So You Want to Be Top Dog?

In this issue of the Motivated Marketing Letter, I’m going to share an extremely important marketing secret about what your clients and customers really want from you.

But enough about you. My family is getting our first puppy next week. In preparation, we’ve been reading about dog behavior and psychology so we can speak "doglish" to our new family member.

It turns out the big issue with dogs is where they are on the dominancy hierarchy. Who do I lead, and who leads me? That’s basically what they’re thinking, pretty much all the time. Just about every dog behavior communicates dominance or submission, and, it turns out, just about every human behavior communicates our dominance or submission to pooch. So, I’ve learned, it’s important to learn how to say, "I’m the boss" in doglish to avoid turning my house into a really big doghouse, with the dog as the leader.

What does this have to do with your business?

In a nutshell, business is about identifying and filling needs. So what do your prospects and customers need most of all? These days, everyone is jittery. The world is a pretty scary place. Threats of war, terrorism, economic instability. Cloning. Pedophile priests. It’s a crazy, upside down world.

We long for authentic leadership. For a calm, authoritative parent figure to tell us that everything will be all right. For someone to make sense of the world for us, to explain everything, to tell us our own story with a happy ending.

If you can communicate with your market as a leader, you can restore stability and rationality to people’s lives. You don’t have to be an expert on foreign policy – simply be upbeat and optimistic about your life and your community. About the future.

See, just like dogs, most people don’t want to be leaders. They prefer to be led. A submissive dog feels fine. It’s the uncertainty that’s distressing.

We live in a distressing, uncertain society. Who are our leaders? We don’t believe our elected officials are looking out for our best interests. We don’t trust business leaders (think Enron, Tyco, Martha Stewart, Arthur Andersen, WorldCom, etc.) Religious leaders? Athletes? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Is anyone out there?

How can you be a leader?

First, communicate the values behind your business. Tell the truth. Demonstrate fairness. Sell quality stuff. Admit mistakes and correct them. Pay your suppliers on time. Give refunds without hassle. Respect the environment.

Second, set rules and adhere to them. The customer is not always right. Don’t allow yourself to be bullied or inconvenienced by customers who seek nothing more than an unfair advantage.

Third, articulate a positive vision of the future. Give your customers hope that tomorrow will be better, and paint a clear picture of that tomorrow. Don’t whine or complain about the economy, the government, the weather, or the lottery.

Fourth, have fun at work. Be playful and creative. Be spontaneous and surprising. Remember that we’re all going to die someday. The sun will burn itself out in a few billion years. Your business is not that important. (How’s that for taking my own advice and painting a hopeful picture of the future?)

Fifth, develop yourself. I once saw an interview with a guy who sat cross-legged in an Arab market in Yemen his whole life, carving fine wooden combs for sale in his shop. The interviewer, a westerner, was wondering how the craftman didn’t get bored and go nuts just carving combs his entire life. The craftsman replied that he didn’t think of his job as working on combs – he was working on himself. The better a person he became – the more focused, peaceful, steady -the better his combs would be. And the more he concentrated on carving each piece of wood, the more advanced he became as a person. His work was both a manifestation and a means of developing his soul.

For 2003, I wish us all the ability to see a future full of hope and prosperity, the confidence to share that vision, and the courage to work to create it.

Or, as I saw on a t-shirt once, "May I actually become the person my dog thinks I am."

Peace, Howie


Do not make the mistake of treating your dogs like humans or they will treat you like dogs.
– Martha Scott

You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, "My God, you’re right! I never would’ve thought of that!"
– Dave Barry

Things that upset a terrier may pass virtually unnoticed by a Great Dane.
– Smiley Blanton

When a dog runs at you, whistle for him.
– Henry David Thoreau

Marketing Motivators on Leadership

1. Institute a "no hassle" policy in your business. Make it a cornerstone of your marketing communications. For a great how-to guide, check out Jerry Wilson’s Word of Mouth Marketing. If you buy, I’ll donate all profits to my local animal shelter.

2. Take ten minutes to think about times when you put up with abuse or undue criticism from customers. For each incident, create a rule that will prevent it from happening again, and live by it. What you tolerate, you excuse.

3. Take another ten minutes to visualize a goal that you want to achieve for your business. Write it down, give it a deadline, and share it with your customers. (Make sure it is something that benefits them as well as you.) Then ask your customers about their goals for this year. Spread optimism and a "can-do" spirit.

4. Create a short quiz and give it to your customers. It can be about your business, about your industry, or about anything else: wine, skiing, football, celebrity gossip. Give prizes to the winners: movie tickets, subscriptions to appropriate magazines, classic children’s toys (Slinkies and Silly Putty come to mind immediately). Look for ways to make your business bring a smile to your customers’ faces.

5. Take another ten minutes (the last for this issue, I promise) and identify one single thing you can personally improve. Be a better listener? Better time manager? Pay more attention to details? Spend less time shuffling paperwork and more time selling? Learn more about marketing? Ask five people to give you suggestions about how you might improve, and ask them how you’re doing every three weeks. Thank them for the help.

Bonus Quotes

I took my dog for a walk – all the way from New York to Florida. I said to him, "There. Now you’re done."
– Steven Wright

I spilled spot remover on my dog. He’s gone now.
– Steven Wright

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