When I was in 8th grade, my dad died of cancer.
Growing up, he and I did everything together. My mom was always the nervous, worried one, but my dad? He was the strong, bold, carefree one.
We were more pals than anything.
Almost every night during the summertime, he'd take me up the road to Randall's Ice Cream Ranch, where we'd order two medium twists, one plain, one with rainbow sprinkles. We'd then sit in our Jeep, methodically licking the cones so they wouldn't drip down the sides of our hands. He'd ask me about school and friends, and always had something seemingly wise (and Italian-esque) to say when I needed advice.
Other nights we'd go deer spotting. We'd drive around the dirt roads of Northeastern Pennsylvania at dusk, spotlights in hand, having contests to see who could spot the most deer in one night. Usually, this was just a matter of odds – whoever had the side of the Jeep with the most fields won. I remember one time in particular, he was busy looking out my window, thinking that I wasn't on top of it, when suddenly I spotted a whole herd to his left, smack dab next to his window. We laughed and laughed, and I ragged on him for days.
He was always the fun parent.
Whenever we'd go on road trips, we had a tradition of beeping the car horn every single time we drove under a bridge. As a child, I used to giggle and giggle with glee, but as I grew up, we did it out of unspoken law. And yes, this included tunnels–we would lay on the horn the entire way. Particularly the Lehigh Tunnel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which runs about a mile long. He never cared what people thought about him, and in some small way, laying on the horn the entire length of the tunnel taught me not to care, either.
Other times, I remember him picking my girlfriends and I up from the skating rink on a Saturday afternoon. We'd all hop in the car, and he'd do 20 donuts in the parking lot, making everyone laugh, prompting glowing praise from my friends: “I wish my dad were as cool as him!”
Then there were the times we'd go bike riding. He'd challenge me to bike race after bike race. I still have a very prominent circular scar on my knee from a time when I just didn't see the pothole. Whoops.
Since I was his ride-or-die sidekick, he didn't think anything of bringing me with him to the hospital the day the doctors called and asked to see him.
I sat in the waiting room that warm June day, my 13 year-old self kicking her legs back and forth, pondering what it would be like to kiss a boy, and whether or not it would be gross to use tongue, when finally he emerged.
The always upbeat, sarcastic, playful dad I knew had suddenly been replaced with a quiet, withdrawn, soft-spoken one, and when I asked him what they said, he could barely look me in the eye, as we walked down the dimly lit, mustard-colored hallway smelling of sterility and moth balls. Eventually, he handed me a pamphlet without saying a word. The cover read: Helping Your Family Cope With Terminal Cancer.
I didn't know what to say, but knew I had to say something, so I wrapped my arm around him, hugging his shoulders as we walked, and said in my most optimistic voice, “Don't worry. People are cured all of the time! You'll get through this.”
At the time, I didn't know what the word terminal meant.
But he certainly did.
The ride was silent the whole way home, as Carly Simon played on the tapedeck. Without discussion, we pulled into Randall's, and I hopped out to order us the usual. We sat quietly, licking our medium twists.
That was the last time we would ever have ice cream together.
Soon after, he went to stay in Philadelphia, where he would begin aggressive treatment at the University of Pennsylvania.
Just six months later, I watched as my once strong, bold, carefree dad, slowly but surely turned into a faint shadow of the person that was. Partly from the morphine. Partly from lack of hope.
Before the cancer got the best of him, on February 22nd, 1998, he had a friend of his go and pick out a locket that he could give me for Christmas–the last thing he would ever give me. It was silver, and in the shape of a heart. On the front, it says my name, Ashley, and on the back, it's engraved with, “Love, Jim.”
He had it engraved with, “Love, Jim,” because technically he wasn't my father on paper; I had grown up calling him Jim. But to this day, I wish he would have engraved with, “Love, Dad,” because despite every technicality, that's truly what he was.
Do you know why I started this soon-to-be really, really long post?
