Old School Marketing and Career Luck
Simple is often Best
Old School Marketing Strategy had it's Limitations but Complexity was not one of them
When I first got out of college I stumbled into a job that I was wholly unqualified for but certainly grateful to have. I was newly married and we were flat broke. I only bring this up because I'm trying garner a little sympathy that I hope will last through this entire post (and maybe on to the next post if someone, anyone, out in Hub land reads this and gives me even the slightest bit of encouragement).
My job was inventory control for a distribution company. It was back in the day when we kept manual records. As I tried to figure out this job on the fly I quickly came to realize that sales guys and customers really didn't like it when we were out of stuff and my boss really didn't iike it when we had too much stuff. Since this was a manual system what it really amounted to was a sales guy would call and say "do we have four 36-567s? And my answer was yes or no or we have 2 not 4..you get the idea. Bonus - anyone who can accurately tell me what a 36-567 is (and it's gotta be the same as what I'm talking about!) gets special recognition. For those of you who have trouble sleeping and way too much free time the hint is............. mid-1970s appliance. I probably should have googled this first to see if it's tricky enough but what the heck, let it fly.
I'm doing this inventory control job and I get pretty decent at it. Everything worked great as long as I was the first guy at work, last to leave and never took a lunch or a day off. Everybody but me was o.k. with that arrangement. I decided I needed to get promoted or moved sideways or something because I was way too young to die from stress.
After I had a particularly good week, I told one of my favorite sales guys,Pic, to put a bug in the bosses ear that I wanted to go into sales. Pic was my favorite because I would squirrel away some product for his best customers and he would sneak me lunch pretty regularly.
What happens the very next week? I get invited to a Sales Meeting! I wouldn't have been more exited if I had gotten invited to the White House.......But actually, I worked about a mile from the White House so it wasn't that big a deal.
Now in this sales meeting the guys are all complaining about our big competitor XYZ Co. XYZ Co. was doing this thing and that and getting some of our customers..yada, yada, you know sales guys.
So finally the sales manager, Jimmy, stops the meeting and announces "in 2 weeks we are rolling out a completely new sales and marketing strategy." That quiets them down and Jimmy adjourns the meeting. I had a bit of a blank look on my face since this was my first sales meeting and it didn't seem like we accomplished very much.
The very next day Jimmy calls me into his office and the conversation goes something like this:
Jimmy, "That sales meeting yesterday was a disaster, you're kind of new here, those guys think they have all the answers. I'm looking for someone who doesn't have the answers, is that you?"
Me, "Yes, sir. I don't know anything"
Jimmy, "Good, you seem like you have half a brain, am I right?"
Me, "Yes, sir I have half a brain."
Jimmy, "Good, I want you to have a new sales plan on my desk by Monday."
Me, "Uhhh, yessir, I can do that"
Jimmy, "Good how are you going to do it? (Darn it, he trapped me!)"
Me, "You'll know Monday but can you give me any advice on direction?"
Jimmy, "Do you know what the competitor is doing?"
Me, "I don't know anything but I can find out."
Jimmy, "Then unless you have a better idea we should do what XZY Co is doing until you get a better idea."
Me, "What if XYZ Co gets a better idea before I get a better idea?"
Jimmy, "Then I'll fire you and hire their guy. Good luck, talk to you Monday"
There you have it. I got some info and we copied them. XYZ Co. decided to change their sales strategy because we were copying them and they changed to a new, but thankfully, bone head idea. We kept doing what they showed us how to do and had a very successful run. I soon got the sales job I wanted where I could sleep late and have breakfast at Sieble's in Burtonsville every morning (that's another hint).
Moral of the Story - Old School Simplified Marketing
Copying good ideas is often the best idea until you think of a better idea. Just doing nothing and waiting for a better idea is probably a bad idea.