Mr. Alabaster, if Herbert was able to sell her, why didn't you select him as the next VP? Why her instead of him?"
Alabaster did not hesitate. "Because of her strategic marketing plan. Have you read it?"
I had to admit that I hadn't.
Alabaster leaned forward with a gleam in his eye, and demonstrated once and for all why he was the Minute Marketer. "You should have. It's sexy."