Are You Marketing to Geese?

Last month I took advantage of a break in the freezing weather we’ve had around central New Jersey to go running next to the Delaware canal. During the run, I discovered an extreme uphill that I had never noticed before, and found myself well behind schedule. So on the way back I took a short cut through the Trenton Country Club’s 9th hole.

There were no golfers on the 9th hole – only about 300 black and white Canada geese, diligently going about their work, turning fairway into poop. As I came chugging and wheezing into their line of sight, they all began waddling away from me, slowly at first, but noticeably nonetheless. As my foot pounding and heavy breathing became closer and more alarming to them, they retreated more quickly, until as one they exploded into flight and took off for a more peaceful portion of the golf course.

I stopped in my tracks, awed both at the feat of nature I had witnessed and my own power to influence so many other creatures (and, incidentally, clutching the stitch in my side and swaying in exhaustion).

I hadn’t intended to scare them off. I was minding my own business, after all. But the geese weren’t taking any chances. They were going to save themselves first, and ask questions never.

They exhibited the famous "fight or flight" response, which is a mental process quicker than thought itself. The "fight or flight" mechanism goes through the spinal column, not the neocortex, which means that we begin preparing to run away or attack before our brain even identifies the image sent by our eyes.

What does this have to do with marketing?

Unfortunately, everything.

Your prospects have two chronic shortages in their lives: time and money. Time and money are the life of a business. The greater the shortage, the more of a "survivalist" your prospect becomes.

As a marketer, you’re threatening to relieve your prospects of both: you waste their time, and then take their money. You are threatening the very life of their business.

Don’t believe me? Have you ever complained about gatekeepers, voicemail, unreturned phone calls, missed or cancelled meetings, telephone blow-offs, lying prospects, lack of access, can’t find the right person to talk to, they won’t level with me, etc?

No, I haven’t been spying on you or tapping your phone. I know this because of the "fight or flight" principle: they regard all marketers and salespeople as predators, so they regard you as a predator even before they know it’s you. In the motivational sales courses, it’s described as "general sales resistance." In that context, it’s supposed to make you feel better, like it’s not your fault perfectly nice people run away screaming at your approach.

Guess what? Who cares if it’s your fault or not? You don’t have to live it with it if you choose not to.

What’s the solution? Take your pick from among the following.

1. Affinity Marketing

First of all, if I had dressed up in a goose suit, I might not have scared them off. If you can market by affinity, you automatically break down many of the barriers to access and trust. Have you ever had a sales call warm right up when you found that you and your prospect came from the same town, or rooted for the same team, or both preferred Shop-Rite cola to Coke?

2. Use the Right Bait for Your Market

Second, I didn’t have any bread crumbs or choice California marijuana or whatever geese really groove on. I wasn’t offering them anything. I was just out there for my own selfish self. If you can market by leading with value, you can coax interested geese to risk a little for the promise of a lot. See for my report on using a "lead generation magnet" to get the geese to chase you.

3. Empathize with Your Market

Third, I don’t know anything about geese, and what I do know, I don’t like. One of them attacked my son as I was biking with him last summer. If you view your prospects with apathy or disdain, you’re never going to win their trust.

4. Use Takeaway Selling

Forgive me for mixing animal metaphors for this one. Today my family was out walking down the street, enjoying the blizzard of ’03. Our puppy was romping with the neighbor’s pup, a very frisky 4-month-old black lab. There were at least 20 people on the street: shoveling, chatting, playing, trying to find their cars, etc. The lab ignored all of them, making a beeline instead for a 7-year-old boy with a massive dog phobia. The puppy, like most of us, was attracted to what was unattainable. Be a little unattainable. Use the psychology of scarcity and social proof to your advantage.

5. Target the Right Market

Why am I chasing the geese in the first place? They have no money, and are a lousy source of referrals.


You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
– Franz Kafka

I would never join a club that would have me as a member.
– Groucho Marx

Nobody goes to that restaurant anymore. It’s too crowded.
– Yogi Berra

Marketing Motivators on Not Repelling Your Prospects

1. Identify and establish a conversation based on affinity. Don’t think you can do it in your business? Visit They sell MAS90 R, a high end accounting software package for companies that are $2+ million in revenue and need more than QuickBooks. Click on "Wayne Schulz" below his picture, read his personal statement. Near the bottom of the page, click on the link for Wayne’s parenting tips. He has a whole section of hilarious photos and captions about his twins.

I asked him how the personal stuff worked for his business. He told me that his competitors didn’t get it, but his customers loved it. Since most of them had kids, it established rapport immediately.

2. Spend ten minutes thinking about what bait would attract your prospects, and only your prospects. If you don’t know, consider purchasing Leads into Gold.

3. Make a list of three annoying problems your typical prospect would like to solve. Think about the consequences of these problems on their lives. What can you do to help them?

4. Spend ten minutes making a list of who shouldn’t be your customer, and why. Create a "buyer’s guide" that discourages these prospects from buying from you. Done well, it will make your best prospects feel fortunate that they fit your criteria.

5. Look at your entire customer list. Who are your top 5 customers in terms of revenue? In terms of job satisfaction? How can you get more of those customers? Where do those geese graze?

Bonus Quotes

There is only one way to find out if a man is honest…ask
him. If he says ‘yes’, you know he is crooked.
– Groucho Marx

Dancing: The vertical expression of a horizontal desire
legalized by music.
– George Bernard Shaw

The right to be heard does not automatically include the
right to be taken seriously.
– Hubert H. Humphrey

I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people
who annoy me.
– Noel Coward

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