The Other Truth About Top Dogs

In this issue of the Motivated Marketing Letter, I’m going to reveal what I promised to reveal in my last letter: a surprising finding about how alpha male dogs really work, and how you can apply it to your marketing and sales. I teased that women already know this secret, and I’m going to reveal it here to everyone else.

But first, welcome to all my new subscribers from internet search engine land. As I gear up to release "Leads into Gold," I’ve been using the internet to generate leads from far beyond my local area. If you’re interested in using the internet for your business, I highly recommend the seminar I attended this past September in Cincinnati. The folks who put it on are holding another one in June, to which I expect to go. If you’d like to find out more, send me an email. As Ronnie Shakes said, "Last month I blew five thousand dollars at a reincarnation seminar. I got to thinking, what the heck, you only live once."

Now, back to our story.

Who saw "My Big Fat Greek Wedding?" I wasn’t nuts about it, to tell the truth, but I loved one line. The heroine is bemoaning to her mother the fact that her chauvinist father won’t let her become independent and she can’t make him change his mind, because "he’s head of the family."

Her mother agrees that Papa is "head" of the family. But, she continues, smiling, "The man is the head, but the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head any way she wants."

It turns out that alpha male dogs lead in exactly that way. In his book, "The Dog Who Loved Too Much," veterinarian Nicholas Dodman wrote about research that turned the old thinking of dog pack dominance on its head. In wild dog and wolf packs, it’s actually the middle rank females who make the important decisions. Dodman writes, "Although the apparently dominant male might make a lot of fuss and noise in attempting to lead the group, he was always glancing furtively over his shoulder for acknowledgment by the real decision-makers of the group, the middle-ranking females. If thwarted by them in an attempt to initiate an action, the male would then inspect his fingernails or suddenly pay great attention to an imaginary flea while rapidly reorganizing his thoughts to come up with some better, more widely acceptable suggestion, rather than lose face. Finally, when his direction coincided with their inclination, the whole group would act, seemingly as a result of his initiative. The male would credit himself with having thought of the plan, and the females would get their own way."

Wow! This sure sounds like a lot of families I’ve seen and been a part of. So what’s the marketing lesson here?

Lead by Following – Sort Of

Clients often ask me flattering questions, for example:

"How much do you think I should charge for this product?"

"Which magazine should I advertise in?"

"What’s a better lead generating magnet: a free sample of Product X or a free sample of Product Y?"

They’re flattering because they assume I have a level of marketing savvy and expertise sufficient to solve their marketing problems. I probably shouldn’t be admitting this to all you clients and prospects, but…

I don’t have a freaking clue!

Of course, neither do you, which is why you’re asking in the first place. The trouble is, questions like these are so important to our business that we’re desperate for answers. And an entire advertising industry has arisen to take advantage of our collective ignorance, charging exorbitant fees for "advice" that is arrogant and self-serving.

So if I don’t know, and you don’t know, who does know?

Your market does. And it’s practically dying to tell you. And it’s going to tell you if you ask. But you’ve got to ask in an intelligent way, and you’ve got to pay attention to the answer.

You see, the alpha male knows that he can’t lead his pack unless he’s leading them where they are already predisposed to go. As my grandfather, who was an actor and orchestra conductor in the old Yiddish theater in New York City, used to say, "Guess what the conductor can do with his baton if the orchestra doesn’t show up!"

Marketing without paying attention to your market is like sailing your boat into the wind and refusing to adjust the sails. Yet this is exactly what most businesses do most of the time.

Let’s take the first question, about pricing. Most people feel that it’s their responsibility to set the price of their products. It is, to a certain extent, but don’t forget to "glance furtively" at your market and see how they respond. If you sell consulting, know that your clients comply with your advice to the extent that they have to pay for it. If you are struggling to get your clients to take your advice, your market is telling you that they don’t value it sufficiently. Try raising your prices, for their benefit. And pay careful attention to what happens.

