Marketing Lessons from Watermelon Seeds

This morning I was browsing the Thompson and Morgan English seeds catalog. I'm not much of a seed guy generally. In my experience, seeds require a lot of work and care, involve getting my hands dirty on a regular basis, and may or may not mature into anything I want around my house.

Far too much like childrearing for my taste.

Yet every year I get seduced by the seed catalogs. 

Burpee, Thompson & Morgan, Seeds of Change; once I start looking at the photos and reading the descriptions of tall, hardy, easy-to-grow-anywhere, beautiful and delicious plants that can be mine for the price of a pint of Windhoek Lager, I forget about all the effort and discomfort.

swiss rhubard chardI can visualize the rhubarb chard waving cheerfully from the raised bed in the back, tantalizing me with its "rich ruby-red leaf stalks and dark greeny purple foliage.

I can almost taste the California White Garlic, so "delicious and full-flavored," so "easy to grow and quite productive.

And I already marvel at the beauty of the Somniferum Lilac Poppy, with its "huge, 3-4in fully double flower heads stand proudly above glaucous foliage followed by large, attractive seed heads." I see exactly where they will grow, because Thompson & Morgan tell me: "Best sown in large drifts as an easy-to-grow border filler that ads height and interest to the garden.

Oh good Mssrs Thompson & Morgan, have you no shame?

Do you not know how your voluptuous prose and lush photography overwhelms my will-power?

Do you not realize that your appeal to my senses leaves me senseless?

Of course you do.

And if you can sell seeds to me, consummate man of leisure and technology, then we all need to pay attention to your marketing methods.

Marketing Secrets of the Seed Pushers

1. Focus on results, not process

Nowhere in the seed catalogs can I find a picture or description of a 45-year-old man kneeling on the damp earth, pulling up morning glory vines and calepina grass, both of which seem much more admirably suited for North Carolina soil than the delicate and shy plants I have pigheadedly stuck in the ground.

Neither are there photos of phlox felled by frost, chrysanthemum crunched by caterpillars, or heliotrope hacked by hail.

Instead, all I see are beautiful photos and evocative descriptions of the Happy Ending, the hardy and beautiful/delicious plant that I grew from that teeny weeny seed, and which now delights me and my friends, family and neighbors (especially the neighbors, whose gardens cannot possibly compare with mine!).

Take a look at your website – how much is about the desired results, and how much is about you and the details of your delivery mechanism?

Are you painting a picture that your prospect is drawn to naturally, on their own steam of desire, or are you trying to push and nudge and cajole and wheedle them into a sale despite their lukewarm desire?

2. Appeal to the senses

The photos of the plants are of course beautiful. But the seed catalog writers are synesthetes (I had to look it up too the first time, it means that if one sensory pathway is stimulated, then others are stimulated at the same time – like imagining numbers as having colors and musical instrument tones as possessing odors). How else can you explain the prose that compares colors to tastes, and smells to sounds, and tastes to physical sensations?

Phlox Creme Brulee is described as a "mouthwatering medley of colours" (when will those British learn how to spell "colors," I wonder ;). 

Mesembryanthemum, we read, "creates a glowing display of gorgeous apricot, frilled blooms." A calendula hybrid is named "Sherbet Fizz." The Blueray Blueberry bush becomes a "blaze of crimson" in the fall, according to Burpee. The Ruby Watermelon "bowled us over with its super sweet and juicy, perfectly crisp and firm ruby Red flesh," Burpee gushes.

OK, so maybe your products don't taste or smell or look spectacular. But that's no reason to skimp on the poetry. Can you appeal to multiple senses in your writing? Our five senses are windows to our souls. We take in the world through sight and smell and sound and taste and touch. Give us something our senses can grab hold of, more than words on a page.

3. Show proof

The seed companies have it easy here. Each photo of a bushel of luscious red berries or multi-colored (see, British people?) dazzle of petals states outright, "This can be done. This is not theory or conjecture or wishful thinking. These suckers grow, and they look just like we say they do."

You may have to work harder to show proof that your products and services give the results you promise. Case studies, demonstrations, testimonials, endorsements, media citations – they all give your prospect some confidence that they're not the guinea pig here. This thing is tested and it works. There's no reason it won't work for you too.

Someday I'll wise up and just plant the seed catalogs. Until then, here's to another summer of hope, sweat, and beans.

The Sad Story (and Happy Ending) of Traffic Surge

Traffic Surge 2.0 launches next week for real. This is the pre-launch. (You can tell because I'm not trying very hard to sell it to you. That's for next week.)

I've taught Traffic Surge live three times, to quite good reviews. I figured that I could rest on my laurels and just take the webinars, transcripts, videos, handouts, and all that jazz, and just sell it as a home-study course. You could go through the course while I live the Internet lifestyle on a beach in South Africa.

But then reality intervened. Turns out that 90% of Old Traffic Surge is no longer accurate, due to Google's annoying habit of changing everything it can, whether anyone wants them to or not.

If I had just tried to sell Old Traffic Surge as homestudy, you would have been annoyed, frustrated, and half-nelsoned as you tried to apply the principles. 

Which would have been fine with me, of course, except for that nasty business with all the refunds. 

So I had to scramble to save Traffic Surge.

I've designed a hybrid course – part home study, part live course. With the best bits of each format, and none of the disadvantages.

Part Home Study

It's home study, in that you read and watch and do at your own pace. Unlike home study courses that are just sloppy transcriptions of webinars (which I was fully planning to do, you understand, until I realized that the webinars had become outdated rubbish), Traffic Surge 2.0 includes well-written, well-documented, and graphically pleasing modules with lots of screen shots so you know what I'm talking about.

The How-To videos are no longer 95-minute long webinar recordings, with half the time spent on nonsense like "Where's the link for today's class?" and "What's the weather like in Seattle today?" (rainy)

Now, the videos are crisp and clear and short, and consist of me showing you, step by step, how to do the things I describe in the written manual.

Part Live Course

Traffic Surge 2.0 also consists of a support site, including a Q&A forum, a place for students to upload your homework for critique, and place for late-breaking news on Google changes and updates. It's a combination of study hall, diner, and library.

We also hold one live Implementation Call each month, so you can jump in and have that live class experience, and also the accountability that comes from having real humans and real deadlines looming in your face (in a nice way). 

And to make it as convenient as possible, the Implementation Call consists of a matinee at 1pm Eastern Time US and an evening show at 8pm Eastern Time US. So whether you work at home and prefer to call in during lunch hour, or you want to catch an hour of great content after your day job, there's a call to suit your preference.

And let's be honest, there's a recession going on, regardless of what the economists say. So not only is Traffic Surge 2.0 not more expensive than previous versions, it's actually much more affordable. 

I've added a 12-payment plan, so you can get started on your road to online marketing mastery for just $87 a month.

To read more, and perhaps take advantage of the pre-launch launch, go here:

To Life,

PS Do you wanna hear a beautiful song about New Orleans, love, and vegetables? A song that rhymes "okra" with "enough to choke ya"? A song in which I play the fiddle?

If so, click the link below for a recording of "No Love Today," written by Chris Smither, and performed by the Roosevelt String Band:

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  1. #1 • david rothwell said on October 27 2010:

    Brilliant Howie!

    It's amazing where Marketing Lessons are lurking, and I love the way you describe the "Happy Ending" concept (one of Covey's 7 Habits: Begin with the End in Mind).

  2. #2 • Gemma Laming said on July 3 2011:

    Hi Howie,
    don’t give up on the garden – even experienced gardeners can get their plants eaten!

    take a look …

    lovely weather which means the slugs hide!