I started this post with the intention of talking about what he indirectly taught me about marketing. Yes, marketing. (I'm not writing my memoir, yet!)
You see, my dad was a barber, and as such, I spent many-a-afternoon hanging out in the barbershop, doing my homework and keeping him company in between customers. But not only was he a barber; he was an avid hunter and fly fisherman, too. Oftentimes, he and I would sit there at his desk while he'd whip out an assortment of turkey calls, teaching me, much to my chagrin, the fine art of turkey calling–clearly what every young adolescent girl is dying to know about.
Each turkey call was different. Some were shaped like a small, rectangular wooden box with an attached lid and handle–you'd grab the handle and scrape the lid over the top of the box causing friction, and the resulting sound emulated that of a female turkey. Others were designed to be a small plastic mouthpiece that you'd have to adjust just right…in order to make the right sounds. And some others involved a peg and a rough surface.
Regardless, I think it's pretty clear that I will forevermore be in a position to beat the pants off of any chick in a turkey calling contest. (I can also shoot a gun. Do not mess with me.)
Anyway, there are a number of different turkey calls you can produce–gobbles, clucks, or purrs, for example. Yet, the type of call you employ depends on what your goals are – and which type of turkey you're trying to attract.
But actually, in terms of a marketing lesson, we don't even need to drill down this much.
The point is this: If you're trying to attract a turkey, you wouldn't make mooooooooooo! sounds. Right? RIGHT?
Yet, while that seems oh-so-common-sense, for some reason, that's exactly what many small business owners do with their marketing. They're doing a whole lot of moooooing, when they want to be gobbling.
It's not because they're stupid.
It's because they simply haven't figured out which type of animal they're trying to attract. They just know that they have a gun, and they want to shoot something.
In other words, business owners oftentimes don't know what type of person they're trying to attract. They just know they have a product or a service, and they want to sell it to someone.
But as you know, if you want to attract turkeys, you've got to use the right type of calls. Similarly, if you want to attract buyers, you've got to use the right type of marketing.
And in order to do THAT, you've got to know what type of buyer you're trying to attract. Otherwise, you might as well just be out in the middle of the woods, hooting and hollering with all your might, hoping that it will appeal to SOME ANIMAL…somehow, someway.
And that's what happens with most business' marketing efforts: They stand in the middle of a crowded internet, hooting and hollering, hoping it will appeal to SOME PERSON…somehow, someway.
Clearly not the most effective way to go about things. Not to mention your throat will get pretty sore after a while.
One of the most important steps you can take in order to get more clients and customers…is not just to figure out the what of things, but the WHO.
Otherwise known as your target market. (Don't roll your eyes at me, young man. Despite the jargon, this is important.)
These people are your RIGHT PEOPLE. But let's add a romantic flair to it for shits and giggles. For our purposes here, let's call them your soul mates.
When you can clearly picture your ideal soul mate – otherwise known as ideal client or customers – you can refine your marketing efforts in a way that will instinctively appeal to those individuals. And once you do, it'll be such a no-brainer to them that they've found THEIR people (you), that they'll want to buy whatever it is you have for sale. Ding ding ding!
At the end of the day, what it really comes down to is intimacy, believe it or not. When you feel like a business gets you as a person? It's magnetic. You're instantly sucked in. And you want as much as they've got to offer, because it helps you reinforce your own identity. It helps you feel as if you belong somewhere. It helps you become more…you.
Your job is to help your soul mates–your ideal customers or clients–become more them.
Next post we'll talk about how.
It's time to get serious about getting people to buy your stuff, so you can stop living like a pauper, and start receiving the validation you, your talents and your business deserve.
Which is almost as fun as skinny dipping after whiskey shots.
Not like I would know anything about that.
After all, I'm just one innocent girl in a big, big world whose favorite ice cream happens to be a medium twist with rainbow sprinkles. Heavy on the sprinkles, please.