The second question, about which magazine to use, is also a question to ask your market. You can do it in three different ways, depending on how smart you want to be.

[As an aside: The most common way is not to ask at all – instead, to spend a lot of money creating and placing big ads in what you think are the "right" magazines, and never have a way to measure their effectiveness. If you use an advertising agency or create "image" ads with clever tag lines and mystifying photos and vague, fuzzy promises ("You’ve tried the rest, now try the best" garbage), that’s what you’re doing. You have no way of measuring the ad’s effectiveness, nor of improving it for future placements.]

The least smart way to ask your market is to spend a lot of money creating and running response measurable ads, and then finding out that they don’t work. This is like the alpha male jumping off a cliff and then glancing furtively back at the middle-ranking females as he plummets toward the rocks below.

A smarter way to ask your market is to run small test ads, classifieds, or joint venture ads with complementary businesses at a much smaller expense. This is like the alpha male bounding toward the cliff, and stopping to look backward before jumping.

The smartest way to ask your market is to actually ask your current best customers what they read and where they find ads that influence them. Build a short survey into existing customer interactions, and apply what you learn. The theory here is that your best new prospects will probably closely resemble your current best customers in some important ways. This is like the alpha male actually learning from past feedback from the middle-ranking females, and behaving more intelligently in the future.

And as for the third question, about which lead generating magnet to use (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, visit Leads into Gold for a report on lead generation advertising), that’s the easiest one of all to test. So admit you don’t know, run an experiment, and get smart!

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do tons of general research prior to testing an actual campaign. You absolutely should – find out the demographics of the magazine subscribers, the price points of similar purchases by your prospects in the past, industry and social trends, and so on. This information can dramatically decrease the amount of trial and error and save you immense amounts of time and money. But don’t fool yourself into believing that this research can replace "popping the question" to your own market.

Your market knows everything you don’t about how to run your business. If you ask the right question at the right time and listen carefully for the answer, you will be light years ahead of the competition in meeting your customers’ actual needs. That’s how you become a market leader – by following the advice of the smartest marketing consultants you can ever find – your own customers and prospects.

Lest I talk myself out of a profession, let me add that a smart direct response marketer can be tremendously helpful in getting you to ask the right questions and draw the right conclusions from the answers. There are many marketing techniques that work in almost every market – the question becomes how to tweak it for maximum effect. If you’re looking for guidance guaranteed to pay for itself in increased revenues, drop me a line. I’ll be happy to set you up as "leader of the pack."


Ah well! I am their leader, I really ought to follow them!
– Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin

It is a terrible thing to look over your shoulder when you are trying to lead — and find no one there.
– Franklin D. Roosevelt

Life is like a dogsled team. If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes.
– Lewis Grizzard

Experience is a great teacher, but she sends in terrific bills.
– Minna Antrim

When the effective leader is finished with his work, the people say it happened naturally.
– Lao Tse

Understanding human needs is half the job of meeting them.
– Adlai Stevenson

Marketing Motivators on Leadership

1. Survey your best customers. Ask what media influence them. What magazines and newspapers do they read? What radio stations do they listen to? What Yellow Pages do they primarily use? While you’re at it, ask them about the best and worst things about your business. What would they improve if they were in charge for a week? Say thanks by forwarding them this letter and sending them a video rental gift certificate.

2. Create a package of products and services and price-test it in different media. See which price is most profitable, which one brings in the most new customers, and which one brings in the best customers (however you define it).

3. Create a "customer advisory board" of your ten best customers (probably the ones who give you the most money). Hold quarterly meetings, make sure they get a lot out of the networking opportunities, make them feel special, buy them a nice dinner, and pick their brains about how to improve your business. Offer to serve on their customer advisory boards as well.

Bonus Quotes

All those who believe in psychokinesis raise my hand.
– Stephen Wright

Personally I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.
– Winston Churchill

A conclusion is simply the place where you got tired of thinking.
– Unknown

If it’s good, they will stop making it.
– Herblock

We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.
– George Bernard Shaw

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