Schmuck-Based Marketing

Much to my surprise, I actually care what my grass looks like.

Surprise, because while growing up, I could never understand my dad’s unwavering interest in the condition of the front lawn.

And I mean unwavering.

He spent hours walking around the house, shovel in one hand and a pocket full of grass seed in the other.

Anytime he spotted a patch of brown he would dig it up, drop some seed and move on to the next area of imperfection.

He even bought pieces of “sod” – three foot by one foot strips of turf – that he would keep alive on life support in the driveway until needed, like donated organs awaiting an accident victim.

I didn’t understand it then, but I do now. There’s something oddly satisfying about planting seeds and watching them grow.

It’s like having children, except you don’t have to wait 18 years for the results and the grass never leaves the light on in the upstairs bathroom even though you’ve told it a thousand times to shut it off and we’re not made out of money over here and …. Where was I?

Early spring is the best time for grass.

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The sun’s out but not too hot. It rains fairly regularly. The weeds have yet to take over. As my dad would say, “Any schmuck can grow grass in the spring.”

Can you do it in the summer? Yes. But it’s waaaaaay harder.

In the world of client acquisition, there’s an analog to the grass-growing magic of spring. It’s called demand.

Here’s what I mean…

I love marketing. Creating interesting content; staying in touch with my contacts; positioning myself and/or my clients in a way that makes us the clear and obvious choice to prospects.

Does it work? You bet.

But what I’ve come to realize is that the most important element in successful marketing – the thing that makes the biggest difference regarding whether or not the phone rings – isn’t marketing at all.

It’s need.

If people already need what you’re selling (and they’re aware of the need), marketing is pretty straightforward and generally successful.

If, on the other hand, whatever you’re offering doesn’t line up with a problem they are currently experiencing, you’ve got a lot of work to do.

First you have to convince them that they have a problem at all. And that it’s worth fixing. And that they can’t fix it themselves.

Only then do things like awareness, likeability, trust, pricing, packaging and all the other marketing nitty-gritties come into play.

It’s a lot easier if they’re already in search of a solution.

Think about it. Have you ever seen the fire department do any advertising? Me neither.

Why would they? When your house is on fire – when you have a big problem that needs immediate attention – you don’t hesitate.

When it’s not on fire, on the other hand, Smokey the Bear himself couldn’t convince you to pick up the phone, regardless of any special promotion, one-time offer or whatever.

No demand, no response.

Here’s the bottom line. Step number one in marketing your business is not figuring out how to promote it.

Rather, it’s about figuring out where pain already exists and positioning yourself and your services as somebody who can remove it.

Can you manufacture demand by convincing people that they need whatever it is you’re selling?

Sure. You can plant seed in the middle of July too.

Just remember, any schmuck can grow grass in the spring.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are you a schmuck? Give examples.
  1. What was your dad’s favorite expression?
  1. How do you figure out where the pain is among your prospective clients?

Share your comments below!

18 thoughts on “Schmuck-Based Marketing

  1. Steve Church

    1. Yup! I’m a schmuck! As are so many of my fellow business providers. No business owner needs convincing they need an electrician, an accountant or an IT man. But boy, try telling a solo professional he needs a coach, a marketing consultant or, heaven forbid, a Copywriter! (guess what I do, by the way?). And, of course, the more successful our solo is, the tougher the job of convincing him of the need. “Hey, I’m busy and successful, making a nice profit. What do I need with a copywriter?!?”

    How often do you hear him cry, “Hey, I’m busy and successful, making a nice profit. What do I need with an electrician?!?”

    So yes, I’m a Schmuck, frantically sowing seeds in July, all year round!

    2. ‘Typical!’ – usually directed at his middle son.

    3. Engagement, re-engagement and showing genuine interest.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Love those, Steve. On #1, maybe if you could actually kill yourself while writing copy badly, it would be an easier sell! Now we just need a word for “death by bad copy” that sounds like “electrocution.”

  2. DHC

    Discussion Questions:
    1. Are you a schmuck? Give examples.
    Yes. I didn’t read your post. I just scrolled through to see if there were any pictures and then answered the discussion questions without even knowing anything about the subject.

    2. What was your dad’s favorite expression?
    Don’t TRY. DO it.
    People deserve each other.
    Wash the water glasses first, before the plates.

    3. How do you figure out where the pain is among your prospective clients?
    Seriously? I meditate. OK, it’s not really meditation. I actually just imagine them and then connect with them and ask them. Then I don’t have to figure anything out.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hello Deborah! I love your responses. I don’t get the water glasses before the plates, though?? More detail required!

  3. Dana Leigh Lyons

    1. Well, I don’t think so. But my cats sometimes disagree.

    2. Okay to drop the F bomb here, or is this PG rated?

    3. Really, I just listen to people…and also draw on my own experience with painful places. A lot of my work involves offering the sort of care I wish I’d had, long ago.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Dana!
      The only rules of behavior here are “no fighting or nasty comments.” F-bomb as you wish (especially since I’m now really curious)!

  4. Bob Katz

    Hi Michael,

    Often confused, I think you/your dad mean schlemiel and not schmuck. A schmuck is someone who is an a**hole intentionally whereas a schlemiel is someone that can’t help themselves screw-up. Check out Lei Rosten “Joys of Yiddish” for further clarification.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Sorry Bob, but Yiddish was my dad’s first language, and schmuck was a frequently used term in our extended family. So I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Rosten.

      (Of course, maybe we were such schmucks in my family that we used the word wrong for generations?)

      1. Bob Katz

        No comment.

        Since you’re a Yiddish maven, I once had a phone meeting with a German attorney. His name: Dr. Schvantz. We had a good laugh over that.

  5. Mark

    1. Don’t think so.
    2. Two favorites: ” Every dog has his day” and “Don’t get in a pissing contest with a skunk”
    3. Ask them, survey them, ask others what they are hearing and doing.

  6. Bob

    It’s easier to grow grass in the fall than the spring. Only an impatient sh***k would not want to wait until then.


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