Article in Brief: You’re either creating or fulfilling demand. Knowing which one will determine your marketing strategy. Let’s go deeper.
This past weekend, on a family road trip, we found ourselves in Nashville, Tennessee, a former home of mine. As we walked downtown along Broadway, the stench of crowds and garbage heavy in the air, bands and bars competed to lure passerbys in.
It reminded me of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, another old stomping ground of mine. Have you ever been? As you work your way down Bourbon Street, some local version of funk, blues, rock or Zydeco spills out each window. And, sometimes, a door hustler works to pull you in.
It’s hard to say what draws people in. There’s no doubt, though, people need to be sold.
Years ago (2008 to be exact), I read a blog post by author, Seth Godin. I still remember and revisit that post to this day. It was called, “Hard sell at the farmer’s market.”
In it, he tells the story of a man who wasn’t about to let anyone walk out of the market without eggplants. Like many that day, Seth caved and bought one. The point of his post is that he was delighted he did. They were delicious.
Eggplants need to be sold.
Two Types of Demand
You work in one of two kinds of business:
Back in 2010, my organization decided to launch an awards program recognizing hospital programs that improve lives in measurable ways in their communities. Our market research revealed that there were awards programs out there, but none that was specific to the program-level and focusing on what’s called community benefit.
We knew we were in the demand creation business. Which meant we had to educate the market, build trust and influence action. Demand creation takes time, energy and money. And your primary competition is the status quo — doing nothing. But the payoff can be huge.
I took that picture above inside Magnolia Market, Chip and Joanna Gaines’ store in Waco, Texas. You may know them from the HGTV show, Fixer Upper. The line for the cashiers looped around the entire store (and it was a big store). A worker told me they get over 10,000 visitors a week. A week! And, on weekends, people wait in lines up to an hour just to enter the store.
That’s the power of demand creation. But it takes a bit a luck and a lot of hard work.
My organization’s primary business is healthcare staffing. We have companies that specialize in recruiting physicians, nurses, executives and other health professionals for temporary and permanent positions at hospitals, physician offices and other healthcare facilities.
Given the reality that these healthcare facilities need a continual supply of qualified, quality professionals, there is built-in demand. Firms that can quickly fulfill that demand get the business.
Which means our staffing companies are in the demand fulfillment business. To succeed at demand fulfillment, you need reliable systems and resources that give you efficiencies. Because the competition is fierce.
Sometimes People Need to Be Sold
The bands and bars in Nashville and New Orleans are in the demand fulfillment business. People are walking those particular streets looking for something to do. Somewhere to grab a drink.
The eggplant guy at the farmer’s market is in the demand creation business. People are wandering the hot, mid-summer market for tomatoes, lettuces and melons. And freshly squeezed lemonade. Not eggplant.
Whether you are creating or fulfilling demand, remember this: sometimes people need to be sold.
Not because they’re dumb or distracted. But because they’re busy, overwhelmed and naturally skeptical of anything new or unfamiliar. (You and I are like this too.)
I tend to substitute the word “encouraged” for “sold.” Instead of saying, people need to be sold. I say people need to be encouraged. The prefix “en-” means to put in or into. Courage means “heart.” And that’s what sales is. Sales is tapping into the heart of people in an attempt to move them to action.
Which Business Are You In?
It’s strategically important that you know which business you’re in: demand creation or fulfillment. Because this drives your marketing strategy, spending and skillsets.
If you’re selling something that no one knows exists, then you need to understand that it’s a long, hard, expensive road. Totally worth it, though, if you can survive.
If you’re selling something that has a lot of competition, then you need to understand that the only way to stand out is to…stand out. Which means making (and keeping) big, bold promises. Totally worth it, though, if you can survive.
Which leads to a great question: Are you selling something people will value and thank you for?
Seth had to be sold the eggplant. And he was thankful that guy at the farmer’s market cared enough to encourage him.
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