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Barking cats and marketing string theory


This is red, the neighborhood cat.copywriter cat Last week he showed up on my porch with a huge infected gash across his face. The veterinarian drained the wound and sewed him up, and now I need to keep him inside while he heals.

He’s a fiercely independent outdoor cat, and I’m afraid he’s already bored with my silly words and amateur YouTube videos. So I gave him a toy on the end of the sting. He ignored the toy, but almost instantly fell in love with the string.

Your clients may do this from time to time, so it’s important to understand what your “string” really is.

One of the books that made my shortlist for best marketing books of 2008 was Waiting for Your Cat to Bark. There’s nothing really new or earth-shaking in the book, but they presented an important concept in a creative way: Your prospect is a cat, but you might be treating her like a dog.

In other words, if the way you’re selling and presenting doesn’t fit the needs and personality of your client, then buying is actually against their nature. It’s like expecting a cat to bark. Or selling them the toy when what they really want is the string it’s tied to.

Your job is to find the string in your business, and dangle it in front of the right cats. I had a weird experience with this last month.

Towards the end of May, I started making offers to a fresh list of prospects in a new industry. When I wrote about sales and marketing, very few of them seemed interested. But as soon as I describe copywriting in connection with social media, and suggested things like rewriting their case studies and press releases as blog posts, they were all ears.

I had assumed the social media aspect was a given, something that would automatically go with any writing I did for them. But really, this was the string that got the cat’s attention.

So how do you find the string? I stumbled on it by accident, but there are questions you should be asking yourself.

First, what are all the benefits of doing business with you? You should have an exhaustive list, and even get a little bit creative. Then look at that list and find the benefits you haven’t really stressed in your marketing. Test these out, and if your clients pounce, you know you’ve found your string.

Red is supposed to get his stitches out in a week. I’ll let you know if he starts barking.



One response to “Barking cats and marketing string theory”

  • Varkil July 7, 2009 at 12:20 am Reply 

    That’s like what they do at a bakery near my home. Most of their stuff is average, but they have really amazing jalapeno chese bread. People line up just to by the cheese bread, and then since they are already there they buy cake, donuts, cookies and all the other things. The jalapeno bread is their “string.” If a business has just one thing that they do better than everybody else, they can get a lot of customers for their other services too.

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